negative nancy narrates.

each one of you caring individuals have queried at one point or another the rather reasonable if slightly uncouth question ‘how the hell are you 2 able to afford this?’ the most honest response i can give is vague and disappointing, so perhaps more to point is what we don’t do. living in se asia can be moderately done on what the hardened and pretentious backpackers refer to as the shoestring, but it can be further cut by bypassing budget busting beers (after all, we’d much rather get drunk with ya’ll) and faithfully following the adage that most stomach pains can be cured with a little hydrogen two the oxygen. what we certainly do not do is go to quaint vietnamese river towns that are known for their custom tailoring and become seduced by silk shops and cloth closets. no no, we do not daydream nor twirl in the mirror, thinking about how exquisitely exotic this dress with that suit will look debuting during springtime formal affairs (that’s right, the blame is on you, engaged interests). we absolutely do not tourist trek towards the coast and decide to spend 3 days upgrading our underwater skills to an advanced level while splurging on sit down dinners 2 nights out of 4. no, we just simply do not do that, as we are the utmost masters of the mind and of the self. that’s right, dear friends, we do not do these things. and since we now all know that we don’t do them, you folks can delight in your insight and we may shelebrate in our shekels.

now that that is out of the way, we can return to more affirmative, if not particularity positive informing. the most outstanding quality in vietnam is its ability to ruin every good thing it’s got going. yea i know, and i started out by calling you uncouth. but i am actually serious in this statement and have been rather intrigued in defining why. perhaps it is its particular, peculiar pairing of capitalism and communism; what one creates the other copies until critically common and ultimately self destructive. maybe it is the geography, as a narrow sliver of jungle does not lend itself to off beaten tracking; your bus may go north, your bus may go south, but you will be waiting a long time for an east/west route to arrive. or there is always the possibility that try as i might, i do not understand this land, man.

this is the place where you can prize your eye on a certain popular guesthouse, only to find that there are actually 4 in hanoi by the same name, all hoping to profit off the success (and cleanliness) of one. what i mean by this is not that they simply copy the name, they copy the place and make it crappier. and it’s true for books (everything from lonely planet guides to george orwell, whose books are actually illegal imports according to the department of culture), backpacks (anyone want a knock off northface?), shoes (you can have custom made copyright infringed nikes), dvds (this place makes china look legit) and even their own food (you can order curry in 5 different places and not one version will be similar to another. in fact, i’m not sure they know what curry is anymore). in a way it is the individual working for the communal as the good idea of one turns into the tiresome troll of everyone. even tourist offices and bus booking is a monotonous program; each place is identical to the rest as far as itineraries go, though not every one is a rip off.

it is because of all these things that meeting fellow friends is not only insanely elementary, it is absurdly hilarious. vietnam is the home to the best ice breakers; ‘which way are you going’ is repeated as often as necessary (alex even asks when we are all aboard the same northbound bus) and generally under ridiculous circumstances as it can at times seem utterly impossible to have your own space, and not just because personal space is an asian cultural abnormality. take halong bay, for instance, a UNESCO world heritage site boasting thousands of limestone sea surrounding monoliths and romantic teakwood junks upon which to set sail and see. yet somehow, with all that ponderific pacific, there is only one cave that all 300 boats visit, only one harbor they dock in at night, and only one national park that they let their cargo climb. kayaking through this languid landscape is closer to an aquatic bumper car outing, during which dodging diesel dripping boats is the objective while knocking into other sight seers and their accomplished floating trash pile is the inevitable outcome. apparently this is also a floating village visit, though the only members we encountered were the marine maidens who rowed their bottled goods around and allowed us a much needed advantage to the ‘no outside booze on board’ rule as long as we were willing to tread water. under such conditions, it was easy enough to enjoy our common company on boat, though not our peers in the park. like lemmings, people clambered both up and down the same slick rocks on poorly maintained paths and once on the top of the chosen mountain, a rusty, rickity tower was the only way to get a view that was not blocked by bloated bodies. i sat defeated and took pictures of the pile of trash that marked the summit and let alex giant leap his way up and down the tower, frightening fellow folks and significantly shortening the structure’s standing. i doubt many people pilgrimage to nature in order to feel the same sensation i imagine one has in a japanese food court, unless of course you are a tricked tourist in vietnam .

