The boat trip was quite a success despite a rocky beginning, in which I lost my group and was wandering around like a sad little girl on the jam-packed dock, holding up my ticket and looking pitifully lost. It was 8am people. I always look pitifully lost at that hour anyways. Thankfully my guide found me and threw me onto the boat with not a minute to spare. I had expected it to be full of Westerners, and I had actually counted on this as I was looking to make some friends to go to Vinpearl water and amusement park with me, but I was surprised to find the boat packed full of Vietnamese tourists. No problem, as they were all very friendly and curious, as usual, about my loner status. It is actually quite hilarious, because at first people feel openly sorry for me. “That’s soooo sad” one woman crooned at me. I think it is hard for them to understand why someone would go traveling without a loved one or their family, as that is how most Vietnamese I have met are traveling. It is kind of hard to find a decent reply to those sorts of sentiments, questions such as “why don’t you have a friend with you?”. They still remained unconvinced by any answer I give. What they do do is invite me to eat with them, or make a special efforts to include me and talk to me often. Hahaha. Don’t they realize my plan is working?
On the first island we went to an aquarium that was in the shape of a giant concrete pirate ship, which was pretty rad. I do feel sorry for the big-ass fish that don’t really have very much room to swim, and it makes me wonder about fish depression. I feel like if they had a chance they might hop right out of their tank and just end it right there. I would, if I were them: make a break for the sea…
The second island was quite pretty, and the guide doled out some slightly shitty snorkeling masks, but they got the job done which is what counts. The reefs were amazing, and there were lots of fish and sea life, so the hour went by very quickly and I did a lot of diving down to get a closer look at things. It was awesome! Best snorkeling so far.
The third island harbored a floating fish farm, allowing people to pick out any additions they would like to add to the lunch, and people really took up that opportunity. I watched a poor squid get murdered, and a bunch of lobsters too. I didn’t know lobsters could swim so fast! In fact I had never seen them swim before…pretty cool. I wonder about the definition of a fish farm, as there is no way that they have the fish in there from birth, as the netting wasn’t that fine. They must catch sea creatures when they are fairly grown and then just store them in these nets…
Lunch was big and delicious, and after lunch there was an epic show put on by ‘The Funky Monkey Boy Band’, which is to say the entire staff of the boat. I must admit, it was pretty radical as they just had some shitty instruments, including a drum set, that they pulled out of nowhere, but they managed to sound alright and even played some good tunes. There were two other groups of tourists on the boat, both German, and they were called out after the first song to go sing a German song. It was fucking hilarious. What I should have seen coming in all my pleasure at their minor humiliation was that I was next. Oh well, a few beers in I rocked the fuck out to ‘Hey Jude’, getting the crowd enthused enough to do the wave. Nice. They sang a song about Ho Chi Minh, and some other Vietnamese songs, as well as some Red Hot Chili Peppers and American bands. Sweet shit. This was all filler for the boat to find a good spot in the middle of the ocean, where they set up, yes, a floating bar. Basically, it’s one guy on a big ass tube with a big bucket of liquor, and then everyone else is given a tube and you swim over and hold on. You then have to rocket howevermany drinks you can down your gullet before the salty waves overtake your cup: I did just fine, thankyouverymuch. We also got to jump off the top deck of the boat, which was actually high enough that I had to do the whole don’tthinkjustrun trick. I managed to make friends with an Vietnamese-American woman, whose family had left the country in 1975 on the last of the departing American ships. Holy history! She was with her Vietnamese niece, who didn’t speak any English, and we decided that we would attack the amusement park together the next day, as well as meet up late for drinks. Sweet.
The final island found me a drunken haze, and I wandered around looking for a bit of a hike. There were no trails, so I settled myself down in a beach chair far away from the crowds and unwound for a bit. It was absolutely lovely. The heat soon overcame me and forced me into the sea, where I amused myself by giving some Vietnamese tourists water-rides, full kid style. See me in the ocean with an adult woman in my arms, swinging her around in circles, counting to three, taking in a very obvious deep breath, and then dunking her under. Very few Vietnamese can swim, despite their 3,200km coast line (I think I remember that correctly), so for her it was quite a rush! She was just stoked, and it made me laugh my ass off as well. As soon as I put her down another girl ran up to me and made me do the same until I had to beg off due to fatigue. I swam out and just floated as one can only do in the ocean, looking at the sky, blue and clear. I began to question the my answer to Maddie’s earlier query: If you could chose only one for the rest of your life, would you choose lake or ocean? I am torn.
