Good Teeth Good Husband. Backpacking In My Fiftieth Year
Ever wondered what to do in your 50th year? I went backing in Thailand and Vietnam and had some very interesting and amusing experiences.
- Lets Go Backpacking
- Arriving in Bangkok
- Koah San Road and Ping Pong Balls
- Upset Tummy and Viagra
- Phuket and Phi Phi Island
- Onto Vietnam Ho Chi Minh
- Cute Children
- Pamela Anderson
- Good Teeth Good Husband
- Drinks in Buckets
- Tourist Prices
- McDonald’s and Back Home
Lets Go Backpacking
During my 50th year I had just left my alcoholic husband, bought myself a lovely little house and treated myself to a jaguar car. I was self employed and had an established well paid career. My children had left home and were off doing their own thing. I was a free agent and decided that I was going to enjoy myself.
Towards the middle of the year a male friend and I, on impulse, decided to pack our rucksacks and go backpacking in Thailand and Vietnam for four weeks. My friend who had been to Thailand before advised me to pack as little as possible, we could always buy clothes out there. We booked our flights and decided that we would find accommodation when we arrived and also arrange our journey to Vietnam.
Arriving at Heathrow airport with my very little rucksack containing shorts, underwear, and tops I met my friend and at that stage wondered what on earth I was doing. Here I was at 50years old, going to a country I knew little about, didn’t know where I was going to be sleeping and accompanied by a man who I hadn’t really known for that long. Madness, but I had paid all that money for my flight so what the hell.
Arriving in Bangkok
The flight from London to Bangkok with Thai airways was long but the food was reasonable and the seats fairly comfortable. During the flight we relaxed, watched movies and slept, although my stomach turned now and again wondering what was ahead of me. Landing at Bangkok airport in the early hours of the morning was not fun; we were both very tired and bad tempered. Walking out into the open air I was hit by the intense heat, humidity and noise, cars and bikes everywhere. My friend had arranged to meet his brother at a hostel in Bangkok so we summons a taxi and off we went. My friend’s brother had been living in Bangkok for a few months and was one of those people who thought he was very hip and knew everything about living in Thailand. In his eyes I was a mere novice. I don’t think I need to say but I really didn’t like him. Anyway we booked into the same hostel as him and I decided to go off and have a shower, which I shared with numerous geckos! My friend had decided that we should share a room as it would cost less and we were on a restricted budget. Hmm any excuse. We sat around the hostel for a while chatting and eating. We then decided to go for a walk. During our stroll I was horrified to see rats the size of cats just outside our hostel, ‘Not sure I’m going to enjoy this holiday’ I thought to myself, my major pet hate is mice and rats. However not to further reinforce the views of my friend’s brother, that I was a whimp, I squirmed quietly.
Koah San Road and Ping Pong Balls
The next day we moved on and spent seven days staying in the main backpacker’s street in Bangkok which had a wonderful and vibrant street market. We met lots of lovely people, enjoyed different food, including cooked insects from the street vendors and spent our nights in bars surrounded by lady boys and prostitutes. I found the girls who were working as prostitutes quite disturbing as many of them were so young, but what could I do other than frown at old men who were gloating over them.
Whilst in Bangkok we visited the Palace which was splendid, even though it seemed unfair that amongst so much extravagance many of the Thai’s were living in severe poverty.
We made a night visit to Patpong market which was noisy and extremely busy. Whilst walking round the market we were surrounded by men pushing fliers into our hands for the various shows that were available in the Go Go bars. I’m not a prude but my god I didn’t know that ping pong balls can be used in that way!
We visited various temples and saw many Buddha’s all promoted as the largest in Thailand. Wee also took a trip to the town of Kanchanaburi where we walked over the famous but tragic bridge of the River Kwai. Most of our trips were made in rickety old mini vans with wobbly seats and no air con. The joys of backpacking.
After much messing around and a worry that our passports had been stolen by the travel agent we booked our flight to Vietnam.
