A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Instant New Best Friends

Making new friends is a big part of my love of travel. I don't actually mean travel friends, though I have met some amazing people over my travels who have become some of my best friends and my favourite people, the type of friend I mean is an Instant New Best Friend.

You meet an INBF on public transport, in hotel elevators, waiting for a bus, in a taxi, trying to sell you things or in a restaurant. Any kind of public place with a limited time for interaction. An instant new best friend is willing to make a quick friend out of boredom. An INBF gives you amazing unsolicited advice on your travels, you will hear stories of their own travels to your part of the world, and whether or not you know their friend Ken in Perth may come up. If you are lucky you might see photos of their children. Get overly personal details about their life, marriage, relationships all in a short space of time in a public location. These are the people that come in and out of your life as a traveller that make up the stitches to the fabric of a nomad. Your instant friendship is soon over when you arrive at your destination and then you and your new acquaintance go your separate ways.

As a solo traveller you get used to strangers coming to talk to you. Sometimes they are weirdoes but it’s usually safer to have a quick chat and move on rather than be rude. Plus I am often in need of a chat after too much alone time. A lot of the time people are up for a chat out of curiosity or boredom. I get a few, ‘what the devil is a young woman doing in these parts, on her own and with a bag that big’ type discussions. Usually I’m not a conversation initiator but even I sometimes try to make an INBF because I’m finished my book and I’m bored. Recently I chatted to an American couple from the Polish border to Dresden, they told me about all the ‘real neat’ places to visit around Ohio and I listened on. Our friendship ended abruptly when I realised we had made it to my station and I ran off the train with a wave.

Perhaps it’s the semi-journalist in me but I seem to be very good at getting people to talk by asking a lot of prying questions in a safe, trusting environment. I should probably be on 60 Minutes.

For instance after I met Tammy and Matt on a flight from Las Vegas to New Orleans last year I talked about them to my friend for the next week. As it turns out my friend and I couldn't sit together because we boarded our flight in ‘gap filler’ zone Z, so I squeezed in next to the window beside my INBF’s Tammy and Matt. We had become acquainted before take-off. She seemed a bit on edge, the reasoning behind which she offered early, it was their first trip without their kids and they were excited but really nervous to leave them at home.
It snowballed from there. We talked for three hours about life, love and the universe. Before long I had seen pictures of her kids, her dead dog (who was the smartest dog in the world). I learnt she enjoys jazzercise and had been doing it for years. It’s how she got her figure back after the kids. She ‘does hair’ and her dream was once to 'do hair’ on a cruise liner so she could see the world but life got in the way. She was married before and he was an asshole but Matt, there, is a good man and looks after her. Her children are good kids; one has a disability and we talked about the concerns of raising a child with a disability in this kind of social environment and the warrant of private education vs. public because as parents they were dealing with bullying. The INBF me is an expert on most subjects because my friend will never know enough about me to realise I actually don’t know a lot about raising children. Really she was lucky to have the kids at all having had cervical cancer and her cervix removed when she was in her 20s. Tammy and Matt looked like every other middle American couple in their early 40s. He was a big and tall guy with extra-large polo shirts. She was short with a curly blonde fringe. I thought I spotted them for days after but it was every other couple in America.

My flight flew by with my INBF and we chatted and laughed, covered some serious issues. As we left the plane we continued to chat until I found my friend at baggage claim. I said my farewell to my new friends much to my friend’s amusement no doubt as she saw me board the plane alone and leave it with a middle-aged couple on first name basis.

I wished them well, they were lovely people and part of me wished I had of got her email so I could check in on her and the kids, see if they had got the next belt in karate. I spent the next few days saying, “well Tammy was saying…” which then was followed by “who?” and a “You know Tammy, from the plane?”

My time in America provided me with some amazing characters for my nomad fabric. I listened to a lady from the south tell me how Australia is a backward country and doesn’t have equal gender rights. And how the world aluminium is pronounced alooominum because she was around when they invented it and its bloody aloominum not aluminium. She also told me the way to make good frosting for cupcakes is to add liquor.

A man at a bus stop told me about how he once met an Australian and they kindly flew him out to see Australia because he had never been. He looked vaguely homeless and for some reason I didn’t quite believe that this had happened but I let him tell me his stories of Sydney’s grandeur until the airport bus arrived in which he kindly pointed out that that was in fact the airport bus and that was the one I wanted.

You can always rely on kindness of strangers.

So I leave you with this video from my travels to Vietnam last year when an old lady selling things on the beach took a shining to me and sat beside me most of the afternoon then pushed me in the hammock for a bit. It came to the point where I knew everything she had to sell in her basket despite her English being minimal and my Vietnamese being average at best (non existent). I thought that she deserved to be in retirement and not flogging crap on the beach, and as I only need a certain amount of Tiger Balm products, perhaps I could help shift some for her.

