The Russian-influenced part of Vietnam

11707640_10153515897880960_2408613615557729161_nAugust 5, 2015

We just left Hoi An. We’ve had our sunniest time there so far. L. refers to the night bus as the worst part of Hoi An or the whole trip. That’s because those buses aren’t built for tall people.

I’m listening to Tom Waits, who, to me, is the godfather of songwriting and storytelling. He always helps me see things that are already there, but I’m not aware of. I just realised that hoi is just the same as the Chinese word for “ocean.” I fear dreams about the ocean. The waves often morph into a giant hand that hungrily builds a fist that swallows you.

I haven’t told L. that I like bus rides, even though we put our lives in the hands of a driver that we don’t know.

I have the time and space for Tom Waits, time and space for the mind to think of a piece of flash fiction. I search for my muse at the back of my head and ask him to let me in. He’s been waiting for me to turn on the music.

I know I’m not mad. A dozen of sane people out there are happiest in a piece of fiction. It’s like meditation before starting the day.

L. is making stupid “What the fuck?”-gestures at the tablet while playing chess and then complains about how uncomfortable the bus is. It’s good to see him complain for a change. I like seeing him complain about stuff because he doesn’t do it often. It makes me feel better for complaining about the climate, culture and cuisine in this country.

What can I say? I’ve never been to the tropics, and I’ve never been a friend of the heat. And I never travelled as a couple.

I love the air conditioner, but it will bother me in my sleep as it’s blowing right at my tummy.


August 6 – August 7, 2015

We arrived early in Nha Trang. We didn’t have another wee break after the dinner stop at 10 p.m. the night before. It was the first Camel bus that didn’t have a washroom in the back. I slept terribly as the road was bumpy, and the air conditioner was blowing right at my lower body. I used my bag to protect my belly. If I had turned it off, everyone in the back would have felt hot.

I haven’t quite recovered from the cold yet. I’m still blowing my nose like crazy.

We arrived at the hotel too early, so L. suggested that we went snorkelling with the two English girls we met at the hotel. I really just wanted a nice breakfast somewhere and chill until the room was ready. Perhaps nap a little bit, freshen up. And yet, I said, “Ok.”

After all, I wanted him to enjoy himself.

L. didn’t sleep at all on the bus and thought it was a good idea to kill some time and have a nap in the afternoon. I said, OK, again.


Given the memories that I had at primary school, I remembered the first medal I achieved for swimming. It wasn’t just any medal, but the first medal! We called it “seahorse.” The water was about 1,30 metres deep, and you had to swim one length and dive to the bottom and pick up a rubber ring. I was wearing arm bubbles or armbands. I remembered clearly how my teacher praised me for swimming that one length. Those bubbles taught me how to do breaststroke. Over the years in school, I managed quite a few more medals. God knows how!

I’ve never learned to swim the crawl, and I think I’ve only used those duck feet fins once.

So there we were out in the sea on a very nice, sunny day. The boat took us near an island where some other snorkelers and divers were. The moment the boatsmen handed us the snorkels and goggles, I got nervous. I had no expectations before we got there. I was ready to try it out.

As soon as they helped me slip into the fins, I realised that I didn’t want to go into the water. All the others jumped in while I insisted on using the ladder. Then I figured that there was no way I would let go of the ladder.

L. kept encouraging me to put on the goggles and snorkel properly. He often talks about stereotypical non-swimmer Asians, and I didn’t want to be in that category. He didn’t know that I was merely a basic swimmer. I know how to stay afloat and keep my head above water and how to do breaststroke, so I’m not really a non-swimmer, am I?

My dad is the only one in the family that swims like a champ. I think my sister is at my level, if not worse. My mum? She can’t even ride a bicycle. (Yet, she can do reverse parking like a champ.)

I wasn’t sure if the water terrified me or the snorkel.

It turned out to be the snorkel. The mouthpiece was disgusting; I couldn’t breathe with my mouth through that tube that tasted like salt. (I doubt it ever gets washed either.)

I went back on board and told L. to go see fish and corals without me. I could’ve done the breaststroke there, but I didn’t want to dive my head under the water. Something in me didn’t want to do it.

Later he tried to get me back in, which I did. The attempt was in vain, and the tears began rolling down my face as they did back in school. I was ashamed of myself. The snorkel made me want to gag.

That salty taste remained for a while.


The next day was more relaxed. Nha Trang is more easy-going, and people are less persistent. The Russians have brought some European standards to Vietnam. The A-Marts here are heaven! Their imports were heaven: cereal, Dutch cheese and German ham–of course, they were overpriced. So I just bought CEREAL! And at last, I found some soymilk, too. Two mornings in a row, I had cereal for breakfast.

I do feel lethargic – with no gym and exercise. I was constantly swelling up from the heat.

My belly is doing my head in. We went for a foot massage yesterday, and one of the masseuses thought that I was pregnant. I had both hands placed on my stomach like a pregnant woman, so she assumed I was having a baby. Apparently, my wide silk top wasn’t wide enough to hide my heat-swollen stomach.

I’ve noticed that Vietnamese people speak better English as you travel south. Nha Trang is our second to last stop, and I’ve quite enjoyed it despite the lack of green tea in coffee shops. Saigon may be a tad busier than Hanoi. I think I’ll be fine. Vietnam may have even grown on me.

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