Once again no transport problems. Oh, the plane had a radio problem, cost me an hour. No biggie. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is a beaut. I liked the fact that it is finished. I’m not kidding. Think about the last half dozen airports you were in. There is always work in progress on the airside. ‘coming soon’, ‘for your future convenience’. Not at BKK. It’s all done. And there’s enough seats.
Straight through immigration at Noi Bai airport Hanoi. No visa required as I was in Vietnam for less than 15 days. Just produced my onward flight reservation. Changed some money and became an instant millionaire. £200 became 5.4 million VN Dong! Rolling in it. At the cash desk I met a nice couple from Manchester and we decided to share a cab. A tenner each.
Checked in, showered, out, food. I went in search of a bar and got hopelessly lost. Proper, mega, lost. I had a map. It was useless. I was beginning to think that it was a map for a different city. The street names on the same bit of street just change. At random. Probably every Wednesday for all I know.
It started raining. Great.
If there’s one thing worse than a useless map it’s a wet useless map. And Jesus, the traffic, Crazy. I had to attach myself to a fearless Vietnamese person, the older, the better to cross any street. Terrifying. But,at last, a use for my eye patch. I put it on. Now I had only to heed the traffic to my left. I could see nothing to the right. I had a 50% chance of survival. I’ll take that.The most important part of a Vietnamese vehicle is the horn. They love their horns, and they use them a lot. If that baby malfunctions, they get it fixed immediately. You can’t leave your house with a faulty horn. The cacophony of all those horns is now getting on my last nerve. My normal insouciance was being pushed aside by growing irritability. I’m also tired and wet. My feet ache and my glasses (over my left eye) are steamed up.
I jumped as a taxi blared his horn right next to me. I swore at him loudly. I flipped him the bird. Being a first timer in Hanoi, I was unaware of the similarity in appearance, of taxis to police cars. The police car stopped. The passenger side window went down. The officer, a boy of about 12, barked something at me. I held my palms toward him in the international sign of apology. He barked again. Did he want a bribe? How much? Wait. What if money is an insult? I felt in my bag. I pulled out a small bag of mints and a pencil sharpener. I offered them up. They were ignored. The driver leaned across. An even younger, smaller boy. Can’t have been much over 10 years old. He pointed to the side of the road. I moved across. The two officers were laughing now. A good sign. I complimented them on the largeness of their hats. They seemed pleased with that at least, and they drove off, still laughing.
Man those hats were huge. I’ve seen smaller coffee tables.
I dived into a shop and bought a bottle of whisky. I produced the disintegrating map and stabbed a finger at my hotel. The shop owner laughed. What’s with everyone laughing all of a sudden. A tiny girl appeared out of thin air. A brief conversation took place between them. The tiny girl grabbed my hand and led me outside. Two corners later she deposited me at the hotel entrance. She was not expecting money or anything. I was so grateful I gave her 20 grand.
I spent an hour drinking whisky and practicing a new body swerve in front of the full length mirror. I soon had it perfected. I could have passed for an Argentinian, tango dancing, gigolo. Yeah. Traffic schmaffic. Bring it on Hanoi.
To be continued…