My Never Ending Journey Across The World - Episode 8: My Last Days In Vietnam

in #travel3 years ago (edited)

All right I'm back. After a long break (has it been almost 2 weeks already?) of not writing or posting, I have returned to bring you the next chapter in the saga of my travels across the world... whether you like it or not!
We last left our hero in Sa Pa, where he stayed with a family of the Black Hmong tribe. He got to stay in their home, had dinner with the family, drank and smoked with the parents, and went on a guided tour of the rice fields in the secluded mountains.


Huế

We pick things up in Huế. It's located on the coast in central Vietnam, a scenic and pleasurable 18 hour bus ride from Sa Pa... Who am I kidding? It was uncomfortable and took forever. But we arrived in one piece and ready to sleep, because no matter how long you're able to close your eyes for in those sleeper buses you never remain in a deep-sleep-state for very long; the constant honking of the horn and weaving in and out of traffic it's sure to keep you on edge the duration of the journey.

After a day of rest we decided to check out some of the attractions the city has to offer and walk to the Imperial City and investigate the old Emperor's digs dating back to the early 1800's. Entrance into the Imperial City is approximately 50,000 dong(<$3 CAD).

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We opted to have a semi-guided tour and paid someone to drive us around in a golf cart for 150,000 dong($9 CAD). Definitely worth it to maximize the amount of things you see inside the quarters when the clouds are dumping down on you.

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Over the moat and beyond the city walls you'll find numerous structures, from pavilions, gardens and courtyards to temples and old living quarters of past servants and workers.

Along with our feet our spirits began to become dampened by the constant downpour of rain from the sky above. From here we retreated back to our hostel and made plans for the coming night and following days: we had decided to rent some motorbikes and travel down to Hội An.

Hoi An

The ride was 3 hours, with stops along the way, and included some amazing views from the Hai Van Pass. Definitely something I would suggest anyone doing. Renting the bike is cheap and it sure as hell beats riding in yet another bus, just make sure if you let the company send your luggage down for you you lock it and don't leave any valuables inside.

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We got to our hostel, checked in, and called the company to have our bags delivered before settling in to our room. Not too long after, two men, looking all too shady, show up and unloaded a couple of our bags and said the rest are on the way. I grabbed my backpack, tore off the 'protective' bag that was encapsulating it and noticed a couple of my zippers were undone and there seemed to be a slight void in my backpack. My heart skipped a beat and the first thing that went through my mind was 'They stole my laptop!' I frantically opened my backpack and to my amazement my laptop was still sitting there, secured behind all my clothes. 'What the hell did they steal from me then?' I pulled out the entire contents of my bag and itemized everything and the only things I noticed missing were as follow: 1 Lonely Planet book, 1,000,000 dong ($56 CAD) 'hidden' in said book, 1 Vietnamese beer brand shirt, and 2 pairs of underwear. My underwear!

Now, the money I understand, as well as the book, because the money was hidden in it, but why in the hell would you steal a shirt and some underwear? I should probably thank them for taking the underwear. They were destined for the trash can long ago! And how the hell do you not steal a laptop? They were some seriously special thieves, I think.

One of the guys I was traveling with was a very outspoken Italian and called up the company for me. But there was nothing they could do. They wouldn't admit to anything and said something along the lines of, "You should have told us there were valuables inside, then we would have been more careful with your things." Yeah Right. Tell you about the expensive things in our bags. Sure, bud.

The battle went on for 10 minutes and there was no sign of ever winning that argument so I told him to let it go and I cut my losses. Not to mention feeling extremely lucky they left my laptop in exchange for my ratty boxer briefs. Chalk up a win, albeit a very small one, for me.

Hoi An is a nice town to visit and there was a lantern festival happening when we arrived with beautiful displays of lights and lanterns strewn about the old town center. It seems as though a lot of people visit Hoi An, maybe it's for the lanterns or maybe it's for the cheap tailored clothing, but oh my god there are a lot of tourists that flock here.

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The Goat King

Last month I did a blog post about a day in Hoi An with delicious food and fun activities, if you're interested you can view it here.