IMG_3706.jpg<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks7dukVzG04>

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 15:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged friendship tiger_balm Comments (1)

Cleanliness is Next to Slovenliness?

Living the Clean Dream

When you travel your general appearance seems to takes a down turn, or should I say, when I travel it takes a down turn because I think it is maybe not the case if you are spending a week in Paris and staying at the Metropole. I do see people look lovely all the time and I’m not sure how they do it but it clearly does not involve any of the following; late nights, early mornings, vegetable deficiency, meat deficiency, walking blocks with a backpack on, unclean clothes and exposure to the elements.

As what you might call “a backpacker” my appearance at times can get a little shaky. I tend to wear whatever is clean or on the top of my bag with little regard for fashion or generally not looking homeless or like a nutcase.

I might look like a freak who fell through a clothesline but at least my random selection of clothes are clean. Well. Cleanish. On the travelling trail I usually have to hand wash my clothes and have them hanging from bunk bed railings to achieve this but you can only do this when you have enough free time in a city to waste washing and enough time to wait for drying. So it is not always possible.
I usually find it easier when I am travelling with another person and there is a universal ‘keeping an eye on’ the state of our mutual cleanliness. Alone I just keep reaching in for clean clothes and finding the cupboard bare.

So what do I do when my clothes are all dirty? More than once I have just gone out and bought something new but most of the time it involves reassessing your standards and prioritising your clothes, ie. “that’s dirty at maybe a stage 3, I can wear it again” and “I’ll just quickly handwash some underwear and dry it with a hair dryer” and that’s a new days clothes. Reinforcing here the lowering of standards.
Obviously though there are times when things just quite plainly, get grim. This is usually when your bathers become underwear and your pyjamas become clothing.

Earlier this year I went to South East Asia for about 2 months. To say I looked like a scrubba the majority of the time is a fair statement. Humidity was unkind to me to the point where it was best not to be in photos because I just looked hot, sweaty, frizzy and plain exhausted.
In Asia you can get your clothing laundered – washed and dry – and they practically pay you for the honour it’s that cheap, yet both my friend and I were both out of respectably clean clothes more than once. ie. Not a single thing was suitable to be put back on (again).

One such time in Vietnam we had exhausted our options, even worn our ‘nice’ going out clothes during the day. It had to be done so we upended our packs and took all our things to a lady across from our hotel and we felt good about ourselves and how proactive we had been. That afternoon our laundry was still not ready as it had been a miserably wet afternoon so she said come back the next day. Ok I suppose we can. We walked away and realised that while our day had been spent on a boat and in our bathers that evening we were to dine out and sample the thriving (knife wielding) nightlife of Nha Trang.

I cannot remember what I found to wear but I think I was lucky enough to have a moderately clean dress (only about 2-3 wears) which I wore over my bathers. My friend fashioned a top from a sarong and a few safety pins. This is what happens when you leave washing to the last minute.
The next day we still didn’t have our clothes she needed more time. I was starting to think she had done a runner with my Target wardrobe, selling my stuff on eBay.

Out to breakfast in our bathers and luckily our plan for the day was to go to a mud bath. The mud baths came and went. We were still suitably unclothed. It had literally been 48 hours without clothing, I think by that afternoon we had given up on life and of ever being reunited with a bra and just had a nap in our muddy bathers.

Later that day we got our clothes back and we were quite elated. We kept them folded in their bags so as to not spoil them with bag grot. That night we left Nha Trang feeling awesomely clean, and at last supported.
You know it’s been a bit tragic when all you can do is remark on how amazing you smell because you have a faint lavender woft from actually being clean.

Having clean clothes changes your attitude. I stole a comb from that hotel, I still have it, it was part of my attempt to look a little better in Asia. It didn’t last. I would have washed my hair the next morning and sweated it into an afro by breakfast and cursed a reclining cave Buddha.

So that’s the story of the time I wore bathers for two days. I apologise for telling it. I hope your opinion of me has dropped slightly, deservedly so. It’s just so hot there ok.

Did I learn my lesson? Of course not. I have been out of clothes for the most part all week. I just went and bought new socks so I had clean ones. And new hat to instead distract people from looking at my dirty clothes. *click, click, up here, look a pom pom*

Dire. Lucky I travel alone. I am getting some sympathetic looks from Polish mammas, from a combination of looking unkempt and wearing clothes from the foreign Far East. I think they want to spit on a hankie and wipe the dirt off my face and pop me in a nice frock and run a comb through my hair.
Feel awesome in my new socks though just the same.

IMG_3702.jpg IMG_5840.jpg
L;Our clothes drying and mocking us from above. R; Both an example of my ridiculous attire and a look at my new, clean socks.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 11:47 Archived in Vietnam Tagged clothes backpacking handwashing laundry Comments (0)

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