By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
September 1, 2010
More letters home from Vietnam. (Previously.)
I have big, round hickeys all over my back. After I writing some emails, I walked back to my hotel - circa 10pm - and at the city's major intersection, a man and a woman had mats laid out on the sidewalk. "Massa?" the woman called out. I stopped, intrigued by the total ludicrousness of the offer. "How much?" I asked. "Fi' dolla," she said. "I don't know," I said. She jumped up, ran around behind me and started massaging my shoulders. "Oh, fine," I said, figuring I'd spent way too much time sitting on buses over the last few days, and since it was a husband and wife team and they were right out in the open - on the sidewalk! - why not? So I took off my shirt and laid town on the mat, and both the man and the woman set to work smacking various parts of my body. They were distracted for a while by my back hair, and sent into spasms of hilarity by my chest hair. I just laughed and watched cars go by.
Eventually, another customer (Vietnamese) came by, so the man went to work on him, and the woman lit a small torch and began putting small wine glasses on my back. I couldn't see exactly how she was doing it, but she was using the heat from the torch to create a vacuum inside the glass, which then made the glass suck on my skin. I'm not sure if it had any therapeutic value or not, but it was pretty memorable to be lying on the sidewalk at a major intersection with no shirt and several wine-glasses stuck to my back and arms. She offered to do my front as well, but it was getting near 11pm, and the doors of the hotel were supposed to close then, so she plucked off the wine glasses and I headed back to my room. Now I have a few dark hickeys on my back, which is perfect timing for going to the beach today and tomorrow.
The wine-glass massage felt okay. My left arm was a little sore the next day - the husband was much stronger than the wife and he was working on that side - but not painful. The hickeys still look gross, but again, no pain. A good hour-long Thai massage costs less than $5, whereas the Vietnamese are experts at tacking things on to the cost - it'd cost more like $45 here, so I haven't bothered with a proper one. (The sidewalk massage, as I said, was an even $5, which was exactly what I had left in US dollars in my wallet at that time. I guess they had about $5 worth of expertise. Fair enough.)
Only a few minutes to write and eat dinner. I had 45 minutes between buses, thought it would be an hour and a half. Nha Trang in the morning - look north, along the coast.
The overnight bus ride could have been worse. I certainly didn't sleep well, but I woke up without any lasting aches or pains, so I guess I got through it okay. Stumbled into a hotel room without really being aware of what I was doing and slept a couple hours more, was relieved upon awaking to discover that it was a reasonably nice room ($6 a night). The weather is incrementally cooler here. Although there as many foreigners a locals from what I've seen so far, I'm inclined to relax on the beach for a day or two. There are some islands out in the bay and I saw mention of a "Monkey Island" so I'm going to look into chartering a boat.
The local internet cafe had a printer - I helped them set it up, and they decided to charge about 12 cents a page - and I found a boat to take me to Monkey Island tomorrow. (Apparently, the official name is Lao Island.)
My mother emailed me to wish me a Happy Easter. (She'd like to believe I know when Easter is and will do anything about it, I guess.)
Of course I'm alive, Mom. It takes a little more than a couple of border crossings to get rid of me. I'm in Nha Trang along the southern coast of Vietnam if you'd like to follow on a map. (Or, knowing you, maybe you'd just rather not know.)
(ED: My mother was, indeed, happier not knowing any more than that, and politely declined to hear about anything else I did for the rest of the trip.)
Exhausted again, but all's well. I have a bus to catch in about an hour. The boats worked out fine today. I spent the morning on an island, just swimming and gazing out at the blue blue sea, and then in the afternoon, I took another boat to the monkey island. I was kind of worried because, shortly after setting foot on the island, I lost the ability to say anything other than "monkeys monkeys monkeys", and I had some concern that it might be a permanent condition, but in time, clarity was restored.
Whoever manages this island wasn't doing anything to keep the monkey population under control like the Japanese do at their various monkey centers, so there were quite a few monkeys running amok on beach chairs and idle jet skis, probably more than the island should be able to handle. I think some people tried to establish a beach resort here, but the monkeys aren't having it. There were a few odd tourist attractions like a go-kart track, and the monkeys kept wandering out on the track as well.
Needless to say, I took something like 400 pictures, and will have quite an effort to whittle that down to a manageable number on the bus tonight.
Basically, imagine Detroit after they win a sports championship, but substitute monkeys for people, and it's a beach instead of the ghetto, and they win a championship every day.
I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.
Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.
January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.
Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.