Today I got bitten by a dog, smacked in the eye by some kind of large flying insect, and almost knocked out by an angry hotel owner.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I rode a lot today, eating up the road ahead under a cloudy and rather uninspiring sky. It was perhaps a good thing that the weather was so gloomy because at the speed I have been going, I wouldn’t reach Hanoi until next month. That wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have to make a flight leaving Vietnam on April 30th. So today I simply got on the bike and rode until I arrived in the Ha Long Bay area as the daylight began to fade.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I stopped a few times here and there, mostly on bridges to watch the ships rolling over the waters below me. In populated areas, the rivers here are only fractionally less busy than the roads. Floating markets and boats selling cooked-to-order meals drift up and down the rivers. Larger boats travel up and down the river carrying all kinds of things, and often weighed down to the point that water is coming over the bow! As I watched one busy river teeming with overloaded boats, I wonder how many sunken vessels might lay at the bottom of the murky brown river.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

In the afternoon I stopped by a small temple just to stretch my legs and take a look around. My arrival woke a sleeping dog who was evidently quite grumpy about being so rudely awoken. He barked and snarled at me as I wandered around the temple, then as I was leaving he decided to take a bit at my ankle before he skulked off back to his bed. I stopped to look at the bit (very superficial) and as I did he gave one final and rather lazy bark as if to tell me that I wouldn’t be welcome there again.

Later on, while probably at the fastest speed I have ridden (80kph/50mph) a large insect smashed right into my eye. How does that happen? These insects spend their lives flying and surely they could realize the danger or a road? Was it just playing dare or something? I imagine a few of its insect pals sat on the side of the road laughing their insect asses off as their dumb friend misjudges the trajectory of my motorbike he’s supposed to be bravely avoiding.

Eventually, I reached Ha Long Bay as the street lights flickered on and the road was now a sea of red and white lights. I stopped for a bowl of Pho Ba (beef noodle soup) before looking for a suitable hotel for the night.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

The hotel I chose was a simple but comfortable place away from the main tourist hotels. The owner didn’t speak much English, but enough to get by, or so I thought until I asked if there was internet access.

“You have wifi?” I asked.
The manager smiled and said “Yes.”

We then went upstairs to check the room. All seemed well until I realized that the wifi didn’t seem to reach the room he was showing me.

“The wifi is here?” I asked, motioning to the room around me with my hand. Again he nodded, as he led me out of the room.

“Nice room,” he said. “Yes it is a nice room, but I do need wifi,” I explained as we walked down the hall to the stairs. He didn’t seem to understand me so I tried to make things clearer.

As we reached the front desk I pointed upstairs.

“I need wifi in the room,” I said.

He looked puzzled and smiled in that way you know is a question. So I decided to speak and use sign language to help. I pointed at him then made a typing gesture with my hand.

“Your wifi,” I said, then pointed upstairs. “I need inside room.”

His face turned from a friendly and somewhat confused smile into that of a man insulted. He stood up straight and almost puffed out his chest as he began angrily shouting at me in Vietnamese.

I was confused and didn’t know what the problem was. I tried to speak but he just got angrier. Clearly, I had upset the friendly hotel owner somehow.

“It’s a nice hotel,” I said with my hands up in a non-confrontational manner. “Very nice room.” This wasn’t helping.

The now enraged hotel owner came around from the other side of the reception desk, picked up my bag, and stormed toward the hotel entrance, all the while still shouting at me as I followed trying as best I could to calm the situation down.

He opened the glass door and tossed my bag onto the dusty street then manhandled me out of the hotel while shouting and pointing at me with the room key still in his hand and his face now red with rage.

I picked up my bag and wondered what just happened. Then I saw a young woman emerge from a back room inside the hotel. She looked concerned as she rushed toward the man who I later learned was her father. They exchanged a few words before she ran to the door to come and speak to me.

“Wifi?” She asked.

“Yes, wifi. Internet,” I said. I opened my bag and quickly took out my laptop and pointed at it saying “wifi… internet… wifi.”

She shouted something back at her father, which made him rush to the door and out onto the street next to me. He was smiling an apologetic smile, brushing down my bag with his hand and speaking to me in Vietnamese as they both lead me back into the hotel lobby.

The young woman was speaking to her father, interjecting her words with English for me and apologies for a ‘mix up’ she said. As her father carried my bag back to the reception desk a somewhat stocky woman emerged from a back room.

“My mother,” said the young woman as the lady began to ask what was happening. Still confused I stood there as the young lady explained the situation, motioning at me, and the stairs, while her father nodded behind her and echoed what she said.

I didn’t understand any of what they were saying other than the word ‘wifi.’ But the concerned faces and furrowed brows quickly turned to smiles and suppressed laughter.

“Internet?” Asked the man, pointing at my laptop. I nodded, and he laughed.

“Internet,” he said again as he came over to me and patted me on my shoulder while taking my backpack and picking up my bag. “Sorry,” he said, smiling and gesturing to the computer, his wife now laughing and speaking to him in Vietnamese.

Their daughter explained to me that her father’s English is very poor and that people don’t say ‘wifi’ here, instead they say ‘internet.’ Apparently her father thought I had asked him if he had a wife, a question that I’ve become accustomed to answering as I travel across Asia.

However, the confusion arose when the mixup of the word ‘wifi’ and ‘wife’ was combined with my sign language of a keyboard that he interpreted as me asking him to send his wife to my room for a ‘massage.’

So with those little mishaps behind me, I’m now all checked in and ready to explore Ha Long Bay tomorrow when I hope the sun will be shining and the insects and dogs will be behaving themselves.

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 8
Read my tips about touring Vietnam on a motorbike

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