Does it seem somehow wrong that my least favorite part about travelling is.......the actual "travel" part?
I was sad to leave SAPA, but sadness turned into utter frustration and misery once i boarded my overnight "VIP/First Class" train ride back to Hanoi. Can you pictures animals being crated up into tiny little cages, I am thinking of chickens in particular, and then boxed into frieght cars on a train. There is no such thing as VIP or first class for chickens and that mightve well been the case for me getting back to Hanoi. It was STIFLING hot. We were in our cages.....I mean cabins, 4 per room and found it quite odd that the AC wasnt on yet, seeing that the train was scheduled to leave momentarily. The Vietnamese passengers (that was all of the passengers in my car...i was the only foreigner) were up in arms and shreiking and cursing and STILL nothing was happening, so I figured there was no point in me attempting to get anything accomplished (like what i dont know, maybe get a tool box out of my backpack and start fixing the AC, hahahah). Anywho, after about 15 minutes of inhumane conditons (thing 35 degree heat in a cardboard box with NO windows to let air in) finally the air started circulating and we all tucked into our bunks slowly cooling our body temperature down. When I had just about climatised, maybe one hour into the journey, lights out (again think cardboard box-TOTAL BLACKNESS) and no AIR. Fun times. This happened about 3 more times through the journey and to be honest i just didnt have the energy to move. I was the only backpacker, and of course was armed with a flashlight so I clung to that, taking comfort against the total darkness in my cage with fellow Vietnames men.
We rolled into Hanoi just after 4am. I hopped onto a xe-om (motorbike) and safely got through my first xe-om taxi with my backpack. Luckily at 4am Hanoi is not at its peak of chaos so it was easy enough to navigate. I went back to the hostel I was staying at the night I flew (I think this might be the only actual Ozzie style hostel in asia) and it worked out perfectly. I squatted there for a few hours making use of the free internet, showers and free breakfast and then caught another xe om taxi to a bus station once i decided where I was headed at a much more reasonable hour. WHoah........this bike ride (i know dad i AM SUCH A frickin' hypocrite!) was MADNESS! There were 3 of us on the bike (well my the driver and my backpack, which now that i have been collecting stuff on the way is the equivalent size of another person) and it was rush hour and i honestly could think of nothing else to do except chuckle at how INSANE people driver. For example, the arrows to make a right hand turn in hanoi are in the left lane. Ditto, to go left, stay inthe right lane....i swear to god! oh, and you know how in Toronto they installed those pedestrian friendly little countdown on the street lights? To let you know how much time you have to safely cross the street. Screw that, here there is a coutdown timer that lets the drivers know when they can take off....and NO ONE waits for it to hit zero. and red lights..those optional, ALL THE TIME......it sounds like I am exaggerating but i kid you not. I am so upset my camera is broken, otherwise I would be taking videos to upload. When mom comes I will use hers and do one....total madness!!!! Lets say at least I am coming to turns with my traffic paranoia as a pedestrain. Crossing the street is hilarious (in a sick kinda way). The only strategy you can use is -JUST GO. you have to walk with a purpose. The motorcycle drivers (there are pretty much no cars) just swerve and manouver to avoid you easily. They see your route and navigate around you, the trouble lies when you hesitate, that throws them off. To locals it is no problem, an ingrained way of thinking and moving. However, as a Western, and one that has had a run in with cars while on foot long ago...this practise is a little threatening! But like i said, i am becoming a much bolcer pedestrian!
At the bus station I hopped on a local bus (only foreigner again...i love it!!!! they unabashedly stare at me like i am a tourist attraction!) and was headed south of the city. Thankfully out of Hanoi before the city swallowed me up. After about an hour on the bus journey, just as I was thinking to myself how this journey was working out well and I knew where i was going and nothing unespected or unexplainable had happened in the last few hours......the man sitting 2 seats ahead me unleashed. Like i thought someone was pouring out a 2litre bottle of water......nope it was his breakfast. sorry to be graphic but i have no pity to you sitting comfortably at your desk, in your office, or kicked back on your laptop. this shit was in my face!!!
So gross. and ya know what? what was i gonna do? get off the bus? hahahah, a few peices of newpaper over the offending mess, AC off, windows down, the driver never even slowed down!
Travel......it is like a love hate relationship, I think. Bittersweet. Well here I am in Ninh Biinh. Safe and sound and in one peice and thrilled to figure out this place...to see what lies around the next corner, I am ready to choose my next adventure :)