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Published: April 9th 2010
Day 128: Sunday, April 4th, 2010.
Since I wasn't checking out until Noon, I went with Susan down to breakfast around 9:30 am. The remaining gang was all down there so we got to chat one more time. I said goodbye to them all again and went upstairs to try to catch up on the pictures and blog and to enjoy TV. This hotel was actually quite nice so I was able to sit back, relax, and not wondering about germs and critters. Susan took off around 10 am to do some last minute shopping so I was on my own for my final 2 hours there.
I headed down to the lobby around 11:30 am and Rita had just gotten there as well. The desk clerk ordered us a taxi and we were whisked off to our next hotel, the one star Victory Hotel (I googled it and can only find links to the nice Victory Hotel- that's not where we stayed). We get our room key (we'll be rooming together for this duration it looks like) and we're told we're on the 4th floor and there isn't a lift. Fucking hell, I want to go
back to the Hong Ngoc Hotel. A porter carries Monstro up the stairs for me (and another carries Rita's bag) and we're shown to our room. While the room is clean (bedroom is at least- some serious stains in the bathtub), it is definitely a lesser quality than the Hong Ngoc Hotel. 😞 Since I am touristed out, as I seem to be more often these days, I turn on the TV, find "True Blood" on HBO and do a happy squeal as I settle onto my bed. Rita goes off to find a Post Office (sent my extra stuff to John and Sarah yesterday) so I get to chill on my own again for a few hours. That's one bad thing about touring with a group- not a lot of alone time unless you want to go out and hide in the city. Then, while I have fun doing that, I'm not relaxing because I'm constantly staring at a map trying to figure out where I am. Hard price to pay for the joy of traveling the world I guess.
Around 5;45pm, Rita and I head downstairs to meet our next group. I see an Intrepid group set up in the breakfast room so I start to walk in there when the desk clerk stops me and says that that is the bigger group, I'm with the smaller group and meeting in the lobby. I sit with Rita and soon our Tour Manager, Ling, shows up. She says we're missing 2 people and just then Judy and Dick show up (from Australia but originally from South Africa). And, that is our entire group- just the five of us. Very cozy and, needless to say, it's easy to get to know everyone but a downside quickly becomes apparent. Fewer people in the group means that we rely on public transportation instead of rented buses more often (since we don't have a bunch of people to pay for the fare.) Hmm, that aspect is not pleasing me as you will see in days to come (currently writing this on 4/8/10 while at a "homestay" in Hua Shan, China).
So, Ling says that it's better to do all the paperwork and get to know each other over drinks so she takes us to a restaurant nearby where we proceed to work on paperwork and get to know each other all before a waiter approaches us for any kind of drink/food order. I see lasagna on the menu and I'm tempted to go Western again but I decide to not disappoint my new tour mates right away so I order some chicken skewer thing (which of course was very good.) Judy is a retired nurse and Dick a retired doctor and they have done a lot of traveling so I sense many fun stories to come. They both are a lot of fun and will be good to hang with.
On our way back to the hotel, Ling asks us if we want to stop at a grocery store and pick up supplies for the next few days (a lot of travel time ahead of us). I haven't seen a grocery store since Australia so I'm thrilled with that aspect and say yes. So, I still don't agree with Ling when she says it "was just around the corner from the hotel" because we walked a damn long time in the sprinkling rain. It wasn't fun. We get there and it's about the size of a very very small 7-11 but is a store, so I stock up on Oreos, Ritz crackers and gum. Plus, bonus! They have Hershey Hugs! Funny thing is, the Hershey Hugs cost 50% of my food bill (which brought it up to a whopping $10.) We get outside and we're all tired so we get a taxi. I'm in the front seat and he's been driving for about a minute when we all voice that we think he's going the wrong way. Ling doesn't speak Vietnamese (she's Chinese) so she's telling him he's wrong in English and he's yelling back at her. They all then start asking me if he knows where he's going. How the hell do I know? I can say "Hello" and "Thank you" in Vietnamese, neither of which are appropriate right now. We stick it out another 2 minutes and Ling starts hitting the back of his seat (Chinese seem to be very aggressive!) saying he's ripping us off. He stops at a light and I suggest we just get out and get another taxi. I open the door and glance at the driver to see if he's going to cause a problem and he is madly motioning for me to get out of his cab so he was happy with our decision. We hail another taxi and this one immediately takes us in the right direction and, after doubting him once and making him mad, gets us to our hotel with no problem.
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