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Signature move #3; smashing cameras

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 20 October 2010 | Views [1028]

The top floor a great place for launching camera bombs.

The top floor a great place for launching camera bombs.

No party can be categorised as such until something gets smashed. Normally its something of the hosts, but I must be too considerate for that. Some may disagree and just call me an idiot instead, and part of the following journal makes it hard to argue against. The credit card debacle showed that I didn't come here to learn anything from past experiences, just relive them. There has been plenty of amazing new experiences so far, but documenting them is going to prove harder than I thought.

From a pub four floors up we watched the people celebrate the 1,000 year birthday like a nest of ants on meth. The time lapse function on my camera seemed like a great way to capture the life and limb threatening manoeuvres that were undertaken by all on the road with utter nonchalance. Little did they realise the greatest threat was to come from above. Balancing my camera on the hand rail with all the delicacy of a micro surgeon, I foolishly believed holding my hands under either side of the rail would ensure no harm could result. Do I even need to detail how this ended given my last 3 cameras have suffered similar fates?

What I didn't count on was the gesticulating punter behind me using the rail to punctuate a rather important point like a judge with his gavel. The camera flew off the rail, took a few tumbling bounces across the landing right before my disbelieving eyes and disappeared over the edge. Perhaps the good karma from my non-killing ways meant it wasn't my day to kill a pedestrian with an aerial camera bomb. How the crowds had parted to avoid a cranial landing spot defies explanation given the density of life beneath us. Had the camera landed on an unsuspecting noggin instead, it may have fared better than it did. Needless to say, camera number 4 in less than 2 years now lays in pieces and my budget requires another large dint to ensure the whole holiday isn't left up to my unreliable memory.

Thankfully travelling in Vietnam is so ridiculously cheap that having to buy a new camera at Western prices isn't too much of an issue. A recent raid on an ATM told me that once again I am a millionaire. Most prices written in dong, the Vietnamese currency, drop the last 3 zero's to save on ink and effort as $1AUS equals about 19,000 dong. Paying between 25 and 40k for a Vietnamese meal seems like it should be caviar and golden goose eggs until you do the conversion in your head. Then you order another 3 dishes just because it still works out to be cheaper than a bowl of wedges from Matso's.

Unfortunately Vietnam, like Thailand, has a disturbing proclivity to put cucumber with every single meal. With my utter hatred of cucumber, it's like decorating the plate with some steaming fresh dog shit. It's rarely in the meal itself so perhaps I am seeing this the wrong way round. Perhaps my disgust is so strong, it is understood even by those who lack the ESP skills that some wait staff are expected to have. One veggie burger was served with two layers of cucumber in it proving that it is always best to eat the local cuisine or be prepared for individual interpretations to range from spot on to barely recognisable.

Lindsay is a great one for hitting the street stalls for the real deal in a way that my vegetarian palate forbids me from doing with the same reckless abandon. Although, I could barely keep my laughter to myself when she tried to order veggie noodle soup off a lady who was midway through hacking up chicken carcasses. Not understanding a word of English, the lady kept on showering the area with chunks of flesh as Lindsay tried explaining her wishes with pointing and ever clearer articulation; of the wrong language. The joke ended up being on me when we went to a restaurant for veggie noodle soup and I was the one who got pieces of chicken in the bottom of my bowl, possibly having fallen out of my hair.

Other than terrorising the locals with unusual food requests, our time in Hanoi was spent in war museums. The first was Hao Lo Prison where Presidential failure John McCain was held prisoner. It was also used by the French to detain and torture locals who rightfully opposed being governed from the other side of the world by a completely different culture. With a touch of propaganda though, the American P.O.W.'s were made out to look like they were merely enjoying a weekend retreat at summer camp.

Like the Army museum, both places balanced out the one sided view Westerners have of the Vietnam war. The American war is shown in all the devastation the self appointed 'World Police' wreaked on a country's fight for independence then political unity. As informative as a nutritional panel on a tin of paint, the labelling of all the displays only demonstrated English translators are in short supply in Vietnam. Nothing informative was garnered from the displays and we were still unable to answer an oft discussed question of when the American war actually ended. The highlight of the day was seeing what it felt like to sit in the firing seat of a tank big enough to blow a hole through the moon.

With Hanoi's temperature showing little variation either side of uncomfortably hot, we decided to head north to the hill town of Sapa. The views are meant to be spectacular and Lindsay's camera will have to start taking duplicates. That is unless my laptop breaks, we miss the train and I smash her camera just to stay consistent.

Tags: food, mishaps, museums

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