Hope you had a great New Year.
We went to Da Nang in Vietnam which is a popular holiday destination to go to from Korea. And on New Year’s Day, while on a local bus to the Marble Mountain, a Vietnamese version of Careless Whisper started to play.
This song came out when I was a teenager. Lots of memories. But listening to this version just a week after George Michael’s death was both sad and surreal…
After spending so much time in the tourist areas it was interesting to see a bit of ordinary Vietnam life.
That morning after breakfast I had stood and looked out at the rice fields behind the resort. It was raining but a man in bare feet was standing in the flooded rice field with a kind of rake heaving around the muddy soil. His job was a million miles away from the porter working just over the fence who wheeled our Samsonite suitcase 50 metres from the reception to our room and waited for a tip. Tourism is a strange beast.
Anyway, three people were working on the small bus we got from Hoi An to Da Nang which takes about an hour. First there was the driver who enjoyed drinking iced coffee and smoking, and did a lot of tooting his horn and weaving in and out of scooters and past cows grazing on grassy sides of the roads and roundabouts.
Then there was a young man who stood at the open door at the back of the bus. His job was to help people on and off the bus. He also shouted and waved his arms at scooters and cars when they didn’t move out of the way.
He was actually very busy because the bus didn’t always come to a complete stop, so when it slowed down, he jumped off the bus carrying child passengers safely to the kerb and even escorting children traveling alone across the road. We saw an old lady waiting at one bus stop with about 10 huge bags of vegetables. The bus was already full and we wondered how she was going to get all her stuff on. But the young man just jumped off and chucked everything in the trunk of the bus while she got on without looking back. The bus set off again and the he had to run to catch up and jumped back on just in time!
Then he signalled to us when it was time to get off. He took my hand to help me down the step which was sweet. (And helpful since I have terrible balance and would usually fall over in that kind of situation.) He helped Mr Kim off the bus too.
And finally, there was a lady bus conductor who collected the money. (In Vietnam it seemed that it was usually women who were in charge of money!) It was a cute bus ride. But we got off to a shaky start on our quest for normal life when the conductor charged us 50,000 dong each (about 2,500 won) for tickets that apparently should cost 20,000 dong. Sigh. Tourist rates again. (On the way back we got charged 30,000 dong each! So a bit cheaper.) When Mr Kim very gently challenged her about the higher price, she said it was ‘happy new year price’…
Oh really? Well in that case, Thank You very much. Happy New Year.