So Vietnam! And Malaysia. Rather than keep a travel journal like I originally intended, it’ll just be easier to write about what parts of the trip stand out for me.
Crossing the road. The fastest way to commit suicide, probably, is to try and walk across the road. My aunt, having been in Vietnam for a full one hour, nearly got ploughed down by a motorbike. They don’t even slow down, not even at zebra crossings.
Becoming a millionaire overnight. $1AU is around 11000 dong, the Vietnamese currency. Furthermore, everything is insanely cheap. Peddlars tried to sell my cousin a wooden model boat for 80000 dong. We haggled it down to 32000, and I just thought it was hilarious.
Peddlars, however, are especially pushy. We were on a boat ride where two of them rowed whilst Eugene and I sat and admired the scenery. Ten minutes before we reached land one of them turned on us and tried to make us buy shirts and bags from her. Also, the boats selling food gave drinks to the rowers and made us pay for them. Weakness is pounced upon- show no mercy and no interest!
Watching the sun rise over the mountains from the balcony of my millionaire uncle’s house. This is a man who bought a plantation, demolished the old house, and built it twenty metres to the right just so the sun would be framed perfectly between two mountain peaks. He built his own lake for 20000 ringit, filled with mountain springwater and Japanese koi. It was pretty cool staying there.
Seeing a beggar with white films over his eyes. He was standing at the train station holding out packets of tissues for people to buy. I passed him on the way to a shopping mall and six hours later when I returned he was still there. He seemed to follow me with his opaque eyes as I walked past, so I ran back and gave him 10RM for two packets of tissues.
Awesome shopping! Both in Vietnam and Malaysia. Got some pimping new outfits, including a silk nightgown.
Climbing Penang Hill for the first time. It took 80 minutes and pushed me quite close to my physical limits, but the satisfaction of reaching the top (a goal I’ve had since I was maybe 7) was immense. The scenery was beautiful, too. We left at 6:30am and climbed the first quarter of the hill in the darkness of night. But the sunrise was immaculate, and some of the views breathtaking.
Having one of my aunt’s dogs walk up to me and lick my hand. It was starved and abused, its ribs showing and it skulked around keeping its distance from everyone who shunned it. I wanted to cuddle it and feed it schmackos all day. I felt so bad for not wanting to pet it (because I’d have to wash my hands again). I promise to pet it if I see it again.
Praying at Buddhist temples.
Being called a ninja by my uncle.
Seeing the preserved body of Prime Minister Ho Chi Minh. The mausoleum where he rested was guarded by immense numbers of guards and the room itself with his body had dimmed light and deathly silence. Four guards surrounded his body, staring straight ahead, pistols at their hips. I spent most of that trip wondering if there would be a way to infiltrate and escape alive if I wanted to do something to his body. I reasoned I’d be shot dead within three to ten seconds. There was an incredible reverence about the place and I bowed to him.
My many relatives. Let me see if I can name them all. Ignore my terrible attempt at spelling. Read them out loud, I dare you. Yi Qian, Sien Sien, Chen Chen, Aunty Shirley, Lieu Shu, Aunty Susan, Siao Shu, Shicky, Colin, Wu Shu, Aunty Everlyn, Sin Ler, Qi Shu, Aunty Vivian, Yi Shing, Yi Ching, Ah Chong, Twor Pe, Twor Ku, Twor Kim, Twor Ii, San Qu, San Shu, Shing Yin, Seng Peng, Mei, William, Brian… I forget the others.
Having William teach me Chinese chess. He was brutally ruthless, deriving great satisfaction from beating me with tricks that "many beginners fall for this one ah".
A riddle, told to me by Colin. Here, I’ll quote it.
"One day there were three fish ah, and the man with the very good gun want to shoot the fish ah. He shot- pong!- and the fish did not die ah. But the other fish which the man did not shooten die lah."
Do you give up?
When he first asked me I didn’t even know what the question was. But it gets better. Would you like to hear the answer?
"The fish which the man shot at was robot fish, and the shoot –pong!- like this ah and so it hit the other fish."
If you didn’t quite catch that, the first fish which the man shot at was actually magnetic, causing the bullet to swerve and hit the other fish.
What. The. Fuck.
Seeing people wear rice hats as they sold goods, rode bicycles, sat by fireplaces and of course worked in paddy fields.
Seeing someone with a pet ox.
Seeing this guy on a back of a pushbike holding a shotgun. I can’t be sure if he was discarding a plastic wrapper or an empty cartridge, but it looked pretty freaking real to me. I also saw many, many kids playing with BB guns, which I believe you can buy on the street.
Returning to Eden Cake House, the place where I grew up. It still smells the same.
Aforementioned river boat ride.
Seeing chickens boiled alive and sharks clubbed over the head. And dead carcasses of birds and buffalos being cut up in back streets and sold on front streets. Really makes you appreciate butchers and those friendly little packets of mince you can buy at shopping centres.
Having Yi Shing, Qi Shu’s and Aunty Vivian’s 18 month old baby, take an enormous shine to me. She basically held my hand for days and refused to let her mother carry her. We asked her if she wanted to come back to Australia with us, and she said in her little baby voice "Okay!" I felt so bad for Aunty Vivian.
Eating tosai! Wooo!
Winning 240 ringit within an hour of gambling. My brother and I won 6 out of 7 games. That said, overall we still lost several hundred ringit, which just goes to show… karma sucks!
Having a martini with my brother on the top floor of the hotel we were staying at in Vietnam. It was beautiful, the view, and the bar was so alone and empty. The bartender was a young man a little older than me who spoke enough English for us to converse and talk to him about his life. I really miss that kid. The martini he whipped up was pretty smifftacular too.
Going to the hotel’s fitness centre with my brother. It was more of a closet than a centre, with four or five machines in the place, but it was still really nice.
Wake-up calls! Such a nice luxury.
The Vietnamese water puppets, where dragons breathed fire on the stage. Wicked stuff that.
Ringing the Bell of a Thousand Truths with my brother.
Two ‘indestructible’ remote controlled helicopters that fit in the palm of my hand. Eugene and I have been struggling to make them rise off the ground, so we suspect we’ll need awesome batteries before they reach their full potential, but when they do we’ll make them battle and race. We bought them for about $35AU each.
Staying up ridicuously late talking to my dear cousin Yi Qian.
Losing my phone. I think I left it at a restaurant table or it otherwise fell out of my pocket during a scuffle with the little’uns. I realised it had gone missing ten minutes after we left, and calling the restaurant staff they searched the place but couldn’t find it. Shortly after, my phone stopped ringing implying someone had turned it off. Tragic, but probably inevitable. I’m grateful to get a replacement for free when I return to Australia. Oh and by the way, if you’ve been trying to reach me the past week I’ve had no idea whatsoever. Hopefully I’ll get your messages when I get back.
Wow, seems like I remembered a lot more than I thought. I’m sure there’ll be much more to come. Beautiful holiday, this. I’m liking my family more and more. Might have to come back next year for adventures in Taiwan :) I’ll update again later. Ja, ne?