A week in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Over Tet, we had just over a week off work as the schools shut and everyone prepares for the celebrations. This gave us the perfect  opportunity to get out of Hai Phong a little further than a taxi ride can take us and do some travelling so a big group of us decided to head South, towards sunshine, beaches and cocktails to an island paradise. 

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The panoramic view from the 5th floor of the Praha Hotel, Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc Island is Vietnamese territory and is positioned West off the Vietnamese coast, just South of the Cambodian Coast. There is a spot on the North of the island where you can apparently see Cambodia when the weather is good. While Phu Quoc is a relatively small island, there is plenty to see and do there. 

 

Beaches

Long Beach was right near where we stayed, booked on the advice of a friend of a friend as well as a bit of research. The beach is, in fact 20km long, hence the name I suppose. This lies up the west coast and starts about 10 minutes from the airport, working it’s way up north. The beaches are beautiful, clean and the water is pristine clear blue. Our hotel (which was also amazing by the way) was about a 10 minute walk from the main hotspot on Long Beach so we usually made our way up towards the centre along the beach. There are tons of restaurants, beach loungers, massage places and more along that stretch of the beach so it doesn’t really matter where you decide to stop – you won’t go hungry, lonely, sandy or unmassaged! 

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Day one, cocktail bar one.
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same same
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Can you even?
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Fresh fruit on the beach
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It’s a hard life

We also ventured south east one day to Bai Sao beach for a day which was about a 30 minute taxi ride from where we stayed. Think white sand beaches, set back in a cove so there is practically no current and the water was as still as can be. There’s a swimming area that’s buoyed off and outside of that there is space to go venturing on jet skis or go para-sailing. Restaurants abound here with views of the water and the only potential downfall of this side of the island is that you don’t get to see the sunset from here, and they are pretty spectacular, so worth getting packed up and heading back across to Long Beach to catch the end of the day.

 

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Bai Sao Beach views

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Sim Wine Factory 

Isn’t really a wine factory but whatever the liquor is it’s most certainly alcoholic. There isn’t really very much to see here except some very pretty flowers and you can do a free tasting of a few of the variations including a syrup which they put over ice like a slushy. They’re also pretty strong so take it easy if it’s breakfast time 🙂 

Phu Quoc Pepper

Phu Quoc is specifically known for producing pepper in Vietnam and quite a few dishes, specifically on the island specify that they’re made with Phu Quoc pepper. If you’re looking for THE pepper farm you can find a couple relatively close to Long Beach, but if you keep driving up north, you will see countless pepper farms and again, there’s not a lot to see, except rows and rows of pepper plants, which is pretty cool. You can also buy various types, combined with different spices, whole peppercorns, ground with chili and so on. It was pretty cool to se them on the stem, changing colour etc but don’t expect a guide or anyone to tell you about the process or anything. We wandered around a bit, got a few pictures, bought a couple of bottles and then asked them to call us a taxi to move on to the next place. 

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green
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turning to red
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rows of pepper plants with a view
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for sale

Bee Farms 

The same sort of deal goes for the bee farms as for the pepper farms. There is more than one and there’s not really anything like a tour of the place. Some of them seem to have food while some only have drinks. The one we went to had a drinks menu and a honey tasting as well as jars of infused honey to buy. They were infused with things that would never have crossed my mind, including the ever-present Phu Quoc pepper! 

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freshly squeezed orange with raw honey
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yummmm
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different types for sale
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testing station
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more pepper, anyone?

We had freshly squeezed orange juice drowned in raw honey which was absolutely delicious, and after that I couldn’t possibly put any more honey in my body but Claire tasted a bunch of different ones before buying a couple of jars. 

We wandered around here again, to see the “yoga house” – a wooden hut with a yoga mat in it, the “bee library” – a small housing with some books in it, 

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Bee Wise Library

and the “mushroom house” – a room where a bunch of mushrooms looked they were probably drying out. 

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Just some mushrooms, drying out in their own little house

Also, check out his pineapple plant! I mean, how did I not know that this is how pineapples grow?!?

