Let me be brutally honest here. There are some languages that flow rhythmically and poetically from mouth to ear like some glorious Shakespearian, Mozartian love child – German is not one of them. In truth I have grown quite an affinity to the German people since being released by the cultural grip of semi disdain and suspicion often still experienced in England. Give me a a bushy mustached Hans in a lederhosen as a drinking buddy any time. That being said, a torrent of German still feels like I’m being flogged with cat and water boarded at the same time.
Ha Giang province, 320 km north of Hanoi, conjures up images of the mystical. Towering mountain passes, endless valleys and wondrous colors depending on what time of the year you visit. The province shares a border with China, and is one of those ‘politically sensitive’ areas – making it relatively untouched by the sweep of mass tourism across the country. It has become known as Vietnam’s final frontier.
I’m sure most will concur themselves – but the first half of by twenties felt like absolute chaos. Finishing university and attempting to join ‘real job’ club was greeted with mixed results.
Two important anniversaries seem to have converged at once. The first being that I reached a year in Vietnam. Itself an achievement as it’s the first time in over six years I have spent a year in one place. A sense of achievement mixed with a few jitters. But when I thought further back something seemed to be even more important.
There are people in this world that were born to be unhelpful. When coupled with Vietnam’s almost complete lack of accountability displayed by its government staff – it creates a fearfully dumb and dim witted human whose job, without question, could be adequately done by a monkey.
We stared in horror at the twisted sickening metal in front of us. Our eyes flickered nervously.
“Are they – bikes?” we whispered between us.
“Are those strangle marks?” I hissed to my companions, Scott and Liz, in what I suspected was far from a discrete decibel. The three of us stared intently at Chai’s neck, for what can only be described as a socially unacceptable amount of time.
The knock at the door wrenched my eyes open at an alarming speed. I let out a grunt in disgust and rolled over to check the time. 7.00am – completely unacceptable. The knock increased in volume, as I rolled out of bed – staggered backwards and forth putting on my trousers, and made my way to the door.
I’ve been in Hanoi for three months now. A quarter of my contracted time. It’s strange how quickly you become wrapped up in a new place. Even when I’m thinking of new things to write about; everything begins to blur together. The last three months have flown by. Rocketed by even.
The air is smoky and filled with the smell of sizzling chicken. Welcome to Chicken Street. Locals know it as Pho Ly Van Phuc – but I don’t believe it has quite the same ring.