Sunday, 11 April 2010

Roll with it

One of the funny things that happens when you spend several months living out of a backpack and sleeping in different places sometimes every other night, is you develop a few rituals to get some sense of organisation in your life and to try and prevent every room you stay in from resembling a second year students bedroom in the space of two hours of your arrival. It's probably fair to say this applies more to a couple travelling together than a single bloke/girl/bunch of mates on the road, as you've already developed some domestic habits back home to stop each other from going berserk on a regular basis, but bathrooms in particular seem to have become an area in which we've just kind of unwittingly established some rules.

Wearing contact lenses, I take over one side of the sink while Sam has the other (generally tidier) side, and toothbrushes are always left with the heads hanging off the side of the sink to stop any nasty little buggy thwangs running all over them in the night. I've even become quite good at putting the top back on the toothpaste, which is a good thing too, as it's never pleasant to wake up to a two metre motorway of army ants coming from a hole in the wall on the far side of the bathroom to stock up on a lifetimes supply of Colgate.

You may have noticed also from previous blogs that I seem to have a bit of a mild obsession with describing the idiosyncrasies of various hotels, home stays, shacks and dives we've found ourselves in, and bathrooms are probably one of the most interesting of these (you may well disagree). For some reason, Asia, in its long history of innovation (they had streetlamps while we were living in caves! etc..), seems never to have worked out any sense of bathroom ergonomics. Granted, Asian people do make use of bathroom facilities in different ways which we are all pretty clear on, but I still have not understood why in most bathrooms, which are the size of postage stamps, they continue to put toilet roll on a holder which is ALWAYS in the line of fire of the shower.

Asian bathrooms are basically "wetrooms", i.e, room with sink, toilet, bucket and pail and a shower, which drains away to a hole in the floor. More often than not the shower, of temperamental pressure, will fire all over the bathroom covering the sink, mirror and toilet; so inevitably you get used to taking the bog roll out of the room or wedging it somewhere stupid to prevent it getting soaked and a resultant trudge down to reception/local shop to get a replacement. Sam has far more brains on this sort of retarded behaviour, so its usually me that ends up finding these scenarios a pain in the arse. I don't know if it's because (particularly in India) they just don't give a shit about toilet paper (pardon the pun) that they do this, but it still bizarrely pisses me off. Maybe I will write to the Daily Mail about it.

One thing that did cheer me up on this lovely subject however, was a story Sam told me about a tenant she had while working back in Oxford who had a bit of bathroom trouble of his own. An Indian guy who'd been hired for some contract work by a English company had come over for a few weeks, and they'd paid for his accommodation in a smart short rental apartment. After receiving a call from the downstairs residents who were not happy people, they headed over to investigate and found that the Indian chap, thinking things were just as they would be back home, had decided to take his traditional shower and stood in the middle of the bathroom on the tiled floor while using a bucket to pour water over his head. Unfortunately English bathrooms don't work quite the same way, and the result was several gallons of water slowly leaking through the downstairs owners lounge ceiling. I guess everybody gets a little confused sometimes...

Anyway, Asian bathroom oddities aside, we had arrived in Dalat, which was another stunner in the Lonely Planets continual ability to get things totally fucking wrong. As far as we could ascertain, other than sitting atop a considerable range of mountains and being the home to Vietnams cheap and actually quite drinkable domestic wine, it had no particular redeeming features. However, we had met the lovely Stephanie from Holland on the bus up, who became our travel companion for the next several days and we had a great time knocking back the local plonk, taking some motorbikes out to the countryside for a few jollies (see pics for girls looking like female version of Seventies cop show CHIPS) and visiting the weird, and aptly titled "Crazy House", which looked like it had been designed by disciples of Guadi and H.R Geiger on a bad acid trip. All in, location aside, we had funny few days.

Next stop was Mui Ne, which was reached by without doubt the worst road we've ever been on. Parts of it actually looked like it had been ripped open by an earthquake (a combination of flooding and extreme heat seemed to be the real reason though), with two foot deep tears in the road in some places, meaning a relatively short windy bus ride ended up taking hours, and probably induced Sciatica in half the over thirties on the bus.

Mui Ne is basically a very hot, very long beach town with a small fishermans village at one end. It's popular with the Vietnamese for holidays as it has some very smart resorts, but also with Aussie Kite-surfers who come for some of the best Kite-surfing in the country along with Nha Trang. Some days there are so many kites on the water you wonder how they don't end up decapitating each other. We had come for a few days R&R though, and quickly met up with some people from Saarf Laahdan who we spent the following afternoons soaking up the sun and drinking round the pool with.

One of the main attractions nearby are the massive dunes, which look like something from the set of Starwars and are big enough to actually sledge down, so a bunch of us set out on motorbikes at five AM one morning to check them out. We overshot by about twenty miles and ended up a a tiny Vietnamese village where we encountered a few "fuel-based issues", i.e someone couldn't get the fuel cap open (not me for once). The locals obviously found this totally hilarious, but it was all resolved quickly and humorously after a trip to the village mechanic.

As it happens, getting lost on the motorbikes on a deserted ocean road at sunrise turned out to be a far better experience than the sand sledging itself, which was run by a group of initially pleasant ten year olds, who rapidly turned into a mini version of the Mafia once the tip turned out to be less than what they were angling for. There probably isn't much that beats the absurdity of being blackmailed to pay cash to a group of semi-psychotic pre-pubescants for the return of your flip-flops on the set of Starwars. I was half expecting Obi-Wan Kenobe to pop out from a bush and tell us to head for the service station before the Sand People came for us...

Anyway, having successfully escaped the wrath of the Vietnamese cast of Bugsy Malone, with funds still intact and flip flops on feet, we headed back for a tour of the "quaint" little fishermans village. We only stayed for about three minutes however as it stank so badly of salted dried squid in the late morning heat that it made it impossible to walk round, so it was back to Mui Ne for a swim and beers, not before grabbing a quick shower to get rid of the stench of rotten fruits de mer. Of course, I forgot the golden rule about the bog roll again, so it was off down the shop for me...
View our pics here:
Dalat and Mui Ne


  1. hai lovely's
    I loved the piece about the Asian bathrooms! Know the problem haha..
    Hope to meet you in London when your back!! Here everything is back to normal, working, hoping for some nice summer wether, almost not having any holidays anymore after my trip!
    Love Steph

  2. Nice work Benno very entertaining. See you guys in AUS.