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The best!

Restaurants 

The Spice House at Cassia Cottage was a revelation. It is one of the highly recommended restaurants in the area and not by mistake. The food was delicious, service was excellent and dessert was spectacular. Three of us ate there and we had the vegan curry and rice, beef strips and pineapple with Phu Quoc Pepper (served in a freaking pineapple), and cheese stuffed chicken breast with ratatouille. I had a Bloody Mary which was also divine. We couldn’t resist ordering dessert as well and shared two between the three of us. We had a chocolate lava pudding which was mind blowing, and ice cream sundae which consisted of 2 scoops of Cassia ice cream and one vanilla. The two couldn’t have complemented each other better – ice cream and chocolate pudding? I mean, come on. 

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The view from The Spice House
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Vegan Curry
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Beef and pineapple with Phu Quoc Pepper (in a pineapple)
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Chicken breast (stuffed with mozzarella) and ratatouille
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Chocolate lava pudding
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Cassia and Vanilla ice cream (OMG)

There was also, naturally seafood for days along the beach front, fresh fruit smoothies in all the restaurants, as well as fruit, chopped right in front of you on the beach. Phuong Binh House does an incredible Grilled Squid with Chili and Salt. You can’t go wrong with a Rory’s Beach Bar pizza, and Jo Jo’s does a fresh Seafood barbecue on the beach, where you go and select your own fish before they cook it, as well as a whole menu, and reasonably (ish) priced wine. 

I would definitely go back to Phu Quoc. I only have a couple of hundred other places I haven’t been before first. 

 

Vinh Bao Saturdays

Once again this morning we had the 6.25am bus out to Vinh Bao for Saturday morning classes. Classes start around 8am but Vinh Bao is a solid hour and a bit drive away so off we trek bright and early. Well, not so bright, but definitely early.

I only teach two classes on a Saturday morning while the other 4 teacher have 4 classes each. This means that I teach my two lessons and then have about an hour and a half to wait before everyone else finishes and we can all go home. Because we’re so far out, the bus only does the one trip each way. While this is not my ideal Saturday morning, it does mean that I get to see some things that not many other people have had a chance to see.

Last time we came out and I had to wait around, the bus driver and my TA took me to a really famous pagoda (I need to find out the proper name and will update).

It’s also the perfect place to get pictures of the iconic scenes of people working in the fields with the conical Vietnamese hats on. Last time we came out I tried to get a pic of two women in a field with their hats on but they insisted on taking them off to pose for the pic!

This morning I spotted a couple of people down the road from the school so I took a wander and got a few more photos.

It is so incredibly green once you get out of town! And I also snapped this lady who was selling treats to the kids as they came out of class.

Ups and downs

I had the most revolting class of grade ones yesterday who were not interested in being in the room, let alone listening or learning anything. Half of them were out running around the courtyard while the rest of them screamed, shouted, climbed on desks, on each other, threw shit around the room and punched each other. It wasn’t my best day and after I left school I went and sat on my own, drank two coffees and smoked four cigarettes to try and decompress before my next class.

This morning though, I sat and had eggs for breakfast at a street side cafe and watched the world go by.

A guy on a bicycle carrying who knows what pipes of some sort, which were about 3 meters long had to stop and adjust everything before it all came crashing down. He struggled for a bit until another guy on a bicycle who wasn’t carrying anything stopped to help him out.

I walked down the road back to the place we’re staying in the other direction from which I’d come and bought a fresh baguette for VND10,000 (about ZAR5) and wandered back past a bunch of Grab bikes (your Hai Phong Uber equivalent).

All seems right with the world today.

Vietnam U23 vs Uzbekistan U23 – Asia Cup Football Finals

Our second week in Hai Phong started just like the previous one, with no expectations of anything being any different to what we had already experienced. Little did we know at that point that it was the week of the semi finals and the finals of the Under 23 Asia Cup football and that this would have a huge impact on the mood of the country. Even though it was only the under 23 team, the fact that they had made it to the semi finals had captured the attention of the entire country.

