No More Beer and Skittles

Sadly, my run of beer and Skittles has come to an end. I have, after 4 months and nearly 10,000km, left China and crossed over the border into Vietnam. I have searched high and low, but I have been unable to find any Skittles. So now it’s just beer.

I woke this morning (New Year’s Day) to a dull thump in my head, that just seemed to keep on going. Perhaps not so unusual you might think…except after a while I realised it wasn’t my head, it was the neighbours starting some major construction, tearing down a wall or something. Early on New Year’s Day. And that, more than anything, reminds you that you are in a country where the New Year is celebrated with a different calendar – Tet will be celebrated on February 7 2008.

Not that there was nothing happening at all – no, there was a show involving comedy boxing, monkeys on bicycles, and roller-skating girls with lycra swimsuit-type outfits that looked to be pulled up rather uncomfortably far. All this with several hundred Hanoians sitting on their scooters, watching. A bit of a quiet lot though, very little emotion showed by the crowd, not even much clapping. Guess it’s a cultural thing, but you would have thought the performers would like some sort of approval from the crowd.

That all ended at 21:45 though, then everyone drifted around to another concert. Lots of food stalls and things – aha I thought, I’ll find someone selling beer…but no, I only saw one can for sale. Eventually I went around to a bar, and was there at midnight – a rather surprisingly empty bar, but with some interesting people. A bit different, but a fun time was had.

The ride in from the border at Mong Cai was not bad – a big change to the feel of the place as soon as you cross over though. Narrow roads, millions of scooters, then you’re out into relatively unpopulated countryside. Some nasty little climbs too, nothing too big, just short and steep. Rolling up and down like that takes it out of you more than doing one big climb. I also hit a coal mining area, which meant huge coal trucks, dust everywhere, terrible roads, etc. The dust would have been bad enough, but they had a truck watering the road to keep the dust down. This meant that I ended up getting covered in sticky black mud. Luckily the nice staff at my guesthouse in Hanoi washed my panniers for me.

The Thai embassy was closed Mon 31st/Tues 1st, so I have to wait until tomorrow before trying to get a 60-day visa. Should be able to get it issued on the same day, then I can head south out of here to Vinh, and across the border into Laos. Doesn’t look to be too many towns along that road where I can stop, nor much information online, so it could be a touch interesting not having any camping gear. No doubt it will all work out though.

Oh and two New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Gain weight.
  2. Do less exercise.