Qui Nong to Kom Tum

Qui Nong was further up the coast and another 4 hour or so bus journey. On the bus, I had decided to take advantage of an empty back seat, and sprawled out for a snooze. This lasted about 10 minutes as the driver went over a speed bump at about 60mph, and I was tossed in the air for what felt like a good 5 minutes, and crashed onto the floor with a thump and grazing my left elbow. As I looked up, I was sure I could see the driver sniggering to himself. His face then dropped, and we were conscious that up front, he was having quite an animated discussion with some of the local people. The point of the discussion seemed to something to do with the back seat, and I was wondering if he was secretly planning another offload for me. The bus stopped quite dramatically, the driver got out of his seat and seemed to making a beeline for me, his face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. He barged passed me to close the rear window that I had opened for some fresh air only 5 minutes earlier, while muttering his obvious disapproval and disdain for me in his Vietnamese tongue. Talk about being highly strung, I just kept cool, and let him boil in his own steam. You really need to have a sense of humour in Vietnam, but I think I have left mine at the Cambodian border a few weeks ago. I was seriously not enjoying being with these folks at all, they were seriously sapping me of energy.

By the time we arrived in Qui Nong, there were a glut of taxi’s waiting and we headed out to Barbara’s Place, our chosen lodgings. We met the lovely Caroline from “Hampshire Dahling” and her partner Neil, who was originally from Brighton. Neil is 43 and ¾’s and is getting on a bit, but we didn’t mind pulling up a chair and sharing a table alfresco with this old timer, while we all ordered our first beer of the day under a beating sun with nice views across the bay. It turned out that the only accommodation available for a decent price was a dorm room, comprising 3 sets of wooden bunk beds. We had a great time that afternoon with Neil and Caroline and we all seemed to get on really well, so much so that Neil and Caroline decided to crash in the dorm with us. I still laugh when I think about heading to the room later that night to find the both of them completely crashed out in one of the lower bunks. I was just about to do the same thing, when I checked my watch and realised it was only 8.30pm. It felt about midnight, and I was ready for bed, but I don’t think I have ever been to bed this early since I was about 4 years old, and I used to drink a lot less in those days. I stayed up for another hour or so, trying to stop my head falling onto the table in front of me, but it was time for bed. I think we were all up at 6.30am next morning, the earliest I think I have been up since travelling in Asia. The six of us decided to move into separate double rooms in the adjacent hotel, as it was bit of a slow start with one bathroom between six.

We would hire motorbikes for the day and do a bit of touring around the area. We happened across a quiet secluded beach, and decided it was time for a beer. There seems to be a recurring theme here I know, and after a stroll along the beach, and realising it was too cold for a dip, decided to move on again. This is when we turned off the main road while heading back, to explore what seemed to be a little seaside village. This was really strange, as we arrived at a gate to what looked like a private hospital. Believe it or not, this was a hospital for Lepers’, and the adjacent village was a Leper village. You had to pay to enter, and I think we were all slightly bemused by this. I don’t know, I think we all felt a bit strange that anyone would ever want to pay to see something like this and I think we all were confused that someone in their wisdom felt this was a marketable attraction. Although sympathetic to the plight of these individuals, none of us seemed to be comfortable and we were all quite happy to be on our way again. All the lepers were waving to us as we headed up the hill. Only joking and I know this is in poor taste. Reminds me of the time Alexander from Belgium dropped some money in the hat of a leper with no fingers, begging on the streets in Cambodia. He also dropped some biscuits in the hat, and looked confused with the look he had received from the beggar. That was until about 10 minutes later while he was walking along the road, and remembered how hard it was to get the wrapper of the biscuits even with 10 fingers, never mind having none. Now remember, you should never laugh at anyone else’s misfortune.

Later that day, we were riding around town and stopped off at the local market. We seemed to have picked up a local girl, who had taken a fancy to Neil first, then Mark, and then me. It didn’t take us long to realise that something wasn’t quite right about this overtly friendly girl, and we could not shake this woman as we walked along the street. It was quite sad to realise that this was a “special needs” issue, there is no support for this in Asia, and it can be quite a challenge to know how best to handle the situation. The local’s seemed to find this all quite funny, but you just end up feeling very sad and uncomfortable.

Michelle and I had come across a situation in Java where a beautiful young girl in her mid 20’s was walking along the road on her own, absolutely stark naked, and only just managing to cover her intimate private parts with her hands as she walked along the road under a hot sun, completely in her own wee world. This girl was stunningly beautiful, and obviously vulnerable, and your heart hurts when you know this, but can really do absolutely nothing about it. Well maybe you can in hindsight, but at the time, you just feel stunned.

We would leave this town to move on to Kon Tum further inland, a recommendation from our Dutch dauchter Sofie Krop.

So we headed off to Kon Tum for a few days before heading to Hoi Ann. No tourists here, we did a bit of a walking tour of the town, but really should have come here for trekking and seeing the villages of the local tribes. Unfortunately, our bad planning meant that we had arrived on Friday afternoon, and with all the tourist offices closed for the weekend, we had really missed an opportunity as we would have to leave on Monday so Stacey and Mark could extend their visa’s. We had to mark time this weekend, the people seemed really friendly and slightly bemused to see us. We went to the bus station to organise tickets for Hoi Ann. We met a lovely local girl, Christine, who seemed determined to help us and her English was very good. You know, you develop a sixth sense, and while she asked questions about timings and price with the bus rep, we could see she seemed somewhat confused. We knew the local rate for the bus was 130,000 VND, so were quite disappointed to hear that the bus company rep wanted to charge us 220,000 VND. Now, each journey of 4 hours has been in the region of about 100,000 VND, so at 25,000 VND and hour, 130,000 VND seemed about right for a 5 hour journey. We could just tell we were being fleeced here, you don’t have to understand the language, but the body language does say and awful lot and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. We politely told the bus guy we would rather walk to Hoi Ann than pay the sum he was demanding and walked away. See ya! I love walking away from the Vietnamese in situations like this, they just seem so dejected when they realise you are not falling for it and have lost out on sale by basically just being too greedy. The number of times we have tried to buy cigarettes or munchies, and have been quoted exorbitant prices, has really started to get us down. It is all just so time consuming, to the point where we just walk away now and don’t even bother trying to haggle. It is so rude and disheartening. I know this sounds bad, but I am really past the point of caring as it has just happened so many times now, and I actually grudge spending any money here. I can’t wait to get out, and I definitely won’t be back.

We got back to the hotel and explained the situation to the girl on reception, she quoted us 125,000 VND for a ticket and advised we would be picked up from the hotel and taken to the bus station. I was secretly praying it would be the same bus from earlier that day just to see the look on the guys face when we appeared. That wasn’t the case, and we got on the bus with some locals and three young friendly smiling Vietnamese soldiers. The little short cute one was not smiling too soon into the journey, and would be turning green within the hour and spewing into a plastic bag for the next 4 hours. I had to laugh when we did a half way stop and little “Spewboy” ordered a mountain of fried noodles and scoffed the lot. I just knew that we were going to need a large black binliner for the remainder of this journey – obviously. I just needed some packaging tape to wrap around his neck once the binliner had been placed over his head.

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