Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

This post is probably not going to be half as long as the previous two I had written on this Hanoi vacation. You'll see why presently. The bus ride from Hanoi to Hoa Lu took 3+ hours, with 1 uninteresting stop midway, and that spells nothing to write about. There!

We reached Hoa Lu in the late morning, probably an hour or so before noon. This ancient city used to be the capital of Vietnam for a short while, about a hundred or so years ago. There wasn't much left to it, and all we saw were the ruins of a temple, so small that we could completely explore it within half an hour (and that's with purposely lingering at places that didn't need lingering...).

The ruins of a temple at Hoa Lu

From Hoa Lu, it was about 20 minutes' bus ride to the next destination, Tam Coc. Some of the tourists were going to cycle to Tam Coc instead, as they said there would be beautiful scenery along the way. Our package didn't include the cycling, but we could opt for it for a small fee. Of the 6 of us, only Mr Kopi wanted to cycle. The others were too fat / lazy / puteri lilin (myself included, though extremely tempted...). The journey on bicycle would take about an hour, so the rest of us had some time to linger a little while more at that God-forsaken place before going on our 20-minute bus ride. The bus took us directly to a restaurant at Tam Coc where we had lunch. It was buffet-style but I could not find anything palatable to eat. It was really disappointing.

We, the lazy bums, had half an hour or so to spare after our meal (because the cycling group reached considerably later than we did) and we explored the streets outside of the restaurant. It was very sunny and hot that day, and we ladies ended up buying cloth bonnets from the roadside peddlers for VND20,000 (RM4) a piece. Yes, our faces are very important, and should not be left to fend for themselves in that merciless, scorching afternoon sun.

The main agenda of the day was boating at Tam Coc, to explore the rocks and grottos along the stream. The entire boating experience was to take a couple of hours, but I believe I did not keep track of the time because the view was indeed somewhat breathtaking (and it was really very hot!). I took so many shots that before we disembarked, my camera battery was running low!

The line of wood-and-metal sampans waiting to take on tourists

(Sing) Row, row, row your... GAH! I'm tired! Nah, take back your oar!

Along both sides of the stream were small, discontinuous patches of paddy plants, and there were many rock formations, very similar to those we saw the previous days at Ha Long bay, though perhaps not quite so vast. There were mountains all around too. The highlights were three separate "grottos" which we went through - twice each - once on the way there and once on the way back. Interesting - that's the only adjective I will provide.


More rocks

We took two to a boat, each with either one or two rowers. There were two rowers in the boat that I was in, and they were husband and wife. They could speak minimal English, but were able to convey these information - they were married, in their 40s, and the wife's sister was a rower too. She also showed me the calluses on her hands. Yes, it was hard work rowing tourists day in, day out, every day, for your whole life... (do I sound sarcastic?)

The mountains

Entering a grotto

Exiting a grotto

After the third grotto, we reached this little lagoon surrounded by mountainous rocks, with patches of paddy in the water, and floating sharks. That's right - sharks in boats selling drinks and snacks, who'd corner tourists and pester them to buy refreshments for their rowers. No one could escape the harassment, as the boats would not be rowed away until the passengers had given in or simply given up (and given in) - the sun was glaring, burning upon our skins, and all we wanted was to just go! Needless to say, we gave in and bought some drinks for our Mr and Mrs Rower. There - I hope you're satisfied now! Oh, but they weren't, and the journey back to where we started was not as fun. Mrs Rower started showing me T-shirts and embroidered pieces of cloths, pushing them at me, persuading me to buy, and boy, wasn't she relentless in doing so! I thought my neck would snap from shaking my head too much!

Our arms are tired, don't mind us rowing with our feet!

Upon reaching the shore, they demanded for tips (gah!!!). Apparently, that was the standard practice, because it happened to everyone! But well, the unpleasant excessive money-seeking aside, the trip itself wasn't half bad. At least, it was not as bad as the food we had for lunch, or the washroom at the restaurant which had see-through doors (yikes!)