IMG_4074The semi final match was played on Tuesday night and as we were walking to get dinner we noticed that all of the coffee shops that had TVs were packed with people. Everyone was out to support the Vietnam Under23 team. Scooters stopped in the middle of the road to catch a glimpse of the score, or to catch the rest of the match on their way home. The whole of one side of one of the main roads, Lach Try, was blocked off with row upon row of eager scooter drivers outside one coffee shop.

The Vietnam Under 23s rose to victory after 30 minutes of extra time, on a penalty shoot out and won the match 2-1 against Qatar. They were going to be in the final on Saturday. This was a historic moment. No Vietnam football team had ever made it to the finals of a tournament of this size and the whole country was celebrating already. Glowing with pride (literally, as flares were being let off in the streets), the whole city shone red on Tuesday night.

Every game we played at school for the rest of the week consisted of team names of “Vietnam U23” and when that had been chosen by the first team in my grade 5 class, the second team was then called “Vietnam U11”. Some teams chose to be Qatar simply because they’d made it to the semi finals, but nobody wanted to be Uzbekistan (who they were up against in the finals on Saturday). The schools were wild in all the right ways as the children chanted “Vietnam. Vo Dic” or “Vietnam. Champions” at break time, and before each and every round of any game we played with them in class. The streets of Hai Phong, even wilder.

On Saturday for the game, DTLC, the language centre through which we’re employed in Hai Phong, set up a massive speaker and streamed the game on their enormous TV outside the main office in town. We had benches across the street, Bia Hoi, prawn cocktail crisps, assorted nuts, incredible company and everyone who drove past paused to shout, chant, watch, check the score, hoot or wave. The vibe was unbelievable.

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I should seriously just give up on the selfies
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The skies were a live with the sound of horns and the colour of flares
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Flying the flag

Sadly, Vietnam lost in the second last minute of over time as Uzbekistan scored their second goal of the match, and while there were tears, it did little to dampen the spirit of the city. The skies glowed red yet again as the streets filled flare-carrying motorbike riders. Chants filled the air in spite of the loss. Beer flowed, as did rice wine, among chants of Mot, Hai Ba, Zoi and people celebrated the fact that the team had even made it as far as the finals.

It was an incredible experience and something none of us will forget in a hurry.  

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People kept stopping on the road to catch an update of the match

 

Vietnam: Three weeks in

Hanoi

I cannot believe it’s already been three weeks since we finally arrived in Hanoi. Orientation was a bit of a blur to be honest. We arrived at the hotel the Monday evening when we finally got here, dropped our bags off and went straight out to the welcome dinner, followed by a visit to beer street which ended up with us staying out till about 3am that night. Tuesday through Thursday were a combination of weird hotel food, intense practical sessions in the mornings and Vietnamese lessons in the afternoons, interspersed with lots of coffee, trips to the Vinmart (local 7eleven type shop just down the road which sells snacks, basics, water and beer), getting new sim cards organised and buying airtime and data so as not to have to rely on the WiFi at the hotel and various coffee shops.

Friday morning was our final session which was do’s and don’ts, what to expect specifically in Hai Phong as well as a bit of Vietnamese culture. The expectations for the hotel we were to be staying in was played down significantly (although in hindsight, probably still not enough) and warnings of rats, cockroaches and various other creepy crawlies were put out there. We then had a free afternoon for the first time since arriving which I spent re-packing my suitcase, the contents of which had managed to find their way pretty much to every corner of the room, and to have a bit of quiet time. Having been on planes and in each other’s pockets for almost a full week, sharing a room in Hanoi and spending days on top of each other, it was a welcome relief to actually have  an afternoon of nothing. I had the TV on, playing old movies in the background (something with Owen Wilson and a bunch of kids, the title of which was the name of Wilson’s character but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called) and grabbed a tin of Pringles and a Coke from the Vinmart for a taste of familiarity.

