Sweaty Christmas! (Vietnam)

Vietnam ~ Halong Bay – 2013

I headed to Vietnam over the last Christmas holiday…which meant I was spending another Christmas away from my family and friends, which naturally sucks – but that’s not what this post is about…don’t get me wrong, obviously I love Santa and Jesus as much as the next guy…actually if only this was about them…at least I would have someone to blame.

Colbert GIF

Instead the blame lies with a catalog of errors and unfortunate situations – the first of which occurred on the festive date of the 25th of December; as my travel buddy was told, at the airport, that they wouldn’t be allowing him to fly, (YES. ON CHRISTMAS DAY, AT THE FUCKING AIRPORT – I ASSUME THE GRINCH WAS ON DUTY!), so consequently I would have to leave on my own…I suppose I was a little shell shocked at the whole episode as all I could muster to say was “well this is funny – but obviously not funny, funny…do you know what I mean? We’ll laugh at this later…like fifty years later…but still…this is…funny.” over and over and over again. For some reason it didn’t provide any comfort to my thwarted friend.

Not entirely surprising.

When I got on the plane I was already pissed off. I hadn’t able to find a free WIFI spot in the airport; I had wanted to send some season’s greetings to my loved ones back home…but no dice – unfortunately matters went from bad to worse when I found out who I was sat next to; to my left was a Vietnamese couple who were loved up to an obnoxious degree and were displaying that in my full view, I was happy for them (no I wasn’t but I don’t want to be mean) but it got a bit annoying when their respective elbows kept knocking into me whilst they were in the throws of passion.

“Errr, excuse me – can you…yeah, I’m here…can you…”

(Totally ignored)

“Erm, okay then. Never mind.”

(Elbow in the face)

In an attempt to counteract this situation I simply slid my earphones in (classic trick), and shuffled as far away from them as possible…it was then that I felt a knock on my right shoulder – I looked up and was greeted by an insanely hairy and sweaty middle-eastern man who stared down at me – “HULLO – YES, GET OUT!” he announced brashly,he then proceeded to literally pull me out of my – sorry – his seat, leaving a sweaty snail trail all over my arm. Except it wasn’t his seat! And I took unadulterated joy in watching his face drop as I proudly displayed my ticket and pointed to where he should be, I tried not to look so smug, I didn’t want to be wearing “HAHAHAHA I TOLD YOU, YOU IDIOT!” in quite so obvious a fashion – but I don’t think I hid it well, I have a real problem with smirking…it’s a disease. Anyway, he eventually sat down, and huffed and puffed in my general direction as if it was all somehow my fault…I ignored him and tried to wipe his sweat from my arm on the seat material behind me.

Gag Sick GIF

But something tore me away from my task…as to my HORROR I spun around to see the sweaty man pulling off his tank top to reveal his carpeted skin layer underneath, he then folded it and used it as a make shift flannel to scrape off the wretched grease and dirt on his body – making sure not to neglect the section under his man boobs, and the crevices of his armpits…I was nearly sick…and we hadn’t even started flying yet…the smell was horrendous…but he didn’t give one solitary shit – he just sat there, allowing the aroma of men’s changing rooms and sulfur to flood the whole cabin…I shuffled as far away as I could from his stench force field, only to be kicked in the shins by the excitably amorous couple to my left.

Seriously, worst flight ever.

Oh and the proceeding couple of hours after the flight were not much better, it took a crazy amount of time to get my on arrival visa…whilst in the line I noticed that I had put down the incorrect passport number, a 7 instead of a 9, something like that – so I spent the whole time waiting having what felt like a minor heart attack. Once it was my turn they glared at the error, but let me through anyway. By that time though, my arranged taxi pick up had fucked off, so I was forced to go with some random guy who claimed he knew the way. Oddly he drove for quite literally thirty seconds and then hopped out “BUI-BYE!” as another person hopped in and took the wheel, “HELLOW!” I thought it was somewhat bizarre, but my immense exhaustion meant it just went way over my head…but then it happened again; “BUI-BYE!”“HELLOW!” and again…“BUI-BYE!”“HELLOW!” What the fuck was going on here?! I mean, perhaps they all lived on route and this was some way in which they could all get home, perhaps it was a little system they had, or they were going to share the money, or perhaps this is just how they do things in Vietnam?

