Incorrectly Timezoned

Beach islands are kinda boring – Fire the clock-keepers – Hanoi vehicle suicide.


I met three travellers on Quan Lam island, one called Gayelle and the other two gay. The boys told a funny story about being accosted by desperate sex-trade junkies in the Hanoi night, getting their balls grabbed. “Barking up the wrong tree, love!”

I spent the next morning in the windbreak of a semi-constructed beach house practicing violin, mostly blues licks in A pentatonic minor, down in first position and up on 3rd.

Now that I’m maturing like a fine whiskey, I find more comfort in DIY travel. But I guess I still default to wanting a certain Goldilocks zone of comfort. A beach with no karaoke bars would be ideal, but only if the beer’s iced. I’d like no hassles from touts, but if there’s nobody around to share it with, it falls a little flat. These preconceptions of the perfect travel experience are, I guess, what keep my mind off the inevitable loneliness of solo travel without an iPhone.

I did feel marginally hated in the main street of Quan Lam town. While some smile, others just have a chagrin clearly born of disenfranchisement. Families and groups of motorcycle youths sit on the worn steps of their various establishments, offering glances. But I met the sweetest group of girls under a beach shelter while waiting for the cloudbreak. We took photos and went for lunch. I sang some Bruno Mars for them. I’ve learned a way with teenage girls through spending two years teaching them in Seoul, a sense of innocence and humor. Oh Lord. I’ve become a teenage girl.

Vietnam is incorrectly timezoned. At 5.30am, the sun is already high in the sky. It’s bizarre. So it was no problem catching the 7am boat back to Cai Rong after a final evening in an oppressively hot room with dormant fans. From there I cycled 50kms to Bai Chai, where I boarded the bus for Hanoi. The driver helped me detach the front wheel in order to fit it in the cargo. I sat in front of a couple from Seapoint, but we didn’t talk much. I plucked the violin and watched a Jackie Chan movie.

Hanoi vehicle suicide

Driving cars on highways: the burden of responsibility falls on everyone else. As a Vietnamese driver, you honk once and assume that everyone else has already noticed on your behalf. Kindly pull out into the chaotically busy road from a hidden side-street and enter the pandemonium as if everyone within 2kms has heard you and expects your sudden arrival. For a cyclist caught in the aorta, the result is a pure, unfiltered cacophony reaching symphonic levels of anxiety and irritation.

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