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The wall outside the coffee shop
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The place that became our regular for the week 
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chocolate and caramel iced coffee
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The view from our room on the 5th floor

Farewell Karaoke

Friday night was our farewell to orientation week which saw us across the road from the hotel with Karaoke Microphones, Bia Hoi (a kind of home brew that is way cheaper than anything else, and also a bit lighter) and 130 odd people singing, dancing and going a little crazy. The knowledge that we had to check out on the be on the bus to Hai Phong before 8am on Saturday did little (nothing) to dampen our spirits. When the Karaoke place essentially closed around 11.30 plans were made to purchase excess and take it back to the hotel to carry on with the party. Which we did. I think I made it another 3am-ish night and was up and finalising packing at about 6.30am to head down to check out and get breakfast before leaving. Which only happened after 9 in the end (something which we could have predicted had we really thought much about it). The bus that arrived to fetch us wasn’t big enough for everyone let along everyone and their luggage and so another had to be organised before we could leave.

 

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In the beginning

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Closer to the end
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The view much earlier in the morning on the day we left

Hai Phong

The drive to Hai Phong wasn’t long and after the first half hour or so I think most people drifted off to sleep. I have to say the noise cancelling headphones Rhys sent over from the UK have really been a life saver. From the plane, to a noisy hotel and sharing rooms, it really makes sleep easier when you can’t actually hear anyone else, including on the bus when I had a little nap. We got to the hotel and got our room allocations (more sharing for the weekend) and then lunch was delivered. Banh Mi. I couldn’t eat mine. I’m not sure if it was a combination of a week’s worth of drinking or if there was something in it that didn’t agree with me but I had about two bites. Apparently it was from the best Banh Mi place in Vietnam. I’ll have to try something different there and actually check it out.

We went for a wonder around the hotel coz we had a couple of hour before we needed to be at the language centre for our first Hai Phong orientation session. We got a coffee and had a quick look around. Walked a bit and discovered the dusty, dirty streets. Even though I’ve been to Vietnam before, I’d never been to Hai Phong. It’s not exactly your ultimate tourist destination…

We spent the weekend at the language centre, breaking for meals and a bit of exploration. For dinner on Saturday night we went to Texas BBQ which is about the most western restaurant there is around. I got a burger and chips which was really good after a week of unusual food, a lot of tofu, pork and fish sauce in everything. It was also good to pick something up with my hands on purpose instead of because I’d dropped it out of my chopsticks! Sunday morning saw us teaching practice lessons to our peers which was about the most nerve wracking thing I’ve had to do in a really long time. We then had a culture workshop, schedule allocation and handout of materials (chalk, dusters, magnets, flashcards and so on), ready for the first classes on Monday. I got allocated Monday off so I guess it was an easy start. Also, I woke up sick on Sunday morning with a cough and a sore throat and a nose that needed blowing every few minutes so it was a bit of a relief that I didn’t have to go an teach first thing on Monday.

 

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On our way to Hai Phong
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Apparently the best Banh Mi place in Vietnam
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phê sữa đá – Iced Condensed milk coffee 
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The coffee shop near the language centre
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An interesting version of a Banh Mi – pretty damn tasty
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Morning Glory. Yes, I’m serious. And just a touch of garlic.
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The view from my room…
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Fishing around the corner
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Pizza and beer – you can’t really go wrong

Teaching

And so it began. With a grand total of about 3 days of practical sessions and a 120 hour online theory course, off we went to class to go and teach English as a Second Language to a bunch of people. The girls were mostly allocated to primary schools, meaning we would be teaching children between the ages of 6 and 12, or secondary which is 12 – 15 years, while the guys were allocated to high schools, teaching the older kids more advanced English. Not sure why it was done this way. It just seems to be the way it goes here. The little kids are super cute, except for when then they tell me “Teacher, you so fat”. The Vietnamese people are generally a pretty small nation, height and weight wise so that’s a fun part of my day, mainly with the grade ones.

