Gather round, gather round. Welcome to another pointless blog post. Read on for tales of confusion, excitement and the odd genuine death threat.
We leave Vietnam having enjoyed most of it and thoroughly hated the rest. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a pessimist or a cynic or anything like that, so we’ll start with the good.
Describing how good authentic Vietnamese food is is like attempting to describe, um, something really hard to describe. But here goes anyway. Imagine the word freshness, then forget everything you know about it because Vietnam laughs in the face of what you think freshness is. Pick a herb, any herb. Coriander? Good call. Now, give your chosen herb a new name that you can’t pronounce, multiply the flavour factor by twelve, then coat the whole thing in purified God saliva and have a harem of young schoolchildren worship it while you ritualistically pluck it from the earth. Chop it up nice and fine to release those heavenly flavours, and repeat with other herbs, before thoroughly
and aggressively mixing it up with some unidentifiable meats, soups and vegetables – voila! For this and other great recipes, my recipe book (Bon Appetit Bitches) goes on sale next week.
Hoi An was a lot of fun, but the kind of fun that makes you think it would’ve been more fun 10 years ago. Once a sleepy riverside town, you can now get unlimited cocktails, shots and shisha between the hours of 4-10pm for the alarming price of $4. Total. Not each. Beautiful architecture though – plenty of opportunities to use the selfie sticks you will struggle to avoid buying off a persistent local.
Top tip: Avoiding eye contact is the key to saving money.
We rode motorbikes from Hoi An to Hue, with the nominal goal of driving through the famed Hai Van Pass. As usual, fate had other plans. Some charmingly innovative farmers had decided that a specific patch of trees had grown just a little too full of themselves lately, and elected to take them down a branch or two.
With fire. Unlike the farmers I’m used to, these farmers were decidedly NOT fire gods, and subsequently lost control of the blaze. By the time we arrived, the whole hillside was hidden behind a cloud of thick smoke and army personnel were half-heartedly blocking the road. As we turned dejectedly back to the distinctly less interesting highway tunnel, the soldiers waved through a couple of stock trucks full of pigs – because everybody’s after pre-smoked pork these days.
Arriving in Sapa after an overnight bus from Hanoi, we were greeted by a couple dozen smiling assassins AKA locals offering home-stays. With five people in our party, there were a few conflicting ideas, but somehow (don’t look at me) one assassin by the suspicious name of Zizi became convinced we were going to stay with her. Having got thoroughly confused, bored and annoyed at the whole process, we elected to go with another option (whose name, in a totally unrelated coincidence, was also Zizi). At hearing this news, Zizi (the first one) calmly announced her displeasure with the situation, claiming “YOU EVER COME MY VILLAGE I KILL YOU!” Such a nice lady.
Careful to avoid the aforementioned death-village, we explored Sapa by motorbike and got some great panoramic photos – it’s that kind of place.
Hanoi was infuriating. Or, more specifically, the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi was infuriating. I don’t want to talk about it, so I won’t, but we did not get Chinese visas. Instead, we’re flying to Mongolia tomorrow to fight camels, drink fermented horse milk and ride eagles.