Rain check

October 14, 2011

This is probably going to come as a shock to all of you, probably most of all to us, but we have decided to cut our trip short by a month and head to Australia. We spent days in Hanoi checking every single weather forecast for the whole of South East Asia, but unfortunately everywhere had everything from bad floods in Thailand to terrorist threats in Indonesia to Tropical Storms in Vietnam. It seems we couldn’t get away from the monsoon season. So we decided with a great reluctance that we’d rather cut it short, save our money and return in better weather than hang around not being able to do the things we wanted while the skies poured with no guarantee for when it would stop. We know luck will have it that in two, three, four weeks time it will be amazing, sun lounging, trekking, boating weather, but we just couldn’t find anywhere to go while we waited. So now we’re on a plane bound for Adelaide with mixed emotions. We’ve had the most amazing time away. We got engaged, got lost too many times to mention, saw the biggest balls in the world and realised that after spending everyday together for the past five months, we’re in pretty good stead for our life to come. But this isn’t the end of the blog so we hope you stick around and see what Australia has in store for us.

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Hanoi

October 14, 2011

We arrived in Hanoi pre warned about unscrupulous airport taxi drivers and their many scams. So when we found ours, I was expecting the worst. It’s always a little unnerving when someone speaks in a different language in front of you, as you’re paranoid they’re calling you horsedick to your face. So when our driver made a phonecall as soon as we got in the car, I was pretty sure he was calling his mafia boss to inform him that fresh, Western meat was in the car and that we’d be delivered to his whorehouse in 20 minutes. During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I flitted between worrying about us being kidney-less sex slaves and looking out of the window, completely mesmerised by the utter chaos on the streets. The Vietnamese practically live most of their life on the street as this is where they cook, eat, socialise, sell and do their crazy-ass driving. Their traffic system is pretty much non existent. As we drove down the main freeway, people were randomly walking on the road as the traffic whizzed by them. No one believes in lanes, stopping or indicating. In fact, our driver indicated at the most random, unnecessary times, leading me to believe he was just doing it because he thought Western people liked the ticking noise. Cars drive on the line that separates the two sides of oncoming traffic and motorbikes weave like drunkards between cars, trucks, people and buses, carrying everything from the village’s supply of toilet paper, multiple family members and trees. People were burning rubbish by the side of the road, eating and walking around with their bamboo shoulder baskets trying to make the last sell of the day. All these sights while listening to Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply. Surreal, right?

Our first day was spent at a cooking school which was one of the best things we’ve done on our trip. We started with a local student taking us around the neighborhood markets. These markets are called frog markets, as the ‘vendors’ are illegally selling things they’ve bought at a wholesale market and are just selling it on trying to make a buck. So when the police come, they have to jump up and bring all of their wares indoors, hence the name, frog market. Everyone at these markets sell something different. There’s fruit, meat, vegetables, shoes, noodles, rice and herbs. Oh yeah, and there’s also dog, which is probably the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Wholly roasted and weirdly crispy, this is one sight I will never forget. Although having said that, I don’t think it’s right for Westerners to judge what other cultures eat and have been eating for hundreds of years. At the cooking class, which ended up being a private lesson for Luke and I, we learnt about how Vietnamese food is all about balancing the flavours, like ying and yang and how Vietnamese people love eating close to the ground and actually, just eating in general. They eat and spend much of their time outdoors to maintain relations with their neighbors and to spend time with their families and one meal a day should always be eaten at home. After we’d finished preparing our bun cha soup (BBQ pork noodles) we had the best meal of our whole trip.

But it wasn’t just food and culture we learnt about. We also learnt that Luke has the most vomit inducing man smell when put in humid, sweating, non deodorant wearing conditions. He was fascinated with this new smell, kind of like when babies discover poo in their nappies and smear it all over themselves. He found ‘intriguing’. Upon smelling it, I, on the other hand, wondered if this was going to be the moment in our relationship when I was going to projectile vomit over his feet. After letting him reveal in this new smell for half a day, I made him shower and soap twice. Yes, it was that powerful.

Hanoi is one of those places you enjoy for a couple of days and then get the hell out. While fearing for your life when crossing the road is fun for a while, it’s just not sustainable. Nor are the tiny baby stools that street food vendors put out when you’re Luke and extremely unflexible when faced with having to basically squat while eating. And it’s not sustainable for someone like me who pretty much gets the shits just looking at bug infected chicken that’s been sitting on the street all day. So we stayed, we enjoyed and then we got the hell out.