The journey home was much longer than the one in the morning, firstly, because there was an accident somewhere along the way, which caused quite a traffic disruption. When we finally reached Hanoi, the bus got stuck in a massive traffic congestion, which rendered us nearly motionless for close to an hour. As fate would had it - that day was the eve of their national day, and people everywhere thronged the city - for what, I believe I knew not. There were so many vehicles that each were just one or two inches from the one next to it, and the symphony of honks were playing resoundingly. Imagine how it was like - for the Vietnamese, who honked all the time when their vehicle was moving, who now could not move though they really wanted to! However, we noted one thing about our bus driver - we were running late according to schedule, the traffic was frustrating, and we had been in the bus for over 4 hrs by then - though his hand was permanently pressing on the honk, he didn't seem at all stressed by the situation he was in. He talked and joked with his assistant and the tour guide as though they were in a coffee shop! How I wish I could maintain that sort of relaxed mind when I drive!

We asked to be stopped at Hang Gai or Hang Dao (gosh, it's been quite a while and I can't remember clearly which was which!) so we could go straight for our dinner. The bus driver wanted to drop us off in the middle of the huge roundabout cum cross junction (right in front of Ga Ran Kentucky), where vehicles came at all directions, heading to all directions, honking and criss-crossing each other, incessantly, without heed for traffic light nor rules... and well, we objected, of course. There was no way we could had braved that sort of traffic. We asked to be dropped off at the smaller lane, where we could step out of the bus and land on the sidewalk, instead of in the path of a scurrying bike. Then, it was off to dinner, and last minute shopping (to spend whatever remaining VND that we still had)

My dinner! Not very Vietnamese, yea

Our flight was early in the next morning. We woke up at a record 5+ am, and were ready and down at the lobby by 6am. The two fellas who took care of the place were still sleeping there. It was somehow weird to see 2 guys sleeping together, on a matress placed upon the floor right next to the main entrance - not so much on the sleeping on the floor, than the sleeping together... Anyway, one of the guys got up and made breakfast for us. We all chipped in some cash and gave him a tip for being such a sweetie (and for being quite cute too...).

It was raining when we left, but the journey to the airport was smooth and uneventful.

Inside of the airport

After checking in, things took a turn to "eventful". To cut the long story short, I had an accident in the toilet where my left index finger got caught by the door, and a considerably huge slice of skin and whatever else came almost clean off at the tip. How bad was it? Blood was dripping onto the floor (you can imagine). It was so painful I cried. No, I didn't intend to cry but the tears came anyway. Fortunately, my friend had a plaster with her which I could apply to the injury and stop the bleeding. But it didn't stop my poor finger from throbbing badly on the flight all the way back to KL.

Yea, some of you saw me in this condition for several weeks...

I went to a doctor's out of fear of infection, and I actually grabbed his hand when he attempted to remove the plaster I had on the wound (followed by squeals and feet-stamping when he ripped it off... that poor doc - had to put up with a big baby like me). After a dose of antibiotics and several weeks of wearing bandages on my finger, I'm happy to say it's good as new! For the record, the previous two posts about this vacation was typed using a maximum of 9 fingers, whereas this one was typed using all 10! (which also serves to show just how long I procrastinated in the completion of this one...)

And that was the (almost) complete account of my trip to Hanoi. Would I go again? For vacation - well, probably not.


Saturday, June 14, 2008


I do not understand why some men are such cowards. You wanted out of a relationship? Say it! What are you afraid of? Or perhaps ashamed of? You do not dare to say it in person - you write a letter, you send an email, or you send an SMS - bad enough. But to not say it at all? To just evade and avoid, and to keep silent when confronted - simply despicable! No doubt, some girls are tough enough to take that kind of trash behaviour, but most simply cannot accept it! This is especially true for first loves. We girls take first loves very seriously, and we really love to the greatest degree possible. We do not deserve to be treated like dirt - to be discarded casually without any more than a blink of the eye. Where are your guts? Your balls? You don't have any?!