The tour ended and I returned to my hotel exhausted from the days events, and intoxicated from the beer and mystery bucket beverage. The next thing I knew I was waking up from a four hour nap, only an hour before I had plans to meet Linh and her niece for a few drinks. I went for dinner, where I saw another girl eating alone. I tried numerous times to try to make eye contact to no avail, so thinking her shy, I just out and invited her to join me. Boy was I wrong. As soon as she sat down she emitted a waterfall of words, many of dubious nature. I found myself defending the eating of dog-meat by the Chinese, questioning her own meat eating ways. “Are you aware that pigs are actually really intelligent animals, yet most Western farms pack them in in horrific conditions?” Yes, she was. “Isn’t this just a judgement passed on something that is simply a different cultural norm? Who the fuck are we to judge?” This shut her up for a bit, but soon she was off about how all the Vietnamese girls are just looking for a ticket out of here through Western men, which does have some truth to it for some girls, but also a broad generalization. I tried to tell her I had to go meet Linh for drinks, but she just kept on talking!! I had to get up, and make for the door, inviting her to come if she’d like. She did like, and I was soon sitting at the bar listening to her and Linh get super excited about how they both worked at Disney Paris and on both Disney Cruise lines and did you know Bryce Winningham, who was like, totally married, and oh wasn’t Jenny Bouche a slut? Yes. Yes she was.
Chatty Cathy soon realized she had forgot her cellphone somewhere, and ended up abandoning us completely with her four dollar drink. Nice. Would I pay four dollars for her to go away? Yes. So it worked out well. I ended up meeting one nice girl, Nell, which brings the total of tourists that I genuinely liked up to 3. Yikes. We proceeded to drink and dance the night away, ending up in the ocean playing on one of those giant floating fun parks, with the trampoline, slide, and giant mountain to climb. It was good fun, though her drunk-ass 18 year old sister, who was an attention craving maniac, put an added spin of bat-shit crazy on the night. Not that it needed it.
On the way home I stopped for a sandwich and got seriously sexually harassed by this fucker. I kept on having to slap his hands away from my boobs, which were admittedly looking fine under my thin wet long sleeved shirt, but I also was hanging my wet under shirt over my shoulders in an attempt to prevent myself from being too risque. Unfortunately, nothing can stop the thunder nips and he took great notice of this. He kept on trying to grab for them, and then shouting stuff in Vietnamese to the group around him, and who would then all explode in laughter. Total douchebaggery. I shut him up miming to him that he probably had a small pecker, much to the amusement of his friends, I then gave him a final shove and walked away quickly. Not stoked. I soon realized I was going the wrong direction and had to turn around and pass by them again. I stayed on the other side of the street, which did nothing as he crossed the street and came at me again. I was just pissed by this point, and told him to fuck right off, pushed him away again, and walked away as fast as I could while trying to maintain my cool. Every inch of my body wanted to give him a good shit-kicking, and I was fairly confident that I could, but I really didn’t want things to escalate so just kept my fist balled and walked away. The couple of blocks home couldn’t have seemed longer, and I was bummed at the way that he was able to make me feel so exposed, so unsafe. Some fucking men just have no idea that what is a joke to them is a serious head fuck to a woman, as I just had all sorts of scary rape scenarios going around in my head. He didn’t follow me and there were enough people in the surrounding area that I probably would have been fine, but fear can eat you up inside. A gnawing, debilitating monster. I find it so hard to accept that as a woman, who often doesn’t feel so much like a ‘woman’, I need to act differently as a traveler: “Women should not walk home alone at night.” But men can? So should I be taking a taxi for 4 blocks? Why should I trust the taxi driver any better than my own chances? The sick part was that I actually had a passing thought that I deserved what was coming for being where I was at that time. Yet if I followed every warning thrown at me, I wouldn’t have had a cold drink, eaten a salad or watermelon, or gone out during the day, due to the sun, or dawn and dusk, due to the mosquitos, or even the night, due to criminals. I would sit in my hotel room, clutching my passport, paranoid that the hotel manager is thinking about knocking me out and selling my organs on the black market. Oh my. How to make sense of it all. I do my best.
The next day I woke surprisingly free of a hangover, thank you sandwich and ocean swimming, and headed over the Vinpearl amusement and water park. The gondola over was scary and awesome, and the rides were pretty decent as well. The Alpine coaster was the best, as it took you directly up a steep mountain and then wound you down it, allowing you to work the brakes yourself! It was fucking crazy! You could get going sooo fast, and then all of a sudden a sign would pop up saying “Brake!” and you would have to hammer on the brakes to take a corner…or not. I was a little worried at time it might fly off its tracks, but I’m alive to write this story aren’t I? There was also another coaster that was small but extremely tight and got going super fast. It blew my mind a bit.
