Tet and more
Chon Thanh Travel Blog› entry 17 of 18 › view all entries
Well it's all same same but different here, isn't it. Tet is almost upon us and life is beginning to grind to a halt. For those who don't know, Tet is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year; it's a really big deal to the people here. Such a big deal that no one actually seems to know exactly when is, although a quick search on Google tells me its on February 7 this year. But, I guess the exact date doesn't really matter too much, because they turn the whole thing in to a 2 week affair anyway. Businesses close and the people in the city disappear; off to visit their relatives in the country. My school has closed already, as has Keishia’s, Billy’s and Dave’s.
To take advantage of this great big holiday that has been forced upon us, Keishia and I decided to go on a short bike trip into the country to visit some Vietnamese friends. These are the people that we met on our last road trip (my last bog entry too I believe!). They live a quiet life out in the middle of nowhere, next to a beautiful lake. It was great to see them again but their way of life is very difficult for us to keep up with. It consists of drinking rice wine (and/or beer), drinking more rice wine, drinking a little more (until you are sick) and then continuing to drink until you sleep. It’s ok though because when you wake up the next morning, you can drink more rice wine again! The perfect way to start the day!! No but seriously, I don’t know if it’s just because they had visitors (ie. us), or if this is just what they do, but to me it seems like the later. Even their 4 year old kid drinks!
They had the cutest little black puppy dog which they offered us as a pet. But, because we didn’t take it (much to Keishia’s disliking) they are going to eat it; not yet though, they will wait until it’s a little fatter. Not enough meat on it yet! Yuck.
So, we spent 2 days drinking and practising our Vietnamese skills (which had definitely come on since our last visit) and then randomly had a visit from the local law enforcement. Stupidly, we had forgotten to bring our passports with us. I mean, we were only going 200km out of the city and it didn’t even cross our minds that we might need them. This seemed to be quite an issue for the policeman. In Vietnam, foreigners MUST stay in hotels at ALL TIMES. No camping, and certainly no staying with friends. For some reason they MUST know where all foreigners are at all times. I still don’t get it. But then I guess I haven’t grown up in a one party communist (sorry, socialist) regime. Anyway, he wasn’t happy and seemed to want us to drive 200km back to Saigon to get our passports and return to the lake to show them, otherwise they would arrest our good friend Mr Hiep. A few hours of banter later and it was agreed that we would visit the police station first thing in the morning to explain ourselves.
Five o’clock comes and we are once again woken by Kiet, the cute 5 year old kid, jumping on our bed and punching me in the stomach. Ahh, cute! Shortly after, we are made to pack up our shit and hit the road. Mr Hiep escorts us to the police station where we are made to wait for an hour or so before anyone will talk to us. I’m still not even sure exactly what the problem was. It was either the fact that we didn’t have our passports/visas, that we spent the night somewhere other than a hotel, or that Mr Hiep had failed to notify the authorities that he was having foreigners to stay at his house. Either way, I still don’t get why that should be a problem. But it was. After a lot of banter and looking up words in the dictionary, we managed to convince them that we lived in Saigon, taught English for a living and were simply on holiday visiting Mr Hiep to say ‘Happy New Year!’ They then proceeded to tell us that we shouldn’t travel around Vietnam without a guide because it could be dangerous. Hmmm... Thanks for the advice… I didn’t know that! Duh! And that was it… you're free to go!
What a waste of time.
Anyway, enough about that. Let me talk about some other things that have happened since I last wrote in my blog. Well, 3 people in our street died :( I didn’t actually know any of them but it seems everyone else did. When someone dies in Vietnam they like to make a right party of it. It’s just a shame that the party had to happen right outside our house. What you end up with is a whole load of very drunk people playing ridiculously loud music until the early hours of the morning; say, 3 o’clock at least, and then they start again at maybe, 5 o’clock. That leaves at most 2 hours of semi quietness to try and sleep. And these parties go on for days! Yay. Oh how I love not sleeping! We even tried ear plugs, but you just can’t dampen the sound of a full-on marching band with ear plugs. Honesty, it doesn’t work.
What else… Teaching is going fine, and we are feeling settled here ��" which Keishia thinks means we should have taken the black puppy and called it Crazy Freak (which is our nickname for Mr Hiep and co.) I however, have other ideas. As I keep telling her, a dog is for life, not just for Tet! Maybe in a few years.
We’re off to Nha Trang on the 8th for a few days of partying on the beach. Yay! I’ll write some more another day. Now I’m going to drink chocolate milk!!
Hope all is well in other parts of this crazy globe.