CAT BA TOWN, Vietnam // Where did you come from? How did you get here? Where are you going next? How long have you been here? How long have you been traveling? How long are you going to travel for? Where else do you plan to go? Where are you from?
If I like someone, we get around to, "What is your name?” which ironically is not a mandatory question or typically in the top 20 questions asked. These are the standard questions asked of other travelers. They are valuable questions that help you plan your trip. Someone has always just come from where you are going or vice versa. First hand accounts and recommendations are more helpful than anything read in a book or a blog. These conversations don’t take long and typically are the end of the discussion, but with a rare few you get into some deeper grounds. We’ve been fortunate here in Cat Ba to find some real gems.
The first group we talked to at the Woodstock Beach Camp. They were sitting around us at family dinner and we talked until midnight over some beers. These guys were some of the most entertaining crazy guys we’ve met. Two Canadians and one English guy. They bought motorbikes in Hanoi and are driving them all over Vietnam. They call themselves the D.A.R.K. riders based on the initials of their first names. If you want to read their blog it reminds me of a mix between the book "I Hope they Serve Beer in Hell” and the movie "Hangover Part II". They karaoke with cops, get robbed at road sides, buy badges off Siem Reap officers, and get tattoos that say “#SHOTGUN50" after shotgunning 50 beers in one day. Listening to them retell their stories makes you laugh until you cry // rutisup.com // We touched on almost all world problems. We talked about the garbage vortex swirling in the Pacific Ocean that recently killed 13 sperm whales whose stomachs were full of plastic, garbage, and car parts. We talked about the ape being shot in the zoo, and Trump starting world wars. We talked about racism and the names of sports teams in the US. We touched on how Canada has more rules than the US. We discussed the use of the word “gay” and how some things are extremely offensive to say in the US that are fine in Canada. We talked about work and expensing things, but making sure to not go over our allotted 15% tip factor. The conversation naturally flowed as our stream of conscious moved. There were many other topics discussed, but as it always happened, half of our profound thoughts were gone by the morning.
The second group we met we went deep water soloing and kayaking with in Lan Ha Bay. They were all around our age. One couple from New Zealand who declared themselves unemployed as well, and another couple from Argentina and Germany were here on holiday from a job of actuary science and an IT consultant. We skipped the twenty questions since we had common experiences from the day to discuss. How great that crag was. How scary and polluted the water looked with the garbage floating in it. How the large jellyfish was eating the smaller jellyfish. How this place was going to be like Thailand in 2 years as they continue to build party huts. How great holding an icy cold beer in your hands feels after rock climbing. When we got back from our adventures we continued the conversation over drinks and dinner. We talked about traveling as a couple and the communication required during tough times. One couple enjoys charade communication. They were constantly making signs to each other and laughing. How when its really hot and humid there is an automatic, “don’t touch me rule” that gets put in place. How much we budget and what they include and don’t include in the budget. Flights and clothing purchases shouldn’t be included in the daily budget for some people. Then we got into work topics, and we found out the guy from New Zealand actually is working as he owns a custom print shop. He is doing fair trade recon for his company at which point I had to un cheers him from our unemployment cheers earlier. He is also volunteering to make websites for almost every business he has met along the way of his travels, from the mud hut homestay in Sapa, to the ice cream street vendor where we got "Kem Xoi", coconut ice cream with sweet sticky rice.
These interactions have been welcome as Adam and I have been fairly stuck in the 20 question game with most other people we met.