Day 57: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi
My eyes fling open at ten, and by 10:02 Flo and I are discussing the existential difference between cats and dogs. A cat will look at you and say, “if you want to love me, you have to do this, this, and this. And if you screw it up, I’ll hate you.” A dog is all, “OHMYGOD I LOVE YOU! Did you just throw my favourite tennis ball over the fence and glue my mouth shut with peanut butter? That’s ok! I still love you!”
The bus to Hanoi leaves at 12:30, so we have time to hunt for breakfast. Across the street is a “real” restaurant–so real that coffee is four times the usual price and an excellent candidate for the reason the dozens of white linen-lined tables sit empty. We skip the pricey java and eat egg salad until realizing our bus leaves in five minutes. As we exit, a staff member from our hostel waves his arm and we follow him down the street to a bus stop where a bunch of other travellers stand around smoking.
Flo and I stand with the puffing vagabonds, cracking jokes that the guide misinterprets (sarcasm is the barrier of languages) until the bus arrives. We clamber in. It stops for a bathroom break at the tourist trap of a building full of expensive chocolate bars and gaudy jewellery. We jet through to the parking lot to play “I Spy” while waiting for our driver to finish power washing the vehicle.
The bus dumps us onto the sidewalk of Hanoi hours later, and both of us exhale. My broad shoulders are not made for Asian busses. Or rather, Asian busses aren’t created for six foot tall foreigners who look like they thought shoulder pads came back into style. We head for the travel agent to check on Flo’s passport. The agent is high strung, barricading one of his Satanic children from attacking the other. He tells Flo it will be another few days for his visa to–
We’re out of that office before the agent can finish his sentence.
“Is he actually serious?” I’m afraid Flo might burst a blood vessel.
The passport was supposed to be back after one week, and it’s been eleven days. By the time Flo receives it, the visa will have expired again. Not ideal. We promised to leave Vietnam unanimously, but mine expires two days from now.
“We have to book you a flight. You don’t want to deal with the whole visa thing again.”
I know he’s right, but we were supposed to finish this journey together. And he’ll be stuck in Hanoi-ying. Indonesia will have to wait for Flo.
We find a BBQ place with cheap beer and sit on the lantern-lit second-floor balcony to cook up some fatty meat that reminds us of the last thing that made us vomit.
Then we hang out on our favourite balcony smoking shisha and raiding the internet for a plane to India. The cheapest flight departs tomorrow–Hanoi to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Delhi. I type in my passport details. India doesn’t have to wait for me, ’cause I am booked, baby!
It is bittersweet though, the thought of going. A dewy adventure excites me more than an alcoholic at an open bar wedding, but I’ve spent twenty-four hours a day for the past five weeks with this hilarious German and he’s grown on me like a favourite freckle. Tomorrow I leave behind a slew of stupid inside jokes, legions of Backstreet Boys singing sessions, a fearless explorer in my periphery. Our motorcycles are sold (with scratches and a broken engine), the Ho Chi Minh Trail has been ridden (and crashed, and cursed), gallons of noodle soup has been slurped (over innumerable hours of intriguing conversations). What a special time in our lives.
Alas, my flight is booked, and change must be embraced.
In our hotel room I find a bunch of abandoned DVD’s and DVD player, and pop in Full Metal Jacket. We fall asleep as it plays in the background, Kubrick’s demented army chanting a lullaby to our subconscious–
“Ho Chi Minh is a son-of-a-bitch
got the blue balls crabs and the seven-year itch.”