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At break time the kids all line up and do some exercise type stuff before they get to play
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For a second I really thought my taxi driver was drinking beer. It’s Red Bull
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Authentic Kids H&M?
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Memory Coffee Shop – so pretty
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Really good cup of coffee
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There’s a temple just down the road from us
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One of the guys bought Hai Phong decorated cake 
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Bunny Rabbit chilling under the warm stove while we had dinner
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Beef fried rice. One of my best meals here so far.
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White wine is expensive and there’s not a lot of variety. Sad Face.
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This cucumber comes in some kind of pickle/vinegary sauce – so good.
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Unknown broth. Totally delish
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When we were told that the drivers don’t care about what’s behind them I didn’t believe them. I do now. 

Getting to Hanoi. Part 2

So I wrote the last post about 10 days ago when I was still pretty fired up about the whole thing. I’ve totally calmed down now and am now more amazed at the whole situation than I am annoyed or frustrated. Not that I was that much of either of those things in the first place. If I’ve learnt anything from my time on this earth and my travel opportunities, it’s that there’s really no point in expending energy getting angry and frustrated when there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about something. Obviously this is easier said then done and I definitely don’t always keep my cool but I think in this situation I did.

We FINALLY arrived in Hong Kong, after a 13 and some change hour flight (change because, as we were so heavily delayed, we couldn’t land straight away when we got there and were put into a holding pattern for another half an hour or so before we could actually get onto the ground). It wasn’t a good flight for me. I didn’t sleep well – I think I got about 4 hours just after dinner and then I flipped between wide awake and totally exhausted for the next however many hours. Also, the guy beside me had exceptionally bad breath and I spent most of the rest of the flight trying to breathe through the sleeve of my hoodie. It was very unpleasant. The only slight relief from this was when he spent half an hour away from his seat, I assume ‘freshening up’. He didn’t brush his teeth at this point by the way. He just sprayed half a can of deo so that when he came back that was all I could smell for half an hour. And then the breath returned in a wafty haze of browny green (in my head anyway).

We got off the plane and everything seemed incredibly organised. There must have been about 30 odd connecting flights off that SAA flight from Hong Kong. And I think that’s even a conservative guess. The ground crew (NOT SAA) at this point did an epic job of wrangling everyone off the flight into sections/areas and leading them off in different directions. For some reason our group (of 9 different connections, being managed by two ground crew) were the last to head out from our landing spot. They lead us all through the airport, down a seemingly endless passage of travelators (WordPress is telling me that’s not a word but the moving walkway things) which we got on an off like lemmings until we finally reached a new area. At this point here were airport staff approaching people with what looked like radar guns to their heads. Turns out it was just a temperature check point. And then on to the next area which had counters with airline staff. At this point I had thought, oh good, they had all of our names and which flights we were meant to be on. We’re flying through this airport like we’re about to be late for our new flights so they must be organised and we’ll be on our way shortly. I need to teach myself not to think such things it seems.

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We got there and then we stood. Some people from other connections filled out forms, and got ferried off somewhere else. And we stood. I ran to the bathroom making everyone else who was supposed to be going to Hanoi (there were 6 of us) swear that they wouldn’t let them leave without me. I ran back. And we stood. And then I sat on the floor because it didn’t seem like anything was happening for our group. One couple got annoyed, angry, irate. We were told there were no more flights leaving tonight for Hanoi. Everyone got out their phones to check. Everyone could see that there were other flights leaving for Hanoi. Not flights operated by Vietnam Airways unfortunately. Nobody cares, get us on other flights. Nope, everything’s full. Fill out these immigration forms because you don’t need visas so you can stay the night here and we’ll get you on a flight tomorrow. When tomorrow? Some people have work starting in the morning. They’re not impressed. There’s a flight that goes direct to Hanoi at 7.55am. Ok, cool that sounds good.