A few days, a handful of temples, and a newly tailored shirt later the gang are all heading in different directions. Three are heading down to Ho Chi Minh while three others are heading to Nha Trang, despite me warning them otherwise. At this point I decided I would make an attempt to go back up to Hanoi, considering I didn't ever get a chance to visit the city, having passed through on my way to Huế. I said goodbye to my friends and hopped on a bus back to Huế for a day's rest before booking a train up to Hanoi.

Huế Pt. 2

I arrived in Huế the next day just in time for lunch and promptly left my hostel in search of an extremely cheap vegetarian restaurant not far away I found on the Happy Cow app. When I arrived there were 20 bikes outside and as I walked through the door I stood in shock to see a full restaurant. As I was turning around to leave I heard a faint voice coming from the left.

"My friend. My friend. You can sit here. There is an empty seat for you."

I look over and sure enough there is one empty seat next to a local Vietnamese man. He graciously pulled out the stool and motioned for me to sit. We sat and ate for an hour and afterwards we went for a coffee and chatted for another hour or two. His name is Giau, was born and raised in Huế and had been working at a 5-star hotel in the city for over a year. We arranged to meet the next day for breakfast after he finished his night shift at the hotel. And just like that, I delayed my trip to Hanoi one more day.

The next day over breakfast we were talking and he asked me if I ever thought about teaching English in Vietnam. I hadn't really thought about it before, especially considering I was planning on leaving Vietnam in less than a week for Australia for the year Working Holiday Visa. He mentioned how one of his friends owned an English school and he could organize a meeting with her if I decided to come back to Vietnam one day. I agreed to meet for coffee with his friend, considering that could be a very rewarding opportunity one day.

In the morning he came to pick me up and we went for breakfast and coffee once again. Upon arriving Giau proceeds to tell me how his friend, Tuyet, is coming by and should be tere in 15 minutes. I'm taken aback by this because I had thought we would wait a couple days, but don't really question it. Besides, it'll be good to get the talk out of the way sooner rather than later.

We finish breakfast and are enjoying our coffee when she arrives. She comes over, says hello and sits down. We exchange pleasantries and this is where things start to get a little more, well, heated.

"So, when would you want to start teaching English?" She asks.

I'm sitting here in my 'Phở Metal Jacket' singlet, board shorts, and sandals thinking how in the hell could she think I wanted a job now?! Surely there must be a mistake, something that got lost in translation. Right?

"I'm sorry, what? I thought Giau told you I won't be here for much longer. I'm leaving for Australia in 4 days." I said.

"Oh. He told me that you were looking to teach immediately." She said.

"Giau, you knew I was leaving for Australia soon, how could you tell her this?" I said in a mild disappointed tone.

"I thought that maybe if you got a job you would stay here." He said sheepishly.

I was so embarrassed, partly because I definitely wasn't dressed for an interview and because Giau had forced me into this awkward situation where his friend was anticipating a new teacher at her school. I apologized profusely and explained to her that I had said if I were to come back I would be interested in a teaching job.

Tuyet was really understanding of the situation and even offered an opportunity for me to come by the school a couple nights in the week to be a 'Guest Speaker' for a number of classes. She told me to prepare a few notes about Canada as the students haven't ever spoken with a Canadian before.

Not having anything else to do that week I agreed, so long as Giau will accompany me to the classes. He agreed and it was set, we would go by later in the evening to speak with a group of students.

Later that evening Giau picked me up and we drove over to the school. Now, if you knew me, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I never had the knack for talking in front of people and failed miserably whenever I would do class presentations in school, fumbling over my words, mumbling my script into the floor, and sweating bullets counting the seconds until I could go sit back down again.

The first class went about as good as you would have expected it to. I was constantly asked to speak up and upon finishing Tuyet asked me if I had ever taught a class before because I looked so nervous.

The second class went a lot better and I was able to talk with the students confidently and calmly with a semi-loud voice. Go me! Afterwards the students even asked me to accompany them out for a tea. You could say it was a great success! Well, for me it was.