Upset Tummy and Viagra
During our stay in Bangkok both my friend and I suffered from severe constipation clearly caused by our change of diet which mainly consisted of rice, noodles, fried insects, sea food and scrambled egg. We found a chemist who spoke very good English and he gave us a yucky tasting concoction. Whilst in the shop I noticed a young man hanging around pretending to look at various items. He looked rather suspicious so we stood and watched. To my amusement and the embarrassment of the young man, the female chemist called to him that his Viagra was ready. The poor boy went red in the face, quickly took his package and left whilst my friend and I, along with the chemist, giggled like school children.
During the next few days we took our medicine and our conversation centered on whether we had been or not we had been! How romantic.
Phuket and Phi Phi Island
We decided to leave the busy and chaotic Bangkok taking a bus to the coastal resort of Phuket, which I hated in that it seemed like a very cheesy seaside resort with bright gaudy lights, numerous clubs and old men with young Thai girls. Again I used my glaring technique which only resulted in the girls smiling and the men scowling back at me. In conversation with some of the girls they told me that they came from villages and this was the only way to make money which they sent back to their families.
We only stayed one night in Phuket and decided to take a boat trip to the island of Phi Phi. Made famous by the Hollywood movie starring Leonardo di Caprio - The Beach.
We boarded our boat with numerous other backpackers and hired Thai girls. On arrival at the island, which was beautiful with blue sea and clean smooth sand, we followed the crowd and climbed into an old truck and were taken along dirt tracks to the main village. We then went in search of a room for the night and found only one available. The room left a lot to be desired having only boards on our beds, one cover and no towels. When my fiend asked for mattresses and towels we were given one single and promises of towels but none appeared. I decided that I was seriously in need of a shower but on entering the room I was horrified to see about 20 cockroaches scurrying around the room. Another fear is roaches’ running over my feet and this was exactly what happened. My poor friend thought that I had been attacked hearing my loud and uncontrollable screams. We decided to miss the shower and go to the bar on the beach. We took our one and only cover with us. After several drinks we laid our blanket on the beach and watch the amazing setting sun. We continued to consume alcohol and eventually fell asleep on the beach where we remained until 8am. God knows what bugs and crawly things had crept over me in the night but I didn't care. Its amazing what alcohol can do.
Later that day we found another room with no cockroaches, well none that I could see, and air conditioning, pure luxury. During our two day stay we enjoyed the beaches and my friend managed to find a bar that showed movies and there we were on this beautiful island watching Spiderman!
Onto Vietnam Ho Chi Minh
After several days of doing very little we went back to Bangkok and took our flight to Vietnam.
On arriving at the airport in Vietnam everything seemed very official and there were numerous guards with rather large rifles. I got through passport control with out any problems but my poor friend, who is Asian, was stopped. I heard a tremendous amount of shouting and looked over to see my poor friend surrounded by guards, guns at the ready. I began to try and explain that he was with me, what difference that was going to make I’m not sure but I suppose I was thinking oldish white lady might make an impression. Strangely enough my friend was taken through passport control by the guards and handed to me. We really were not sure what it was all about although he thought maybe they believed him to be a terrorist; we were both relieved that we were together again.
Stepping outside the airport we were surrounded by men trying to push us into their taxis and the whole experience was pretty stressful. After taking myself off to a hidden corner to compose my thoughts we managed to find a taxi to take us to the main backpacking area. During the journey I was amazed by the number of mopeds on the road some of which seem to carry whole families. The taxi driver was very friendly and told us that when we cross any road we must just go for it and not dither. He explained that traffic will not stop to allow us to cross so we had to be brave.
We booked ourselves into a hostel and went off to the bar to find like minded people. We met a couple of Australian girls and teamed up with them to arrange various trips.
Whilst in the bar I noted a couple of children aged about 5 and 7 selling cards and other bits. They came over to our table and the younger child sat on my knee. Sweet I thought.
Chatting to the little girl she asked me in not so nice words if I was having sex with my friend! She made her fingers into a ring shape and then demonstrated the sexual act with her other hand. I really could not believe what I was seeing and told her that it was not nice. She laughed and then asked me if my friend was f-------- one of the Australian girls, did we all do it together?
