Ain’t Nothin’ But a Mistake

18 October

I had booked the Funky Monkey Four Island tour suggested by Snow. She said it had received positive reviews from other guests. I did not read the entire brochure she had given me, but what I did read made it sound like a unique experience. A bus was scheduled to pick me and two other guests staying at Mojzo Inn up at 8:30 am. I awoke with plenty of time to take advantage of the free breakfast offered by the cafe located on the top floor of the hostel.

The other two guests probably should never have gone. Continue Reading

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U-Turns

17 October

My alarm went off at 6:15 am. All of VASCO’s flights back to the mainland were scheduled for the morning, and I had selected one of the earlier options. The early departure (8:10 am) would provide me ample time to transfer to the train station to grab my ticket and board my 12:05 depature for Nha Trang.

I hit snooze and woke up 10 minutes later. Thus began the most needlessly expensive day of my trip.

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Burnt

16 October

In the end, the language barrier proved too difficult to overcome. I would receive a phone call from Len or Nga and show up at the place where we had been the previous night, but not see anyone. Len would text me, but his messages were mostly indecipherable even with my Google translate app. None of the guys had smartphones, which I found odd for young Vietnamese who could afford to visit Con Dao, so I could not snap a photo of where I was.

Until this point, I had survived without a Lonely Planet guide. Hell, I had not so much as seen anyone holding a guide. The only hostel I had thusfar stayed at was on Ko Phagnan and everyone there seemed to know exactly what their plan was for their stay. But, in hindsight, I should have used a printed guide for Con Dao.

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Litter

15 October

My flight to Con Dao was supposed to depart shortly before 10 am. I checked out of the Mi Linh hotel with more than ample time. As I walked to the airport, a man with a motorbike — I don’t even think he was a Xe Om driver by trade, just an opportunist — asked me where I was going and said he could get me to the domestic terminal for only 20,000 dong. I felt that was fair and agreed. He practiced his English asking me the typical questions and said “I hope to see you again” as I got off the motorbike in front of the terminal.

The domestic terminal at Tan Son Nhat was undergoing some significant construction, so the Vietnam Airlines check-in counters were separated from the budget airlines check-in counters, and it requires a walk outside on the side of the drop-off zone off the sidewalk in order to walk from one to the other. I had booked my flight through Vietnam Airlines’ web portal, so I started there, but was directed to the other domestic check-in area when they learned of my destination.

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Cages

14 October

In a repeat of the previous morning, Kalaya woke up late and was in a rush. She said goodbye to me in the guest bedroom and we hugged. I had given her a Washington DC shot glass as a gift the previous night.

There was much I wanted to talk to her about, but her rush, reminding me of so much of my own typical morning routine when at home, did not allow the time. So, I wrote it in couchsurfing.org’s messaging system.

Really, it is better that way. I’m far more thorough when writing than I am when discussing things in person.¬†First, I thanked her for opening her home to me and apologized for the phone situation that did not allow us to connect on Sunday. Then, I moved onto the meat.

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Hammer and Sickle

13 October, 6pm through midnight

There was a pattern I observed in my romantic misses during my high school and college years. Typically, I would become close with a girl, developing genuine friendship and respect, while she had a boyfriend. Sometimes I would make my feelings clear, sometimes I would not; it really did not make a difference. Eventually, the girl would begin talking to me about her boyfriend’s personal inadequacies. I could tell that she was comparing the guy directly to me and finding faults in the companion. (Usually, the problem was that the guy was dumb as bricks.) Shortly after expressing these concerns to me, she would break up with her boyfriend.

I learned survival, taught myself not to care. I was my single, good companion taking my comfort there.

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A note before reading Hammer and Sickle

If you have been following along as I post in real time, you should read this message. I have added some things in earlier posts and reference them in Hammer and Sickle.

Before I left for this trip and started this blog, I looked at other travel blogs that included couchsurfing. I came across one by a Canadian of Indian heritage who was travelling across the Southern United States. In one of her entries, she had a couple romantic days with the brother of one of her hosts in Alabama. The story was not particularly well written, but it had everything of good literature: complex characters, human and emotional conflicts, and even a recognition of the legacy of racism in the South without going over the top with commentary. It was just too good; I thought it might be fictionalized.

I don’t think it’s fiction anymore.

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