Soon you will be able to lie down John, soon…just nod and smile at every new driver, nod and smile, nod and smile…

It got better once I was actually there, after a day or two my friend was able to reunite with me – and from the crazily busy streets of Hanoi we made plans to travel to see the natural beauty of Halong Bay. And we weren’t disappointed. It’s just an absolutely breathtaking sight…I mean I’ve pored over countless photos…but seeing it in front of me, it just felt…surreal…I’m sure everyone says that, it’s an overused word these days, after all the world isn’t a fucking Dali painting – but there’s really not much else to say. I almost forgot about my travel woes. Oh, by the way the airline was China Eastern – I believe that is the name anyway. Horrible, horrible, horrible airline. Treat them as you would a person who claims that licking used urinal cakes gives them super powers. In other words, stay well away.

What made Halong Bay even better was the fact that we were able to get a very good price for this mini-trip! Thanks largely to our chiseled good looks! Okay…that wasn’t it, it was because we had a Vietnamese friend who was able to haggle the cost down…but…one can dream. Anyway, we were on one of the better boats – I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place amongst the fellow guests; an exquisitely wealthy oil tycoon and his family, a French-Canadian gay couple who loved talking about different wines, and a Russian lady who hated any talk of vodka…then…well, us. Just two young guys. Thankfully they were all lovely people, who didn’t hold it against me that I didn’t own a country manor or a wine-tasting certificate, so I soon forgot about any initial awkwardness.

As the boat travelled further and further out, the surrounding area became more and more, otherworldly…I don’t know how else to put it…but the way that the various top heavy cliff islands protrude from the water, is something like a science fiction scene…so far removed from my homeland anyway, that is for sure. And at random intervals you can catch other unusual sights…we once saw an old fisherman confidently rowing his boat using his monkey like feet, how he managed such dexterity I will never know! But he did all of that whilst controlling his fishing rod casually with his hands at the same time. It was simply…amazing. Then one time we passed by an entire small village that floated out in the middle of the islands – such a simple way of life, but I couldn’t help but feel like in lots of ways it was a more honest and less complicated life than myself and my shipmates were used to…anyway, I spotted a wide screen television in one of the huts…so at least if times were tough you could throw on some Friends re-runs.

Had a bit of a strange run in on the first evening though. The boat had stopped and anchored far out in the middle of the islands, alongside a few others. Somebody saw this as a golden opportunity…as I stepped out of the shower and walked out of the bathroom there was a TAP-TAP-TAP at the window…my friend and I almost jumped out of our respective skins – but as we peered cautiously out from our window there was nothing to be seen…”bird?” we pondered – TAP-TAP-TAP! There it was again…

This time we opened the window to get a good look around – perhaps it was the Russian lady playing a prank or something, or – oh…that’s when we saw an old wrinkled lady huddled into a small boat below us – she was surrounded with a smorgasbord of food and drink at her feet. I still had no top off which seemed to bother me way more than it bothered her, I began to wonder how long she had been sitting there peering in…hmm…anyway, as I made a solid attempt to hide my gross nipples I tried to peruse all she had to offer, there were cookies, crisps, wine, various spirits…wow, I mean there was something for everyone! She really did have her head screwed on!

Celebration GIF

I believe after much deliberation we opted for a large bottle of vodka, coca cola, and oreos…the menu of champions! For some reason we had it in our heads that it would be a party boat…stupid I know…but the rest of the ship called it a night at 9:00pm. Once we passed out the money and she gave us the goods, she rowed off into the darkness…never to be seen again…well, until we saw her knocking at the next boat’s windows that is!

In the morning we enjoyed some kayaking, cycling, and more! There’s a lot to do there, for such a fleeting visit we certainly packed a lot in! I do want to see a lot more of south-east Asia at large, but Vietnam feels like a place I could return to in years to come. Possibly with better travel arrangements…but then…well, there wouldn’t be any funny stories would there? China Eastern it is!

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48 Replies to “Sweaty Christmas! (Vietnam)”

  1. Oh my, I cannot begin to explain how much this made me laugh, especially the flight part. I sympathise completely, I had to sit next to a guy with raging BO on the way to Tokyo and I was bordering on homicidal for the whole 12 hours. Absolutely love this post 😀


    1. Oh my! haha! Well you can empathise for sure! I mean I think there should be some kind of spot check for these things, especially on long flights…thanks for stopping by, I am beyond happy you enjoyed the post! 😀


  2. Oh my gah. Sweaty guy probably had the hots for you and took off his shirt expecting you to admire his body. I just threw up in my mouth a little.
    I was on a Northwest flight to the Philippines a few years ago. I was nervous about who my seat mates would be in business class until a sweet-looking older lady sat down next to me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh. She looks nice and sane,’ but then before takeoff, she pulls a baby doll out of her large purse and proceeded to coddle and talk to it. This lasted the entire flight. It was kind of surreal.


