28 hours on the sleeper bus with lack of food (what’s new, really?) and proper clothing, I felt as though my skin has grown on the sleeper bed, and we’ve become one being. But all these sufferings were compensated with the most epic border crossing experience between Laos and Vietnam. The immigration office for border crossing is between two mountains and since it was winter, the temperature showed no mercy and dipped below 10degcels.
If there’s one thing I could buy then, it will be patience. Waiting at the immigration office with our new English and French friends was not one of the best decisions at that point because whatever camaraderie forged with the Asian locals was replaced with the obnoxious invisible label across our foreheads “FUCKED UP FOREIGNERS”. But honestly, those hostilities only lasted as long as we were in the custom, and I could not care less; ultimately, the French couple’s (they were about 80 years old and I totally love their retirement spirits and bravery for backpacking) parental instinct lasted more than the 28 hours bus ride and made sure we shared a taxi with them after we got off.
It was 8pm and our supposedly couch host had decided to bail on us and I was on the verge of tears but I guess being dehydrated better controlled my tear glands. But as if I was Mother Teresa equivalent my previous life, I got a reply from another host almost immediately. Her house was located in the most strategic spot and can you imagine our excitement when we realized that on the ground level of her shophouse was a restaurant??? We forgot our mannerisms and were literally savages with our hot bowls of noodle soup, while our new just-got-robbed German friend, another couchsurfer, started infiltrating us with his weird philosophies and jaded life back home. Not like I minded another companion since apart from Ping, we haven’t really had proper conversations with anyone else.
I have had a long history with harsh winter; this winter was no different. This was actually one of the coldest winters recorded in Vietnam -- while we were in Hanoi, Sapa was already snowing and I remember it being a big hoohaa on international news. (The same period with the snowstorm in Northern Hemisphere.) If you were to ask me how I survived that backpacking during that winter (because I underestimated SEA’s winter and packed only my skanky summer clothes), I have no recollection. Call it the survival instincts, because no, Vietnamese are not a fan of fixing their water heaters and having heated beds.
I am guilty for over generalising Hanoi based on my experience in Ho Chi Minh previously and I was left dumbfounded when I realized how much more orderly the chaos in Hanoi is as compared to Ho Chi Minh's. No, the myth of closing your eyes to get to the other side of the road only works in Ho Chi Minh, because I nearly lost my unworthy life in Hanoi. My death would just be another fuck people do not give, how tragic. But we were addicted to waves of passing motorbikes while skillfully maneuvering our way around the chaos on the sidewalks – smokers, shopkeepers, kids running around, TukTuks, or just garbage. It was just the same pattern repeating over and over again for the entire day as we crawled from one place to another.
|Ham Tu Quan|
|Refreshed after days of not showering|
|Hoa Kiem Lake|
|okay, more pictures of ourselves while we still look good|
|Our staple, Soi|