I land in Hanoi the second week of February.
Not winter, not summer, and not comparable to any other middle
season in the rest of the world. Arriving from the coldest months
of Europe, I expect some kind of warmish welcoming, but end up
surprised at how much of an optimist I can sometimes be.
In the taxi from the airport to the hostel, I
realise I dont have enough cash with me, and that I also forgot to
check if my credit cards would work in Vietnamese ATMs. While the
taxi driver yells all his frustration at me in his incomprehensible
language, I feel guilty and stupid, but still somehow and
respectfully find the situation funny.
He drops me at different ATMs, but none of them take
Im sorry, Im sorry, Im so sorry, I repeat.
He drives me to a little shop with walls green as
beans straight out of a can, where a guy hands me an Eftpos
machine. The unexpected swipe of victory eventually melts the
tension between me and the driver, and leads to a sincere hug.
At the hostel, after calling my bank and fixing my
card problem, I impatiently open my first Vietnamese beer and smoke
a cigarette at the front. The cold breeze is persistent; soft acid
rain textures the windows, romantic, sure, as the perpetually grey
That night, sitting in a comfortable chair at a caf,
I start coughing copiously. The waiters face is as surprised as
mine when we both hear my, No, thanks, answering his kind proposal
of another drink. That should have been an alarm bell. I go back to
my bunk bed, pull the curtain after me and lay down. I feel tired
and feeble, but do not know that it will be my crypt for the next
I wake in the middle of the night shivering with a
high fever. I reach for my backpack in the pitch dark of the room;
my towel becomes an extra blanket. I miss the free breakfast
included in the hostel price. Another bad sign, but I cant move. I
cant read or watch a movie either, cause my eyes are burning. I
just manage to take some flu meds and sleep again.
Its dark outside when I next wake up. Bravely, I go
out. I am starving and, in my multiple experiences in Vietnam, Ive
learned that theres nothing a warm, spicy bowl of pho cant cure.
Sitting on this little red plastic chair, I order a rare beef one.
Ive always eaten on the streets in South East Asia and have never
been sick once, despite what blogs and my mum have told me. The
looks I receive from the other customers are horrifying; I m...