We spent the early afternoon on their white sand beach, mercifully free of pushy vendors, swimming in the ocean and reading. Oooh yeah. The late afternoon was filled with me running around the water park, going on as many slides as I could. It was pretty crazy. None of this shit would be legal in Canada, as I got whiplash from a jump on one, in which you go down a steep but stepped slide face-forward on a crazy carpet-esque thing, and then another, called “The Space Hole” was a completely dark tube of havoc. They started you out by pointing to a sign that had a very specific body posture, legs crossed, arms behind your head, which is very purposefully designed as this slide was absolute murder, flinging you around in utter darkness, and then shooting you out into a giant circle of slide, with a hole in the middle, like a toilet bowl…..or a space hole I guess….I definitely got some bruises out of that one!! Also, the joints were not very smooth, and it was a bit painful! On other slides you used a tube, and there were many sections where it was complete darkness, inviting all sorts of vertigo, causing me to worry that I was going to crack my head on the side. Full tuck was employed. There was also the largest lazy river that I’d ever seen, encircling the entire water park, and a kick-ass wave pool that on one side narrowed into a channel, allowing the waves to reverberate on the walls, smashing you against the sides and bringing you perilously close to the random archway they had constructed over top of it. Yikes and yipee!
That evening I made it back to the hotel just in time to grab a bite and then jump on my first sleeper bus, as so far I have been rocking the train. Not so great. Very little space for your belongings, and even my feet hit the end of the bed-seat. It also didn’t lay out flat, so for people that sleep on their back it might be okay, but for a vigilant stomach sleeper it was minorly torturous. There were also a zillion stops with the lights flashing, and the swerving of the crazy driver was a bit hard to fall asleep to, but all of a sudden it was 5:30am and we were being tossed into the depths of Ho Chi Minh City. I stumbled out of the bus into a crowd of shouting taxi drivers, each vying for my attention. I was not sociable at this hour so it took all of my will power to not tell them to fuck off, keeping it to terse ‘No thank you. No. Seriously. No. Just leave me alone”. I kept on having to walk further and further away to read my guide book, kicking myself for not having a place to stay planned before I arrived. I crossed the street and began to wander when this lady caught me and showed me to her hotel, 10 dollars cheaper than anything in the book, and very close. I accepted quickly and passed the hell out.
I awoke at 11am, got my bearings, and did a walking tour of the city. It is so funny how many moto-taxi’s offer you a ride in certain areas, scoffing at my smiles and gestures at my legs, stating “I have these for a reason you know”. “You can’t walk there” they retort, “that’s 4km away!!”. 20 minutes later I am at my destination, no problem, and I get to take in all the sights. I checked out Reunification Palace, which was famously overthrown by the North Vietnamese Liberation Army (aka. Viet Cong) in the fall of Saigon, signifying the end of the war. After I went to the War Remnants Museum, which was extremely poignant and terribly sad. I was surprised, and at the same time not, that I was the only one shedding tears. How does one not mist up reading the stories about all of the children born with mental illnesses and disfigurations from Agent Orange, with pictures showing them being cared for by their smiling mothers in their one room shack. Fuuuuuccckkk. There was a section of photographs that had been shot by many different journalists who had been killed in the war, capturing the horrific torture techniques used by the US army and other such atrocities and war crimes. Children screaming in terror, a man at the very second a bullet is entering his brain, the corpses of pregnant women, the absolute perversion of humanity. Yet outside, people smiled and posed for pictures in front of the tanks used to kill, where Vietnamese were tied to ropes by their feet and dragged to their death. We just saw those pictures inside. It makes no sense to me, the girl who has to go sit at a bus stop and weep for nothing and everything.
I had picked myself up and began to walk home when I spotted a thin, long restaurant bustling with locals, and found myself a seat among the crowd. I got so many smiles returned from my tentative ones, and soon felt at home, with the man at the neighboring table striking up a conversation, clinking beers with me, and the asking for my plate on which he put some lamb, returning it to me smiling with the word “sharing” falling from his lips. It almost made me want to cry again, seeing the resilience of these people that have been through so much and comparatively have so little, yet their spirit remains fierce and friendly. It makes me want to slap all the foreign idiots who complain that the Vietnamese ‘aren’t friendly’ and they are just ‘out to make a buck’. I have been told so many times never to accept anything from a Vietnamese person, as they will turn right around and charge you three times over. Yet, multiple times I have been taken under the wing of a local, offered beer and food with no desire for compensation except some struggling English conversation and smiles. Many also want a picture: “Look at this crazy white girl I found wandering around Vietnam…. and all alone too! Boy we felt sorry for her!” I think that people need to look beyond the wall of hardened tourist-hunters, those trying to sell you something, and see the true spirit of Vietnam. Even those who are viciously hawking their wares can be broken down, smiles and laughs can be shared, and you realize that they are just humans trying to get by in a country that is just now working its way out of decades of terror, violence, and poverty. Have we no compassion? I just don’t fucking know.