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Vantage point from my floor seat 

 

Fine, so we fill out our forms, go through immigration and head off to get our luggage. At this point everyone realises their luggage was overweight on the way here and while it would have just been checked through, they’re now going to have to have the fight in another airport and potentially have to pay in forex. The joy extends. We all find our luggage looking abandoned next to the carousel. One girl’s suitcase is now missing a wheel. We stand and wait for the ground crew staff. Who is now a different person because the original person palmed us off on someone else. I think she might have had a small cry. And we stand and wait. And some people sit down. And eventually she comes through and finds us. And she has hotel vouchers and new flights in her hand.She starts running through the hotel details and then she gets to the flights. So you’ll be flying out of Hong Kong at (whatever time it was) in the morning and land in Ho Chi Minh… Fireworks. WHAT? The angry couple are angrier. At this point I could honestly not care less. I actually just want to take my stinky wrinkly clothes off and have a shower, put my feet up, wash my hair and sleep in a real bed, which has already been promised.

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Boulevard of broken baggage dreams

Nope, we’re not flying via Ho Chi Minh. No, they can’t get us on the early flight tomorrow morning, it’s fully booked. You can come and wait on standby but there’s no guarantee.  Or, we can book you for sure on the morning flight to Ho Chi Minh and then you can change and leave for Hanoi at midday. Ooooor, we can book you to Hanoi via Bangkok tonight but it leaves at 2am (at this point it’s about 7pm and we’ve been sitting in airports or on planes since 2pm the previous day. Everyone’s exhausted and no one even contemplates that option). So now that they’ve booked us all on the wrong flights, they must wait for the supervisor before they can change the bookings. We sit down on the benches. I put my flight induced cankles up on my suitcase. And we wait some more. At 9.30 we finally have confirmation from the ladies that they’ve changed our bookings. We can take our hotel accommodation vouchers and just make sure we’re back here in time for our 2.30pm direct flight to Hanoi. That’s the best they can do. I’m not phased anymore I just want some water, something to eat and preferably glass or three of wine.

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So we found our way to the bus stops. Waited for about 20 minutes. Hopped in a bus which took us to the Auberge Discovery Bay Hotel. The dinner buffet is still up and running. Water is being poured at regular intervals. I stuff my face without remorse. Dessert is even better. The bar is closed 😦 It’s probably a sign. The rooms are amazing, the bed even better. I set my alarm thinking I’ll be awake way before then but the combination of a comfy bed, a long trip and block out curtains means I slept till my alarm went off. It was obviously much needed! I also checked the room service menu just out of curiosity to see what wine they had. Expensive. They had expensive wine.

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Granted this is HK Dollars so divide by 8 but still. 

We realised in the morning that the whole hotel was actually really nice. And the weather outside really wasn’t. We got up and went for breakfast at about 10.30. Hopped on the shuttle to the airport at 11.15. Got there without any tickets or proof that we were even booked on the flight but thank goodness that part went smoothly. They didn’t even question the overweight baggage. We think they put something in the system not to mess with us after the previous night and the angry couple. We went straight through security, which made all of us unpack our hand luggage basically down to the last bit and put it out into separate containers so that they could scan it again and go through everything in minute detail. Trying to get that lot back into my backpack was fun and games.

We went straight to our gate and waited for our flight. It boarded late and took off late. They had the smallest wine “glasses” you’ve ever seen.

We landed on time though so that was something. Then we headed through to the Visa queue as we had to do our visas on arrival and lo and behold there were about 200 people sitting on the floor waiting for their visas. We went and handed in our forms and photos (and passports) and then we sat. One guy came back from picking up his visa and said it had only taken two hours… There were two of us waiting at this point. The visas took an hour and a half. We got through immigration easily enough (although the woman who was doing mine was so busy texting someone that she took twice as long as anyone else) and then had to locate our once again abandoned luggage.

We got through, found the poor person who had been waiting for us since our landing time, got in a taxi and headed to the hotel. By the time we reached our final destination it was 6.30pm Vietnam time (which GMT +7, 5 hours ahead of SA). So it was 1.30pm in South Africa and I had been essentially “travelling” for 47 hours (starting from the time we left home to head to the airport).

Suffice it to say that I was very glad to finally be there and that I will probably never fly South African Airways again if I can do anything whatsoever to avoid it!