    1. Oh God, Cary that certainly puts a different slant on the whole thing!

      hahaha, weirdos, weirdos everywhere! You should have complimented her child and asked to hold it…if you can’t beat em, join em! Wait. That’s terrible advice.


  3. Oh the joys of air travel – you make me want to dust off my passport and head to the airport – not! Still, the end result of your journey sounds well worth the discomfort 🙂


  4. The sweaty guy… not going to lie John, I actually felt kinda sick reading it. Like the kinda sick you feel when you see Don Vtio’s toes on Viva La Bam. Surely there is some rule about what you can wear on air planes? You go to an RSL: no flip flops, or singlets, men must wear collared shirts. You go on a plane… must wear clothes. I mean at the very least he could have karcherd himself down first!


      1. Yup that guy has no consideration for socially acceptable behaviour. Just to be clear I would have just as much problem with this behaviour if it was Joe Manganiello or Ryan Gosling. It doesn’t matter how much you look like a G.I. Joe action figure that is just nasty! 🙂


  5. Your are writing very realistic. I definitely smelled where you went through only by reading. I often spend 12 hours in a plane and I am always grateful when my neighbour is not smelling… Next Christmas at home I guess… 😉


  6. Hahaha! The loved up couple caught me laughing here. I could only imagine. Thats the best part of traveling — more or less, travelers will see the same spots as we go to the same countries, just at different times but the varied experiences we go through in our journey makes traveling addictive. Because we have different stories to tell even if we have gone to the same place. And i enjoyed your story! The loved up couple, i hope they still feel the same honeymoon-ish feeling now wherever they are. Haha

    Thanks for visiting my page, John! Come to the Philippines, too. 🙂


    1. You are exactly right, so many people flock to the same places but of course you cannot tell what will happen and what experiences you will encounter! 😀

      Oh and Philippines is on my list – I will be there sometime soon 😉


  7. I’ve had a few sweaty revolting a to sit next too in my travels. My daughter and I went to Vietnam and on the over night boat on Halong Bay, you are right you have to see it to understand it’s magnificent beauty. I so long to return again, with requiring a clothes peg on my nose for the plane.


    1. Oh yes, I am sure that second time around we would learn from certain mistakes (well in theory, haha!) I bet you had an amazing time mind, I haven’t ever heard of anyone NOT having a memorable trip – just breathtaking scenery, I am not a good enough writer to put it into words, but thankfully you know already!!


  8. You should be visiting Palawan, Philippines. Okay, I admit it I’m excited to hear of your would-be misadventures there (Forgive me for being rude, LOL) but I’m sure it would all be worth of all the hassle! Such a magnificent place.


  9. Your story captures passenger’s odd travel moments, somehow there is always the odd couple, the bully, the nerve wrecking taxi driver and the feeling of retuning to that place at the end of the century…i totally feel you, haha!

    Thanks for liking my post 🙂


  10. This was great! So funny. Vietnam is amazing. i got to got here in 1993. I saw amazing sights, too. Thanks for reminding me of them. Your flight is right up there with the worst aviation event in history.


  11. Hahaha you’re such a funny writer John! It reminded me of a flight we took from Venice to London – on one side there was this sweet angelic little child who remained calm, cute and quiet the whole flight, and on the other side were two spoilt, bratty kids who screamed (not cried, screamed) the ENTIRE FLIGHT. The parents didn’t even bother to take them for a walk, or give them some food or something to do… then they wondered why they were screaming?! Love thinking back on experiences though and you certainly learn a lot when you travel!
    Can’t wait to read more of your travel stories as I am a keen traveller myself 😀 Do you also have instagram?


  12. I have been laughing out loud reading about your funny travel stories 🙂 You write with a great sense of humour! Thanks for the like on my post too 🙂


  13. Great story! The visa on arrival system in Viet Nam is far less than efficient! Sweaty man was disgusting, but I know that we Westerners smell completely disgusting to most Vietnamese, what with all of our dairy, meat, and body hair to collect sweat. Most people just plugged their noses and stared at us in disgust, especially on elevators, or in busses.


  14. Glad you enjoyed Vietnam and the Halong Bay!Next time you should take Vietnam Airlines or Cathay Airline 🙂 these are the Airlines I usually take to fly to Vietnam to visit my family 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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