Her love was true and pure, and you know it. You have been with her long enough to know just how innocent she was in this matter of the heart. You knew she'd long built castles in the air, thinking of growing old with you. She loved you with all her heart and you let it all slip the moment another girl cast eyes on you. Are you so weak that you have absolutely no self-control? No will power? No honour? So you actually think with your reproductive organs? I'd always thought that was just a myth. I suppose I ought to thank you for proving to humanity that whatever's at your groin can actually take over the functions of whatever's in your skull. Offspring of a female canine!

She loved you so much so that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with you. And what do you give her in return? A load of your self-insufficiencies! You are insecure about yourself and you make her pay the price. You refused to paint her the future she dreamed of, refused even to talk about it or let her know why. Do you seriously think that she could, and would wait for you indefinitely? That she would be content to just be, without being given any reasons, while you sort out your pathetic self and work on improving your miserable existence? You must have been born without a brain. You'd only effectively wrought permanent hurt in her heart, you lowlife scum! Anus!

She loved you deeply and you hardly appreciate it. You go about your frivolous life, expecting her to be there always, waiting. You expect her to cater to your every childish whim while you would not even try to understand her - her feelings, her needs. She gave you her heart, and you threw carelessly around, trampled on it. You are not a man - of that I am convinced. I should think a true man cannot stand to see a girl cry, what more the girl he purportedly loves. And yet, you thrive on her sorrow, her misery, her tears! Heartless, callous, insufferable - you are truly a copulating offspring of a female canine!

Did you think that was harsh? Well, that's what you get for hurting the people I love! Scumbags, all of you! I have nothing else to say!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Pathetic Fool

Resentful, dreary, depressed, feeling down, demotivated, disassociated from reality - I can only think of so many terms to describe myself right now. It had been but barely two weeks, and I am not half the person I was a fortnight ago. I am pessimistic, negative, overzealous in gloomy thoughts, convinced that my future is nothing but a bleak, distasteful monotony - and I'd been spilling these miseries that I felt all around, to half my closest social circle. And I am ashamed.

I want to give up. They wouldn't let me. "Hang on!" they said, "it will pass". A part of me does want to hang on, but the greater part simply wants to quit and run. I had anticipated difficult times previously, but not this emotional breakdown, not to this unreasonable extent, and not this soon.

She said "Don't think about it!". They all did. To not think - to not dwell on the worst, at least; take things one step at a time; relax, focus on the immediate task and the rest will fall in place; everything will turn out right in the end.

I do comprehend. I do know the right thoughts to keep and the woeful ones to discard. I really do. But emotions are just that - emotions. I can't control them. Some may claim they can - I admit I can't. At times, these waves of helplessness and dread sweep over me with such sudden and overwhelming intensity... all the mental and physical strength I could muster is hardly enough to push them out.

Yes, I am ashamed. She had her own troubles and yet she gallantly pushed them aside while she consoled me. They all did. Some gave me words of advice, some of comfort. Some cited situations far worse that they'd survived. One bestowed upon me the wisdom of Kenshin's philosophy, another offered to let me kick him if it would make me feel better (no it won't - so I'll have to decline your kind offer...). And he said, the first step is to learn to enjoy my nature of work again, as I once did. Yes, I will, sir - I will find that element of joy. I will do it, or die trying (Oops... they don't like it when I talk that way...)

I realised I should not have spread the sourness of my own insufficiencies and lack of confidence to everyone who care about me. I should not wail and complain every time someone talks to me. I know it isn't right. I am truly grateful that I have you guys here for me - you know who you are - because I know I probably do not deserve such concern, care and love, being such a weak, spineless, emotional wreck that I am right now.

Thank you for not deserting this pathetic fool in her worst shape. Thank you for not giving up on her, even when she is tempted to give up on herself. And do bear with her, because she may just need to mope around a little while more...

(Edit: One day, I will be able to look back upon this post, and laugh / sigh / blush / bang my head on the desk...)