 

Getting to Hanoi. It was no mean feat.

On Saturday the 6th of January I spent my final hours in Joburg trying to finish packing up my flat before my tenant moved in on Sunday. Needless to say that in spite of weeks of packing, clearing and just throwing things away, there were still a whole bunch of things I hadn’t managed to get to, not least of which included the broken toilet seat, the blown TV which was still mounted on the wall and the broken fridge door handle. All things which I could and had been living with for months (lazy) but could not subject a new tenant to.

I was also still trying to pack my suitcase for my four and a half month foray to Vietnam to teach English. At one point I found myself just sitting on the floor in front of my suitcase with very little idea of where to start or what to do next.

Well, needless to say I didn’t finish everything that needed to be done in the house before I left (thanks mum for picking up the slack) and instead ended up throwing everything that would fit into my suitcase, closing it and hoping for the best.

Bear in mind that it was also 33 degrees celsius in Joburg on Saturday. Fun times.

So off I went to my folks’ place to have a last lunch and a shower so that I could shed my sticky clothes from the morning and don some fresh clothes to take me through to Hanoi.

Little did I know…

We jumped in the car to head for the airport, via my flat one last time because I’d forgotten to pack a swimming costume (and I’m not a UK size 10 which is about the biggest size of anything you can buy in Vietnam) and I was definitely planning on heading to the beach once the weather warmed up. As we were about half way to the airport I suddenly remembered that someone had posted on Facebook just that morning that their SAA flight had been delayed and they’d missed their connection and were basically wishing me luck with my impending SAA flight. I popped onto Google to check My Flights and, behold, my SAA flight from Joburg to Hong Kong was three hours delayed. Joy. Mom wanted to turn around and go home. At that point I just wanted to get to the airport, check in and get on with it, which we did.

When I went to check in I asked the guy at the check in counter what the delay was all about. Answer “Temperature”. So I asked him if it was too hot and he said yes, and I then asked him what the temperature was in Hong  Kong which he didn’t seem to have an answer for. I, along with everyone else I’ve spoken to since assumed he meant that it was too hot for the plane to land in Hong Kong. Sounds ridiculous right? Right. Anyway, I explained that because of the delay I was already going to miss my connecting flight as I’d specifically chosen this flight path because it had a short layover, and I was redirected to the SAA counter in the airport.

The ladies there were absolutely lovely, helpful and reassuring, and as it turns, totally full of shit. I was assured that while they couldn’t re-book my connection then, due to the fact that the temperature was a factor and the three hour delay could potentially turn into a longer one, they would start re-booking connections the moment the plane actually left the ground in Joburg so that when we arrived the SAA staff there would be able to greet us an re-direct us to our relevant connections. I questioned this as it seemed a little unusual to me but they told me that this had been happening all week and that they had been re-booking connections for everyone on each delayed flight as soon as the plane took off. And that there would be no need to collect my luggage in Hong Kong because as soon as they had re-booked the connection, someone would re-tag my suitcase and re-route it to Vietnam on the correct flight. Hah!

Off I went to go and have a drink with my folks (at a restaurant which wasn’t air conditioned), went through security etc and headed to the SLOW lounge (which was not air conditioned), because THREE hours still. I charged my watch, had a couple of glasses of wine, ate some food and checked Facebook, as you do, and then I headed off to my boarding gate (not. Air-conditioned.). Once happily seated on the plane (not air conditioned) we sat and waited, as you do for everyone to board. Somehow, apparently, there were several passengers who were late so we had to continue to wait for them. Half an hour passed and then it seemed as if everyone was on board. Next thing we’re told is that someone APPARENTLY managed to check their luggage in with an expired passport and then wasn’t allowed through security so they then had to go into the hold and find his luggage so they could dump it.  Another 45 minutes has passed and we’re now almost 4 hours delayed. “Just as well they didn’t re-book my connection before the plane took off otherwise I might have missed that one too” I think to myself, all grateful and stuff.

