2/18/18: GM Myanmar, GN Vietnam

I went for a long run this morning. In the first mile, I spotted a local running group: I think it was a Thai expat group, because a few of them were wearing shirts that said “Thai Running Group” or something similar. I followed/ran with them for a bit, because I was curious to know where they were going, but at Shwedagon Pagoda they all stopped so I kept running past them. I ran down the hill to Kandawgyi Park, ran around that, then ran around the Zoological Gardens, and then back to the hostel. It was a nice run, not too hot and not too many stray dogs, but the sidewalks are WACK here. They are totally uneven, with holes everywhere, and so dangerous for running.

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Running views

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Breakfast was vegan-friendly this time: toast. Of course! But beggars can’t be choosers. I ate it with tahini and jam, as always.

As I was packing up and getting ready to check out, I realized Nelly, a girl I had met in Pai, Thailand, was staying at the same hostel.

We caught up for a bit, talking about where we’ve been and what we’ve done since we last saw each other several weeks ago. Suddenly, a girl rose up from her pod, and as she was walking past us passive aggressively mumbled something about how we woke her up.

That was awks. First time getting semi-yelled at in a hostel.

I had to get two passport photos for my Vietnam visa, so I went to go find a photo shop. I found a tiny one, busy with customers, after about 5 minutes of walking. It was super old-school: you go in the back, get your photo taken on a random stool , then some dude formats it in photoshop using a 1996 windows desktop computer. It cost me 1000 kyat ($0.75) for 4 photos… so cheap.

I was getting hungry, so I got lunch at 999 Shan noodles, a small local noodle shop with vegan options. I got the tofu paste noodles. It was one of the most interesting noodle dishes I’ve ever had. There wasn’t really a broth– it was more like a rich sauce, made with chickpeas, spices, and water. Really delicious and unique. I think it’s meant to be a breakfast dish, but how was I supposed to know?!?

I went back to the hostel to edit the podcast when I realized I lost my USB cable to connect the recorder to my computer. So, I went off again to find one. I found one across the street, but my computer didn’t recognize it when I plugged it in. Useless.

I went back across the street to return it. I thought it would be hard to return given the language barrier, plus I’m not sure if returns are really a thing here. But I literally just said “no work,” handed it back to the lady, pulled 5000 out of drawer, and gave it to me.

I spent the next HOUR searching around for a cable. I found a street where literally every. single. store was a phone/electronic store. Why do they do this in Myanmar?!? They ALWAYS line the exact same products in close proximity to each other. Is that good for business?? Like, I know about the mattress store phenomenon, but in those cases there are only 2 or 3 mattress stores in close proximity– not 30. I don’t understand how anyone makes any money here. Everyone sells the same thing.

Anyway, I walked into most of the electronic stores– probably at least 20. Most didn’t have the right kind of cable. I was very nearly about to give up when I FINALLY found a store with the right one. It was 2000 kyat ($1.50). Not bad!

I went back to my hostel, connected the USB to my computer, and realized my computer still didn’t recognize it. I had to go to airport at this point, so I figured I’d just try to find one once I got to Hanoi.

As I checked into my flight at the airport, the staff noticed that my luggage was over the allotted 7kg per person (who the eff only brings 7kg as carry on luggage??!?), so I had to pay an extra $30 to check it. When I asked, the guy behind the counter told me it would have been $24 if I had bought the check-in luggage in advance, so really I didn’t lose THAT much money. I thought it would be a lot less to pay in advance.

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Ethically questionable signage I found at the airport

I found myself hungrier than expected so I got dinner at the airport. I had stir-fried water cress & mushrooms with rice. It was surprisingly good and healthy for airport food.

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Yum

Once we landed in Hanoi, I made my way over to the visa-on-arrival line at immigration. I handed the officer my approval letter that I received online, and then I waited for another officer to call my name. I waited around 20 minutes for my name; once it was called, I walked to the counter, forked over $25, and was given my passport back with my 30-day visa stamped in.But that’s not all.

I then had to wait in the actual immigration line to get stamped by the normal immigration officer, which took another 15 minutes or so.

All in all, it took about an hour to get out of the airport.

Once I was in the arrival area, I went to a currency exchange counter to get some Vietnamese Dong. The people in front of me in line were also backpackers, and some of their dollars got rejected because they were “too old.” Apparently the banks here don’t accept US money that was printed before the year 2000. They were PISSED, but I would be too. It’s a bizarre rule. Money is money.

The airport saga continues.

As I headed for the taxi line, one guy approached me and said he would take me downtown for $35. I was like UMMM hell no. i said $15 (I had read online that this was standard). He said 20. I was like no and walked away. He said 18. I was like no, 15, and walked away again.

Once I was in the taxi line, I got approached by a different guy who asked where I was going. I told him my hostel, then he went to the guy behind me, a foreigner, and asked him too. The guy told us we could share a ride for 300,000 dong (about $13). That was cheaper than a regular taxi, so I was ok with that.

Then we realized he was talking about the van across the street with a bunch of people already in it. I was confused. Why would we share a ride with 10 other people for 300,000 dong each when we can get a cab for the same amount and split it?? It was a nonsensical sell.

The foreign guy I was with decided to check out the van situation, so I followed. We found out the van was actually 100,000 dong each and we were PISSED. I sort of yelled at the guy for trying to scam us into paying 300,000.

However, 100,000 is pretty cheap so we agreed to take the van. As I climbed in, I realized the guys from the currency exchange line were there. One of them was really cute. He asked me where I was staying (hehe) but we weren’t staying at the same hostel so… sad. Goodbye forever hot Aussie.

We waited a few more minutes for others to come in and fill up the van, and then we got going. I learned a bit more about the foreign guy from the taxi line: he was French but lived in Venezuela as a kid, and then lived in France for 17 years. He was a Spanish teacher but had been traveling for a while.

I got to my hostel around 12:30 am and immediately went to bed.


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