Good morning Vietnam! It was my second day in Hanoi and my fifth day in Vietnam. I started in Ho Chi Minh City, (or Saigon depending on who you ask), in the south and had managed to make my way up north to the very communist capital of Hanoi. During my time in Saigon I had come into contact with sort of stomach virus., and I will spare you the details, but it made for a very uncomfortable journey north and a few restless nights. However this was a new day, a guide was picking us up at 6:30am for our four hour car ride to Ha Long Bay where we were to take a boat trip around the small islands in the area and see the caves and beaches that we had heard were so amazing. We headed downstairs to have breakfast and meet our guide for the day.
When we got downstairs our “English” speaking guide greeted us,. Nnow I say “English” because her English was just about as good as my Spanish;, I can get a few words out and maybe form a sentence, but once you start taking to me I can’t understand a thing, and neither could she. We are were persuaded to skip our breakfast and are rushed out to meet our driver and in order to hit the streets of Hanoi by 6:45am.
Very few things in Vietnam are organized and regulated, and the roads are no exception. This was going to be no peaceful four-hour drive to the beach. In Vietnam, it seems everyone and their sister rides a motor scooter. and Tthey ride them everywhere: including on the sidewalks, and in opposite lanes of traffic, really anything is fair game. This ride would havehad me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the trip. We began by driving through many poor neighborhoods, seeing the great poverty of the nation but none of this fazeds me because I was’m focused on the roads. Allow me to set the scene; we are in a van driving down a two-lane road with three or four motor scooters on either side of our van and at least one other vehicle attempting to pass us at all times. We continue to drive in this fashion until our driver notices a vehicle in the oncoming lane at which point we speed up and try to maneuver around the motor scooters and other vehicles to get onto our side of the road and avoid a head on collision. This process repeats itself every three minutes for the entirety of our ride to Ha Long Bay.; Nneedless to say, I saw my life flash before my eyes a very many times over the course of this car ride.
About two hours into our trip, we are told we are going to be making a stop at a local art and clothing factory where we can use the bathroom, get a drink, and of course spend money on souvenirs. We arrive at this factory to the welcoming sign of “Factory for disabled workers” − not really what I was expecting for our first stop on our cultural journey through Vietnam. I’m an easy going person and open to all kinds of new experiences, but this place was not on my list of things to do,. I’m talking sweat shop conditions, dust and dirt everywhere with horribly disabled and disfigured men and women working sowing machines and carving rocks; this place made the car ride to get there seem like a relaxing experience. I couldn’t wait to leave and finally after thirty minutes I found my guide and , my driver and informed them I was ready to leave. We continued our death defying drive for another two hours before we finally reached Ha Long Bay.
We arrive in the heat of the day and our guide tells us to take a seat while she goes and purchases us tickets for the boat ride. We couldn’t have been happier to finally get out of the car and get onto the boat, see the sights and of course eat lunch. Our guide returneds about ten minutes later, she comes up to me hesitantly and says,
“ I have good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first?”
I’m thinking this is not good, what could she possibly have to tell me? I respond,
“Bad news first, that way we can end the conversation on a high note.”
She says, “Bad news is there are no boats going out today due to new government regulations.”
My jaw drops; The whole purpose of this day was to go on this boat ride and see Ha Long Bay and now she’s telling me that’s not going to happen. Tthe disappointment immediately begins to set in but in the back of my head I’m thinking, ok well she said there is good news lets hear it.
I ask, “So ok what’s the good news?”
She says, “We are in Ha Long Bay.” Now I’m really confused.
I respond, “How is this good news?”
She says, “You are here in Ha Long Bay so that is good, now we must go back to Hanoi, and by the way there will be no refund for any of today’s planed activities.”
I almost can’t believe my ears saying.
“This is the good news you have for me? This is unacceptable!”
But she saidys “there is nothing she can do.”
Before we leave we ask to use the bathroom and are pointed in the right direction. When we reach the bathroom, we were stopped by security guards demanding money to use the facilitiessecurity guards demanding money to use the facilities stopped us. I, it was bad enough I have to pay for a boat trip that I can’t go on but now I also have to pay to use the toilet! We get back in the van and begin our four-hour ride back to Hanoi.
Before we begin we ask the guide if there is somewhere nice we can stop for lunch along the way as to avoid completely wasting the day.
She says, “Yes, yes, of course we will stop for a very nice lunch for you.”
I’m still very upset at this point but I’m starving and the thought of a good meal soundeds pretty good. We drive drove two hours and I’m yet to see a place where eating would even be a possibility for a westerner like me, but whatever I’m going with it. Suddenly my guide pipes up and says, “We are here!” I look around and I must admit I am very confused I see nowhere where good food could be had and as we make the next turn what do I see but the factory for disabled workers. I can’t believe it. This is the nice restaurant that we are being taken to? This must be some kind of joke, I’m thinking, but of course it isn’t. I tell the guide I have no interest in eating in a factory and to please take us back to Hanoi, she reluctantly agrees.
We drive another two hours and finally make it back to Hanoi, but before we get to the hotel the guide pops up and says, “My company would like to buy you lunch.” We refuse many times but this message just isn’t getting through and before we know it we are parked in front of a Vietnamese restaurant in the old quarter of Hanoi. We go inside begrudgingly but happy to be eating since we haven’t eaten all day. Soon after we sit down, food arrives without us even ordering, and we are informed we will be eating from a set menu. So now I’m at a restaurant I don’t want to be at, on a tour I no longer want to be on, being served food I don’t want to eat! The meal consists of the staples of Vietnamese cuisine: lemon grass, chewy pork, rice and vegetables smothered in some sort of sauce. At this point I just want to get back to my hotel, this day has been all too much. We eat what we can force down and go outside in search for our guide, but not after being ridiculed at the restaurant for not finishing our food, which is apparently the custom in this part of the world, now I’m really starting to love this country and its people...
We find our guide and are finally taken back to our hotel. When I see the gate, feelings of joy and relief overtake me, and I just can’t wait to get out of the car. I quickly open the door to the van wanting nothing more but to run away from this awful experience, but just before I get away I’m stopped one more time by my guide for what I’m sure is going to be an apology; but no that would be much too nice a way to end this day. She looks and me and says, “Tip for me and driver now please.” I could do nothing but smile and laugh as I walked away, this day had just been all too much.
Adam --- Good story overall, I think you have an excellent draft thus far. I think you have some opportunities to play on stereotypes here, which could make your text even funnier. Playing on the way your guide spoke, for example, would be a good stereotypical inclusion for your story, enhancing the comedic effect. As for grammar … I think you need to be careful with run-on sentences and fragments. Also be careful with your tense usage and the way you change mid-paragraph. It can get a bit confusing. But overall, I thought you have a great story. Good job!