To be continued…

Slowly, slowly

So it’s 9am on Tuesday, the second day of the new year and I’m lying on my bed looking at the chaos that (still) dominates my flat. I’ve made huge progress but still things lie all over the floor, waiting to trip an unsuspecting person without a moment’s hesitation. Yes I’m speaking from experience and have the bruise to prove it.

There’s not much appealing or edible food in the fridge or cupboards which means that there have been a lot of takeaways lately. And seeing as I sold my car back to the dealer on Friday those takeaways have been via delivery. What we do without Uber Eats and Mr. D! (Probably lose some weight but that’s beside the point.) I just had left over pasta for breakfast. It wasn’t that great the second time around. I found a couple of cappuccino sachets in my lunchbox, from taking them to work last year in an attempt to spend a little less money at Vida (I know someone who’s wallet might benefit from this tip…André) so at least I have an almost decent cup of coffee.

I spent most of yesterday horizontal after an awesome evening with friends, which went on till the early hours for some of us and then the next day started much earlier than I may have liked with a skylight and people up and about in the lounge (not to be ungrateful for somewhere to stay or anything). I got hooked on Frontier on Netflix and couldn’t stop the “Play Next Episode” button from sucking me in. I did, however get a decent amount of sleep last night and in spite of the chaos I’m confident that, if I can just be ruthless and get rid of some more clothes (they’re not all going to fit in my suitcase), I will get there in the next day or two.

It’s not like I have any choice. Someone’s moving in here on Saturday and it kinda needs a good clean before that happens as well. So, maybe just one more episode to kick starts the morning and the it’s on to the task of the day. Or the next few days really. Finish clearing/chucking/packing and making this place spotless before I jump on my one way flight to 2018’s first adventure!

Packing up your life

With less than two weeks to go before I jump on my one way flight to Hanoi to go and teach English in Hai Phong, I still have a lot to do here at home. I’ve been in my (very) little flat for over 5 years now and have managed to accumulate an unbelievable amount of stuff. I would never have said I was a hoarder but after the last few weeks of clearing, chucking and consolidating stuff, I’m on the verge of being appalled.

I’ve got life insurance policy documents for a policy that I cancelled over three years ago. Clothes that haven’t fit me since my glory days of university, over ten years ago, which means I have not only been hoarding them in this flat, but have managed to hang onto them through a trip to the UK, living in Durban, in two different houses and moving back to Joburg back into my parents’ place, and now here. That’s some next level attachment.

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One of the problems is that the flat is so small that if you’re not getting stuff out the door it’s only making more of a mess. I need to get to that critical mass point where enough stuff has gone in the bin, been donated or been transported that I can actually see the woods for the trees. Or in this case, the floor for the clothes.

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Unfortunately it seems to be going from bad to worse

I’m hoping that once the chaos subsides a bit (I also have three loads of washing cycling through various stages of getting clean and dry floating around the place) that it’ll feel more cathartic than disaster.

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At least we’re getting beautiful sunsets in Joburg

Finding out about Hai Phong

This morning I received an email from the company in Vietnam who handles all the internship placements at the schools over there and I’ve found out that I’m going to Dangtuan Language Center (DTLC) in Hai Phong.

I was honestly relatively confident that I’d land up in Hanoi as that is where the vast majority of teachers are placed so I haven’t read up that much on Hai Phong. So far the only familiar place in the vicinity is Cat Ba Island which a friend of mine went on a SE Asia trip a couple of years ago and really enjoyed so that’s exciting. It’s also not too far away from Ha Long Bay which I’ve only seen in the hazy mist fog, so would love to see it in the sunshine.

So far I’ve learned that it’s 120km from Hanoi so not too far, although I’d imagine with public transport you probably wouldn’t get there in an hour. That it’s the second largest city in the North of Vietnam . And that it’s a coastal city located at the mouth of the Cấm River. Thanks Wikipedia!

It looks like the weather is pretty reasonable, only dropping to a low of 13 degrees celsius at its coldest and getting over 30 in the summer.