Friday, October 19 – Leaving Hanoi, Vietnam

Guess I forgot to write anything yesterday. I had a good day though. I walked around Hanoi with a woman from Brussels.  First we went to the Temple of Literature, which is a Confucian Temple. It was nice. It was a temple. Once again, I’m a bit sick of temples. I’m sure people are going to be sick of looking at my pictures of temples. Then we walked to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. It is closed for repairs and restoration while Ho’s bones go on tour. So we went to the Ho Chi Minh Museum. It was well done, if a little, you know, one-sided. His life story was told in a series of modern art exhibits. And, like the Temple and most places in Vietnam, everything was in Vietnamese and French. I should have studied more in school.
That night I read for a bit and did some research on Moscow. Scared myself silly.  Sounds like the whole damned city is corrupt and you can’t navigate without understanding Cyrillic. So now I’m a bit worried about getting lost, robbed by gypsies, and blackmailed by corrupt cops. So I bought a pouch that goes around my neck to put my passport in, and another copy of Lonely Planet’s "Trans Siberian" to learn Cyrillic.  I had a copy of the Lonely Planet, but somehow it never made it out of Korea. I wonder what I did with it??
Other than that, I didn’t do much today except wander around Hanoi. Got some money changed into small USD bills. Hopefully that will make exchange easier in China and Russia. Apparently in Russia it is illegal for businesses to take any other currency than Russian. More for me to worry about!  I did have another $5 foot massage today to kill an hour and relax. Got to the train with no problem.* Fortunately, and it looks like all the way to Beijing, I’m bunking with three Irish girls who seem very nice. I’ve already (in just over an hour!) forgotten their names so I’ll have to ask again.
I’m happy that I visited Vietnam. I would do so again, but plan the trip differently.  I’m definitely learning a lot about how all this works.
I want to remember the mother and young girl praying at the shrine at the front of their store. It looked as though the little girl was learning the process from her mother.
And the kitten tied by a piece of string to the restaurant – clearly someone’s pet.
I’m getting sleepy already – at 7:30pm. Damn train!  First, I need to start studying Russian…
*I can’t believe I left out this story!  I got to the train station in the early evening. I was standing there, hating my bag, looking around (a bit retardedly, I’m sure) the station trying to figure out where I needed to go.  There were some signs in English, but not many. A Vietnamese guy comes up and says, "You need help?"  I say, "Um, not really. Just trying to see where my platform is."  He asked to see my ticket. I let him look, but not touch. There are some things I don’t give up very easily now… a seat on transportation, my tickets, my passport, and my bags. You never know.  He points to a door on my left (which has a big sign above it, in English, that says "International Departures") and says, "Follow me."  I say, "Oh, that’s okay… thank you… I’m sure that I can find my own… um… okay"  because he’s already ahead of me and still beckoning for me to follow him. He takes me through the International Departures waiting room, and outside to the platform. He looks at my ticket again (the whole time I’m protesting that I’m okay… he doesn’t need to keep… alright, alright).  By this point, I’ve already decided that I’m going to tip him. Part of me doesn’t want to… I mean, I didn’t ask for his help. In fact, I asked him to stop helping me a few times. But, on the other hand, he is taking me right to my bunk on the train, and I’m grateful to not have to think. I figure for what he has done for me, an American dollar should be a decent tip, if not downright generous. We are talking about a country where a buck can buy an entire fucking meal.  Before I can even give him the dollar though, he says, "Money."  I say, "What?"  He repeats, "Money."  I say, "Oh, yah, pal. I gotcha. Here you go."  I give him the dollar and he starts protesting and yakking away, little of which I understand. I do hear the word "dong" though (Vietnamese currency and the funniest currency name in history) so I say, "Sorry buddy, no dong. Just dollar. Okay?"  And he says, "Sign. Porter. Two dollar."
Sign? PORTER?  Two dollars?  Suck my dick, pal. I didn’t see a sign and you ain’t a porter. A porter wears a funny little vest and a hat. Shit, everyone knows that. What I said to him was, "You are joking right? I saw no sign. And you didn’t even carry my bag!  Take your dollar and be happy about it." He grumbled, but left. Honestly, if he wants to charge two bucks he’s going to have to carry some bags and get a funny little vest (and a hat). 
About ten minutes later, I met the Irish girls. And, gloriously, the same dude was their "porter".  They more aptly (and colourfully) told him to fuck off. It made me like them instantly.

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