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During my last few days in Huế I spent the evenings talking at the school and the days going around the town as I had been invited by some of the students to go see some less seen attractions tourists don't go to.

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It was a truly amazing experience I got to be a part of and it all transpired from going to that packed restaurant and deciding to sit beside this awkward looking man to have lunch instead of finding somewhere else. Not only that, but Giau turned out to be a really good friend that I've kept in touch with from that day. I even attended his wedding this past March.

And just like that, my time in Vietnam had come to an end and I didn't ever get to Hanoi! My flight out of Huế was scheduled with a short layover in Ho Chi Minh before I embarked on another flight to Perth, Australia. A high school friend of mine was backpacking around Australia on a 3-month visa and was going to pick me up from the airport the next morning when I arrived.

I had a lot of fun in Vietnam and was really sad to see it all coming to an end. That month passed by so fast it all seemed like a blur, a distant memory burned into my mind of all the great times and experiences I got to share with so many people I never would have had the chance to meet if I were to stay in Canada and work my dead end job.

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And just like that I was waving goodbye to another chapter in my journey across the world through the tiny window overlooking the ever-shrinking cityscape before me.

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Awesome photos.Thanks for sharing it

Bahaha I can't believe the thief/thieves stole your underwear and left the laptop behind! I mean, that's great for you, but it's pretty funny how they totally disregarded the most expensive item in your bag.

Also, that incident with your friend and the teacher...so awkward :/ It was nice of him to hook you up with a job opportunity to get you to stay, but he totally went about it the wrong way. Oh well, I'm glad you still had a lovely time in Nam... especially in Hanoi..! lol

I couldn't believe it, either! I was left shocked, standing there wondering how their massive oversight happened. Thank goodness they were only on the hunt for money and underwear.

My god, he has no filters, I swear! He is an assuming man, always showing up unannounced and forcing me into awkward situations. He's the one who sung Can You Feel The Love Tonight? to me at his wedding party, if you read my post about the Vietnamese Wedding I attended last month.

Don't even get me started on Hanoi. One day I'll visit... maybe.

Your stories of traveling Vietnam are great. Do you think you will go back and teach english at that school? Your photos are great. I am a big fan of old temples surrounded by jungle. I also really like that concrete dragon dome overlooking the water. Do you know the story behind that structure?

Thank you so much. Your words mean a lot to me! :)

I don't think I will go back to that school, but the idea of teaching in Vietnam is still something I might consider.

There are so many temples here in SE Asia. Have you been before?

The dragon was part of this old theme park that used to operate just outside of Hue. It was a waterpark that had a number of fish and water animals. I only posted one picture from there, but maybe I'll do another post just on the park one day. Anyway, the waterpark only lasted a couple years before it was shutdown and now it acts as a sightseeing destination for people with a little inside knowledge of the area. I was brought there by the students of the class and given a brief history.

Inside the dragon it was really cool and the amount of detail they used was astonishing; initially you would walk in and it would look as if you were inside the dragon. You could see the spine running throughout the entirety of the beast flowing down the stairs and into a nook going towards the toilet. Around the back there was an area with, now smashed, fish tanks which used to have various different fish for people to look at.

Once upstairs you could walk to the opening of the mouth that overlooked the river that ran through the park and towards the main attraction that was where they had bigger animals doing tricks and shows in the now rundown theater.

Unfortunately I went last month to check it out again, but it was closed for construction! I wonder what in the hell they are doing to it now. Hopefully they aren't going to reopen it.

That sounds super cool! I look forward to your post about this waterpark. Wouldn't it be super rad to be on the design team for a project like this? Yes I traveled through parts of Thailand & Indonesia in 2008; and South Korea back in 2006. Totally temple heaven. I would love to spend at least a year living in SE Asian temples.

I congratulate you for having those experiences of sharing with people from other countries and cultures. Best regards

wow, really nice post.

I follow u & upvote this post. (thank you for visiting mine)

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Vietnam nice country, i want to go there

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Your photographs is very pretty!

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I dream to visit Vietnam one day. Seeing the pictures is a great country.