Later that night some German girls came into the bar and told us to be very careful with the young girls because they were thieves. One of the young girls heard what was said and she started shouting and swearing Within minutes it seemed that all the local Vietnamese people were in the bar aiming abuse at the German girls who were made to leave.
One day when my friend had gone off to do his own thing I decided to sit on the beach and read my book. After about half an hour a Vietnamese woman and her young daughter decided to literally sit in front of me. I felt quite uncomfortable wondering what they wanted so I tried to engage them in conversation. The mother seemed fascinated by my reading glasses and asked by sign language if she could try them on. Feeling a little confused I gave them to her and she put them on laughing. I was a little concerned that she might run off with them but she gave them back to me and continued chattering to her daughter. Both mother and daughter were laughing and I really was not sure what was going on. After a while the mother pointed to my breast and indicated that they were huge and could she touch them. She them asked in English if I was Pamela Anderson. Now I'm not saying that my breasts are small but certainally not Pamerla Anderson size. At this stage feeling quite embarrassed I said goodbye and went off in search of my friend.
Good Teeth Good Husband
Whilst in the city we were befriended by a Vietnamese woman who was about 20 years of age. She insisted on taking us to meet her family away from the tourist area. Her mother and three children lived in one room with bedding on the floor. There was only a bucket as a toilet and cooking was done on a fire. The mother was extremely welcoming and smiled throughout our visit. The girl had taken a fancy to my friend and insisted on telling me that he had good teeth and would make a good husband. Once she learnt that we were not an item, she set her mind on becoming his wife, much to the embarrassment of my friend. She explained to me that English men are a good catch and her family would be honored if he took her to England to become his wife. Needless to say my friend insisted that we moved on.
Drinks in Buckets
Along with our Australian friends were decided to travel North and our young Vietnamese friend, who had found herself an older English man, decided to join us.
The Australian girls were heading for Hanoi and as we did not have enough time we parted company with them and stopped off at a beach resort recommended by our Vietnamese friend. On arrival we were informed that the place was popular with couples on honeymoon. The place was indeed beautiful but my poor friend was convinced that the Vietnamese girl was trying to capture him, even though she was with another man.
We stayed the night and went to a bar which sold plastic buckets full of some sort of alcohol. I had no idea what we were drinking and could see that people were getting very drunk. My friend became even more paranoid about the Vietnamese girls plan to get him drunk, have her way with him and then insist that he marry her so we decided to say our goodbyes and the travel back to the city the next day.
During our stay in Vietnam we visited war museums, paddy fields, rice factories, the Cu Chi tunnels and took a boat trip along the Mekon Delta.
The tunnels in which the Vietnamese had hidden and lived during times of trouble were amazing and seemed to go on for ever. They were very small even though they had been raised to accommodate tourist. Our guide showed us the various traps that were used to maim and kill which were hidden in the undergrowth of the forest. The Vietnamese people were undoubtedly very resourceful. We were told about the gases that were used against them during the war and how many Vietnamese people were born disfigured as a consequence. Whilst in Ho Chi Min city I had noted many older disabled and disfigured people begging on the streets.
Back in Ho Chi Min city we spent time visiting the bustling markets and relaxing. We both noted that when eating in cafes there were two price menus. One for the Vietnamese and one for tourists. We were told that we didn’t pay tax so therefore it was fair that we should pay more. This system also applied to travel which I suppose is fair enough as we clearly had far more money than the Vietnamese.
McDonald’s and Back Home
At the end of our ten days in Vietnam we flew back to Bangkok to catch our plane back to the UK the following day. I’m ashamed to say that even though we had really enjoyed the food during our trip we were both yearning for rubbish food and found a McDonald's to meet our needs. I know that it is a sin to say it but we both really enjoyed our burger and chips with lashings of tomato sauce.
On arriving back to my little house I immediately discarded my clothes which were truly disgusting and I took a long hot bath. Laying in my hot bath full of bubbles I realized that I was so very lucky and lived in luxury compared to the people that I had met on my travels.