Saturday, 24 January 2009

Martin's Travelling 2

After what couldn't have been more than five minutes he dropped me off at some noodle eatery. I got off, confused. I asked him where the border was and why he hadn't taken me there as agreed. With sign language and a few words of English, he claimed that he thought I wanted to go somewhere for food. As I judged things, there was a very high chance that he was lying to get more money. I gave him five of the seven dong I had, to give him the benefit of what little doubt there was left. I was still in the town, and I estimated about 2km from the border, so off I trudged to look for someone I could trust and who would be able to understand me. I soon found a hotel and they pointed me in the right direction of the mountainous border crossing.

Soon after I left the hotel another motorbike taxi driver approached me. I told him I only had 2k dong left, and, after a some hesitation, he motioned that I should jump on. I could hardly believe that he would take me for such a price. Two thousand dong is worth only 7p! And petrol isn't cheap in Vietnam, as was the case everywhere in SE Asia. I reasoned that the offer must have been out of kindness, but I later found out that he didn't believe me about the money, and that he thought I had more on me. When we arrived at the border he showed me that he wanted 10k dong, and he was really quite insistent about it. When I told him again that I didn't have any more money on me - using body language and the 2k dong note as a visual clue - he got angry. I half-jokingly offered him my last two bananas too, but he didn't want any of it. In the end I just left the note in the basket on his motorbike and walked off. In a way I felt bad about it, but glad that I had made it clear to him in the first place.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Martin's Travelling 1

A bagpacker friend, Martin Bristow, traveling abroad sent me his diary letter. It’s a fantastic one. It should be shared on the blog. He’s now traveling in Asia.

Dear all,

After five days in Hanoi I decided to move on. I was strong again after my fever and China was beckoning. After the trouble at the Chinese embassies in Sydney, Wellington and Kuala Lumpur, I was half expecting something to go wrong at the border. Fortunately everything went smoothly.

The night before I left Hanoi I checked my wallet and saw that I had just enough money for some breakfast the following morning and the train ticket to the border. Actually, I didn't cross the border into China with a single dong. The train took me to Dong Dang, a town three kilometres from the Vietnam/China border. I had 10k dong left, about 35p. I was a little hungry at that point, having only eaten a few items from a bakery before I left Hanoi. Also, I hadn't eaten much over the previous few days due to my fever, so I was generally trying to catch up. I found a small local shop and bought some bananas for 3k dong. I then offered a motorbike taxi driver the rest of my money to get to the border. He laughed when I said I only had 7k on me, and initially refused to take me for such pitiful pay. However, as I started to walk off he called me back, as is often the case with offering money for a service/product. So I jumped onto the bike with my big backpack on my back and my little backpack on my front, and off we sped.