antagonizing us further is of course that war by the same name and its lingering legacy. but here it is called the american war and we are not likely to forget it thanks to the likes of the war remnants museum (formally known as the american atrocities museum) in saigon, an engaging if difficult photography display. every photo either captures the aftermath of a massacre or a slaughter, as well as the deformities that still plague the hopes of the pregnant due to our affinity for dumping chemicals on foreign fields. it is truly gut wrenching. and while there is no doubt as to the cruelty our government literally spat upon these people, it was appalling that in the one room dedicated to the protests against the war around the world, there was no mention of an anti war movement in the states, leaving all born americans bearing the responsibility of these atrocities. there is no way to deny the defensiveness dealt to our sense of national pride, and it certainly drove home the point that we are simply the capitalist outlet in a communist country, and that the country has only ‘forgiven’ out of necessity, not want.

but alex and i, keen on the unique, did mix up our ghastly, gruesome, genocidal repertoire by visiting the village of cu chi (phonetically phunny, no?) which became a famous hotspot during the war due to the burrowing nature of its occupants. the tunnels stretch for who knows how long and go as deep as 100 meters underground, successfully tricking the modern war agents into fighting the equivalent of an ant hill. men, women and children were all involved in workings of the tunnel, and as the introductory propaganda video explained, everyone had an equal shot at becoming a prized american killer. now, it is not the nature of this place that is disturbing, it is the theme park manner in which it is presented. while it is interesting to see the resilience in these people, to see how they lived for weeks at a time without light or the ability to stand up, it became speedily strange after several comedic demonstrations as to how the booby traps worked, many of them simply false ground covering spiked and poisoned bamboo sticks. there was a deep disconnect between the contraptions and their abominable aftermaths, or even their part in the inhuman thing called war. it was astutely creepy to be jovially lead through lands of death and torture as if it were a complex of temples of a civilization great and past. crawling through the tunnels was dark, moist, and cramped, but an adrenaline rush all the same, and the lesson that technological force to conquer will never beat out the organic, hearty desire to live is certainly one that is oft forgot, but i was still left with a wholly uncomfortable feeling in ma belly.

through the things we did and the things we did not, our experience has certainly expressed the whole stratus but abandonment is timely today. it is in good humor we share our lowlights, but remember every duet has its deuce and here hiding are our highlights. so goodbye land of hypochondriacal, hygienic fashion (i have many times contemplated the necessity of the surgical mask, i mean what if the super germs really are all having a feast here?), strange wedding venues (is a water park and a national palace really your dream destination?), communicable honking (even the boats don’t shut up), and illogical logic (we were once told to open the windows because the air conditioning was on). yes, good night vietnam.

uncle ho wants YOU!

uncle ho wants YOU!

sweet palace pad.

sweet palace pad.

the vietnamese response to antoni gaudi.

the vietnamese response to antoni gaudi.

a lovely view of the highlands.

a lovely view of the highlands.

ok, so this place wasn't all that bad.

ok, so this place wasn't all that bad.

another thing we did not do.

another thing we did not do.

hygiene - get it right or pay the price.

hygiene - get it right or pay the price.

before.

before.

and after.

and after.

you've never seen a bridge so good.

you've never seen a bridge so good.

that's an itty bitty bitch.

that's an itty bitty bitch.

a shade of things to come.

a shade of things to come.

psychedelic sleeper.

psychedelic sleeper.

taking out all the other tourists in halong bay.

taking out all the other tourists in halong bay.

our new friends make new friends.

our new friends make new friends.

a perfect ambassador.

a perfect ambassador.

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2 Responses to “negative nancy narrates.”

  1. girl I think this is my favorite piece of yours so far!

  2. yeah, this probably is a great entry, but i stopped reading when you called me “uncouth”. megan, I AM NOT UNCOUTH.

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