Before I embark on describing unto you the tall tale of woe that was my holiday in Vietnam, it is first important to provide you with some background surrounding the events of this expedition. For starters, something semi-important to know is that in Taiwan there is 5-week holiday that stretches from the middle of January till late February. This happens because of the religious and cultural difference here i.e. Christmas is not really a thing. Instead we worked through Christmas (I even had an exam on Christmas day), this is until early January which is when we are finally granted a holiday only needing to return after Chinese New Year which comes at around February. It was during this time that a friend and I decided it was high time to go for a holiday, to see more of Asia outside of Taiwan as well as avoid the cold Taiwanese winter. Therefore, for the holiday we decided to head towards the warmth and to explore Vietnam. Although we were correct about the warmth and exploration part, I wouldn’t personally describe the trip we embarked on as a holiday. If I were to sum up the trip in one word it would be ‘a unique experience’, a ‘unique experience which luckily did reach a happy ending, that happy ending being my continued survival. The second important piece of background knowledge that is semi relevant, in terms of the pirate thing is a small piece of information about myself. You see after surviving the trip it became clear to me that becoming a pirate must have been preordained. You see I have a squint meaning that as a child I wore an eye patch to correct this issue. Thus, clearly before I travelled to Vietnam the stage was already set.
Now to get into the actual tale. We set out from Taiwan; smiles on our faces, with a simple plan for our adventure. We would be arriving in Hanoi (Northern Capital City) from there we would travel south via the coast to Saigon (Southern Capital City), due to the overwhelming distance we would stop off at a few of the major coastal cities along the way. We would travel using night buses because this would save on hostel costs as well as stop us from spending 16+ hours stuck on buses during the days of our holiday. This would allow us to see quite a lot more of Vietnam during the short period of time we were there for. Although a genius piece of planning it didn’t save us after we ran, or more appropriately, crashed into some issues.
We arrived in Hanoi and stayed there for two days, getting acquainted with Vietnam, spending the two days sorting out bus tickets, booking hostel’s, getting a feel for the basic pricing…etc. Now that we had dipped out tip toes into the lake that was Vietnam, we felt prepared to begin our adventure. The first stop on our adventure was the City of Hue, known as the Imperial Capital of Vietnam. After spending a gruelling and uncomfortable journey on the night bus, we finally arrived at its the outskirt. We arrived at 6am, and due to the way Hue functions, we were stuck on the outskirts of the city; being forced to use motorbike taxis in order to get in and around the city. Although a bit scary, this short motorbike trip was for the most part fine. We arrived at the hostel and dropped off our belongings. However, like stupid fools my friend and I decided to take a trip around the imperial city in Hue. To do this, we had to ride around on the back of the aforementioned motorbike taxis. So, we hopped on and off we went. This was when the first big mistake happened. I was riding on the back of my taxi and my friend on his. We went around a corner and my bike skidded out of control as the driver swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, the driver ultimately failed to save the bike and the bike fell on its side, my right foot got caught underneath the brake pedal as we went over causing the full weight of the bike crush my foot while my top half smacked into the tarmac, thank god I was wearing a helmet. Although at first it seemed that I’d walked away pretty unscathed, just a few cuts and bruises and one large gash down my right arm, it soon became clear after about 30-mins (when the adrenaline wore off) that my right foot was properly buggered. 6 hours later after we’d finally gone to hospital it became apparent that I had quite badly fractured my right foot. However, armed with an assortment of pills to handle the pain and help reduce the swelling, I vowed to venture on ‘’this bad foot was not going to ruin my holiday’’, so with some help from my friend I limped back to the hostel.
