Having called upon the NZ Blood Service to assist with excretion of my 100th donation, I was now able to shift focus to my other pressing endeavour.
The pressure I had been experiencing over past weeks to perform as required on my big day, on July 13th, on what would become that most blissful of Black Fridays, had been intense – true to form I had almost been expecting that I would find a way to thwart my ambitions or to somehow sabotage myself – but now it was over.
Now it was done, the pressure had been lifted and I could start planning in earnest my return to Southeast Asia.
Incidentally, around 12 months ago when I made my debut appearance unto the landscapes of Vietnam, while bearing in mind the mantra that I hold so true – ‘Good Fortune is what happens when Opportunity meets Preparation’ – several weeks before my departure date I had entered onto a Vietnamese dating site, in the hope of establishing some contacts…
Funny thing about that Cupid.com Vietnam: I paid, I think, 30NZD for one month’s membership then three weeks later closed the account and left for actual Vietnam (along with, of course, a number of supposed contacts from up and down the country which, should I have felt able to break off from my tour group, I was hoping to engage in the coming weeks); then upon my return to New Zealand – in actuality having engaged none of the woman with whom I had been chatting online but instead having met myriad actual Vietnamese women – I turned on my computer to find that, despite my authority to the contrary, Cupid.com had ‘automatically renewed’ my membership meaning that all the time I was in Vietnam my New Zealand Internet connection was maintaining a membership with a Vietnamese dating site which I had zero ability to access given that I was in Vietnam and my PC in New Zealand.
…In fact there had been one Viet woman who I had met online in the build-up to last year’s trip with whom I had become rather close and who I was excited to be meeting, as per our arrangement, in the foyer of my hotel on the afternoon of my arrival but, on account of a six and a half hour plane delay also my own lack of a Smartphone thus no way to make contact with her after the aforementioned airline debacle (then there had been the missing luggage which had stolen from me any last desire I had to meet let alone befriend Vietnamese folk anyway), Good Fortune had apparently not been favouring me on that particular occasion.
Another funny thing about Cupid.com Vietnam, just recently I was contacted via email by a Vietnamese woman who evidently, according to my past email to her, I had contacted almost 12 months ago:
I dont see you letter, and sorry for late
Hope to see you the nearest day. If you come to Vietnam visit me, very pleased to be acquainted with you. Can you give me your face book?’
This Vietnamese woman was claiming to have only found my email almost 12 months after I had sent it (I recall 12 months ago coming up with the brilliant scheme wherein, instead of being charged Cupid.com’s exorbitant messaging service fee, I realised I could make contact with the women on the dating site then, still while using the site’s ‘complimentary first three’ messages, I would offer my Outlook email address or Facebook link) and furthermore, conveniently, she found my 12-month-old message just as I am preparing to return to her country; I suspect these people assume that ‘English’, as they call us, are mostly idiots.
This phenomenon also goes some way to bolstering my theory that much of the Vietnamese population – most of the Ho Chi Min City populous anyway – is communicatively intertwined…
My belief that the majority of Vietnamese folk are in communication with each other regarding the movements, actions, spending habits and preferences of their many English tourists is not something that I have previously documented for fear of being labelled a Conspiracy Theorist, but the more I contemplate the possibility – indeed the more I conspire – the more logical the notion becomes.
…Given they are a country whose only substantial international income is tourism and given also the horrifically undervalued state of the VND – approximately 15,000 times less valuable than the NZD thus a person would require 15,000 Vietnamese dong to buy just one New Zealand dollar which, lest we forget is still only half the value of the US dollar – it makes sense in my head that these people would dedicate their lives to developing the most efficient method of extracting money from these Western tourists.
Last year when my tour group arrived in Nha Trang, having spent the previous few days being plundered and swindled in HCMC where, for the record many Viet folk actually seemed to know about my missing luggage without needing to be told by me at all, although our group was only one of many, I swear the looks I received from other Vietnamese tour guides, from various shopkeepers and other service providers, were often looks of sly recognition; smiling and nodding knowingly as though anticipating or almost expecting of my actions…
A few weeks after HCMC we spent the last day of the tour in Hanoi, and this is where my ‘conspiracy theory’ was given a reality boost; spending the afternoon just wandering around Vietnam’s capital city I ducked away to escape the heat into a (blissfully licensed) café. I approached the counter and ordered a café sua, nuok da (white coffee, iced), then indicated behind the bar at the bottles of liquor, articulating along with two raised fingers, ‘hie’ (two, or in this case, double). The man looked at me, initially perplexed then slowly smiled – that unnerving, knowing grin that says ‘Ah, yes Sir, I know about you’ – then through his stained teeth laboriously articulated the inquiry/statement, “Ooh, you lie da wikky, yea..?”
“Kahm urn,” I said, “Whisky … Scotch.”
It occurred to me later that, given my general indication towards the rows of liquor, there was no way that attendant could have known that I wanted to spike my coffee with whisky rather than, for example, the much more common Baileys or Kahlua, rum, bourbon or in fact any other one of those bottles of booze; any person who had known me over the last few weeks however would have been only too familiar with my penchant for scotch, and in particular, the way I liked to use it to ruin a perfectly palatable Vietnamese iced coffee.
Whatever scheme they’re operating, this Viet woman who contacted me one year belatedly but who just ‘happened’ to catch me a few weeks out from my return to her country, it is clearly one of great functionality.
While I am aware – indeed I have always been aware – of transcendent Asian intellects and otherworldly abilities, I do believe there is even more to this ancient culture of people than their amazing knack of doing sums and extracting cash from tourists.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Lye Da Wiki
Photography by Swan D’Lah