Daddy and baby parking

Getting back from Halong Bay was in itself, so delightful and exciting, you’d have thought that Hanoi was my long lost home. I was pumped up to be away from the tourist treadmill that is Halong. So I asked the tour bus driver to let me off at the church square where my favourite bar was. I’d been there the previous day and had also discovered a bizarre supermarket round the corner with really weird stuff in. This pretty square is also by the lake. If you ever go there I would suggest this place. (By the way, one of my treats in every town and country, is visiting the local supermarket. You get a sneaky peek behind the curtains of the local life and habits. Also I like to find stock cubes to take home, don’t laugh, they fit in my case and always are exotic.)

Church Bar. Cool hangout.

The money I retrieved from the ATM with fear and trepidation. You see old birds, it always feels dodgy to hit the bank in a new country as no cash machine is the same or even works, and this always brings a lump to my throat with anxiety. Multiple times the sun has been shining on the damn screen so you can’t see anything, also you have to watch your back if you’re out on the street. You can’t always be fussy as in some places there’s only one machine locally so it’s a stressful time indeed, if something goes wrong and you don’t get your dosh you’re screwed. This time however it was fine (check, money for next leg) and after I trotted off to get the ciggies and then dinner and a much needed hardcore cocktail. (check, the reward for the horrid hassle), There I pondered my journey the following day to Nha Trang for some much-needed sun and snorkelling. (check, hotel booked) Then through the honky, beepy crowded streets (check never do this again) Evening staff at the new hotel were rude (check, never coming here again)

Weird and wonderful breakfasts Watermelon,passion fruit,’ noodles,fried rice and bacon.

Back at the hotel room they had sprinkled more bloody rose petals all over my room (lethal when you’re pissed) and left a thank you note to me for the furry boots and clothes I had given to a lovely girl who worked there (god knows which of them would have used my huge clomping boots there, the men are almost as petite as the women! ) I hurriedly packed and had the last of my beers on my tiny astroturfed terrace that looked over the old town of Hanoi. I was happy. The time had come to leave and I was excited to warm my bones after the cold damp climate in the North

St. Joseph Cathedral where my church bar is.

Early start and freak out in airport taxi.

Breakfast in a little brown paper bag wheeling and my surprisingly lightweight case and rucksack I raced over the road to where the concierge told me in broken English my cab was waiting. I waved to the driver, the driver waved to me and exuberant as a silly puppy I leapt into my pre-booked cab. I tried to check once in that it was indeed the right one not just an available one on the street by showing the agents card and saying the airports’ name many times waiting for a glimmer of acknowledgement. None was forthcoming and as we whizzed along on the empty dawn streets I wound myself up to a crescendo of neurotic fretting.

This was the weird Asian dance of a dialogue I have encountered many times in cabs over there.

Enter cab merrily with my little bits of paper in hand as proof of payment and the agents card to show just in case.

Cab driver looking blankly at you as you shove the card under his nose jabbing a finger at it while he drives at speed through now clearly unfamiliar landscape.

“Yes, yes” he says “What airport” you show him again your creased bit of paper.

“Aaaaah yes” he says smugly as if there are many airports to consider and you know then he is being too vague.

“I have already paid yes?” You say anxiously now convinced this man is an imposter. Then you try the translate app with trembling fingers and remember you have no internet

“Yes, yes,” he says firmly, clearly wanting to squash this now irritating conversation and averting his eyes in an inscrutable way.

“You know which airport” You now yell in his ear, and show him receipt and agents card yet again.

“Yes, yes,” he said now gazing blankly at you incredulous about this fuss. You are sure he is stringing you along, your real cab driver is still waiting by your hotel looking at his watch. You now look at him suspiciously and ask if he’s sure he knows which airport?

“Yes, yes,” he said now gazing blankly, incredulous that this mad Western old duck keeps quacking on.

Another old duck!

You ride on nose pressed against the window, sure now you are being kidnapped, with that residual paranoia and hysteria from China re-immerging. Thoughts of being taken back there and rotting in jail just because you had voiced slightly anti-Chinese thoughts to anyone who would listen.

Then when you think it’s all over it is. You are at the right airport and things are definitely looking brighter.

A word of caution….

Top tip: This has happened to me a few times while travelling. Again it’s down to my mad impetuous ways. In Bangkok, I had arrived at the National Airport and booked a lovely hotel by the International Airport for my departure to London. The airports are far from each other and I had only slightly listened to the booking lady at the cab office. I was convinced twenty minutes into the journey that the woman hadn’t told him properly. He looked Japanese and was very irritated in a cool but disdainful way when I insisted we call the hotel as obviously he just didn’t know what he was doing. Of course, he did, but it all was compounded by the hotel man not speaking good English and sounding uncertain even about the name of the hotel, saying “not good English, lady coming ten minutes”. From these follies, I always buy the countries SIM card for my now unlocked phone so no problems will occur. This is vital as you don’t want to have your data roaming on and incur massive bills on your home SIM. You will, after all, need Internet access for your translating apps, proper maps and phone until you get somewhere with WiFi to navigate this tricky landscape of misunderstandings and stress. I would have done this years ago but was never told about it and being an old bird wasn’t up to date with the technology. This is the reason I’m getting my old birds up to date. So chop chop, buy a cheap travelling phone or have your current one unlocked and buy yourself peace of mind in any country you go to. The shops or kiosks will sort it all for you when you get there and they’ll be signs up with various plans for you to choose from.

Safely aboard lovely Bamboo to Nha Trang.

I love Bamboo Airlines. I had forgotten how good they are with their smart, friendly and oh so polite crew are. With my yummy simple breakfast and USB plugs to charge up all my crap, I was a pig in shit. All the woes of the morning behind me I relaxed and enjoyed my trip to Nha Trang.


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