Although I was in pain I had hope, the doctors had told it would take roughly three weeks to heel fully but I should be able to walk comfortably within seven days, so long as I rested up and didn’t partake in any dangerous behaviour. Although I couldn’t walk around, I could still hop places, this is how I got my first nickname of the holiday granted to me by my fellow backpackers as they were telling me how lucky I was it wasn’t broken. This first nickname was ‘hop-along’
The next stop was Hoi An. Hilariously when we jumped onto this second night bus there was a guy who was worse than me. He had fully broken his foot, it was in a cast and he had crutches. Although you may think this made me more grateful about my own condition, it didn’t. Instead I learned a new fun thing about the night buses. The night buses are designed for locals not foreigners, locals tend to be much shorter than foreigners. Therefore, the beds in the night bus are designed for people who are 5ft not 6ft. This wasn’t a big deal on the first night bus because I was fit and healthy, it may have been a little uncomfortable but nothing memorable. The second night bus was completely different story it was painful and uncomfortable because of my foot and the fact that I couldn’t have it be straight. Why do I relate this to the broken foot guy? Well because another fun fact is that broken feet, ankles, legs are all quite common in situations in Vietnam, in fact its so common that the buses are designed with a seat for people who need to hang their leg. However, this selfish broken leg guy stole that spot from me.
So, after a painful 14-hour journey on uneven roads, terrible traffic Etc we arrived in Hoi-An. Although at first it seemed really great the hostel we choose was much more modern and up to date. The location was a big problem, it was far far away from anything else, specifically the town. Although many of the other backpackers would simply walk there, that was a bit impossible for me to do. So, I was trapped in the hostel getting very bored. I hadn’t packed for a holiday indoors, I had packed for travel and so there was very little for me to do, especially since my companion was travelling around seeing sights and such. So, stage one of pirating behaviour began, I started developing ‘’cabin fever’’ which after a few days caused me to grow restless and give me a deep-seated longing to get out. My friend, being the rage against the machine kind of guy he was, had broken away from the other backpackers, rented a motorcycle which he used to drive inland a had been experiencing ‘the real Vietnam’, the untainted and un-commercialised version. Pretentious as the ‘Real Vietnam’ was, after a few days of stirring in my own insanity I didn’t care and just wanted to get out. After he promised to be extra super-duper careful and the fact that I was making a good recovery. I beseeched him to let me accompany him on his final day trip. We set of early in the morning, I rode on the back and to be fair although I called him pretentious we did see parts of Vietnam that were stunning.
Although beautiful and rewarding, the trip took just as much as it gave. Of course, I’m sure you know how this part of the story is going to end. On the journey back to the hostel, we came off the motor-way and went down a little mud slope towards the next road. Against my better judgement, I refused to get off the bike, as I trusted my friend, he had been safe all day, he wouldn’t crash the bike now, he had promised me. Oh boy how wrong I was, as we came down the mud slope my friend all of a sudden got whiskey grip/whiskey throttle (a motorcycle term to describe something amateur motorcyclists do where when they slightly panic they grip the handles tighter, which in turn speeds up the bike as the handles are the ignition; this in turn speeds up the bike more, further scaring the driver causing a tighter grip creating a cycle of danger). This led to us, instead of breaking and travelling slowly down the slope, to instead bombing down this steep mud slope at about 60MPH. We hit a rock badly, the bike leapt into the air, hit the ground spun out, my left leg went under the bike and my right hand got caught in the spinning wheel. 30 seconds after starting the decent down this mud slope I could now add twisted ankle and partially fractured left hand to my pirate transformation, as for all intents and purposes I now had a hook hand due to the fact that I couldn’t move it. Back to the situation, we were trapped in the middle of nowhere, late at night, to the side of some God forsaken motorway, with a totalled motorbike and a cripple. Depending on your outlook, either the largest saving grace of the situation of the largest part of God messing with me, was the fact that my friend who’d caused the crash had walked away from it virtually unscathed: he had one tiny weeny little cut on his leg. In comparison I had to pour a bottle of disinfectant on my hand because of all the bleeding (luckily, I was carrying a first aid kit). Anyway, we (I say we what is mean is my friend) managed to flag down a local who, after seeing me, proceeded to call me a taxi and helped repair the motorbike to a working condition. So, whilst my friend rode the motorcycle back to the hostel I got to take a second trip to a hospital, this time I didn’t require an X ray, it was clear from the moment I walked in that I’d sprained my ankle. I ended up just getting cleaned up and given a crutch to help me hobble around. They refused to give me a pair as they said the best healing would require me to put pressure on them. I now had a peg leg. Yay, it’s a pirate’s life for me.
After Hoi-An we travelled to a place called Nihn-Van which is an area in the south near the city of Nha-Trang, however, Nihn-Van it was quite a far away from the city. We stayed in a small hostel right on the seaside, it was warm and it was beautiful. Truly a beautiful place, just looking out of any window would greet you with gorgeous views that seemed to have been ripped straight from Instagram. However, I was still very immobile and thus couldn’t really engage in many of the beach associated activities. But, there was one thing I could do and that was kayaking which would be excellent especially since it doesn’t require the use of one’s feet. So, we all grabbed our own kayaks and headed out on the tour. It was a beautiful day and we were given some background into the area. However, on the way back, I started to notice something about my kayak, that it seemed to be a lot lower in the water. Cut away to ten minutes later and the kayak was sinking, solely mine and literally no other kayaks had sprung a leak! So, after nearly drowning (I’m normally a really good swimmer but the fact that I couldn’t really use my legs made swimming much harder than usual, I was also tired from all the kayaking) I hauled myself onto the front of someone else’s kayak and perched myself in between their legs although quite uncomfortably intimate it was successful and so we rowed home together. So, after nearly drowning I decided to maybe avoid the sea.
Next stop was Da Lat which was a really pleasant city, because we were getting closer to Saigon, the cities started to become much more developed and westernised. We only stayed there for three days as it was more or less just a stop off before we headed for Saigon. But what time we did spend there was enjoyable. There were two real things of note that happened during Da Lat. The first was that we stayed in a weed den. I realised this the moment we stepped in to the hostel at 3am and the hostess came and gave us a big hug whilst the pungent odour festivals made itself known. This was largely as a consequence of my friend. Whilst in Nihn-Van he’d been asking around for good hostels in Da Lat, and he’d been recommended this place in Da Lat. We now know why they had recommended this hostel so profusely. The second thing of note, it was also around about this time that I began to really embody the look of a pirate. When backpacking you’ll find that you need to pack light, you will thus not pack unnecessary items. One such item that I decided was not necessary was a shaving kit, it was during this third week of the trip in Da Lat that I had now grown a full beard thick wiry beard.
After Da Lat was Saigon. Saigon was quite nice we visited the Chui chi tunnels and such. However, the pirate point of note I ran into was actually quite a surprising one, especially seeing as its the twenty first century. Now, during the latter half the holiday my gums started bleeding excessively. Turns out I contracted a minor case of scurvy due to a combination of factors. The first was my diet changes, unbeknownst to me the vegetables that I had been eating whilst on the trip were incredibly low in vitamin C. This wouldn’t have really been an issue if my body wasn’t starving for vitamins thanks to all the blood loss and bone damage that I’d suffered. So ultimately, I ended up suffering from a vitamin C deficiency or, in layman’s terms: scurvy. Luckily after identifying the cause of the scurvy I found a solution. In order to counter the effects, I was advised to eat a lot of Pho, which is a popular soup dish in Vietnam. Specifically, I was advised to drown the dish in lime juice, as that was really the only good source of vitamin C. Therefore, after I caught scurvy in the 21st century, I managed to rectify the issue by sucking on limes.
Finally, from Saigon we flew out back towards Taiwan. All in all, after the trip I was crippled with a crutch, had developed a mild case of scurvy, nearly drowned, went a bit mad (lack of sleep) and grown a thick unkept beard. This in conjunction with all the drinking with my fellow backpackers (don’t worry, I didn’t mix painkillers and alcohol) meant that I walked away from Vietnam with the nickname of ‘hobble the pirate man’.