Ten things likely to happen whilst travelling without a plan in Vietnam:
- Drive on the worst roads imaginable
- Get hurt
- Lose something
- Get completely lost
- Get drenched
- Get angry beyond belief
- Fear for my life
- Throw up
- Use the phrases “this is f**king sh*t” and “who’s f**king idea was this?”
- Want to go home
Ten more things likely to happen whilst travelling without a plan in Vietnam:
- Smile so much my face hurts
- See something mind blowing
- Have an epiphany
- Laugh till I cry
- Shoot FAR too much video
- Eat and drink things I never thought I would
- Have a conversation with someone who has no idea what I’m saying
- Laugh with someone I’ve never met
- Get completely lost
- Not want to go home
Exactly what should you be vaccinated against before travelling to Vietnam? This blog post is for you!
When I watch Comic Relief they say that anti-malaria tablets are as little as a pound each. So where are these tablets?!
When I’d described the Vietnam trip to others, many people commented on getting vaccinations. So last week I called the GP, who told me I should book in to see a nurse. Today was that day. And that meant needles.
I wandered down to the Surgery just down the road, having forgotten where it actually was. I ended up on Google Maps to track the place down (not such a good sign, is it!?). I was early, yet the appointment was late. Al the while I sat overhearing a teenage girl give her opinion to her mother on why children shouldn’t have a dummy unless they’re sleeping. A conversation blatantly directed at another lady who’s 5 year old was chatting away with a dummy in her mouth. A few minutes later and I was sat with the nurse. In Room 237, of all places. (A reference to that room in The Shining).
The lovely girl chatted away, asking questions about the holiday. I’m not sure if she really was interested, or just trying to ease my mind, having seen my eyes almost pop out of my head as she placed two giant needles in front of her. She continued to chat away, and casually slipped a question into the conversation; “Can you take medication in tablet form?”. Well, yes I can. More questions followed, mainly about the weather outside (“Is it still raining?”). We chatted away a bit longer whilst she tapped away on her computer, mumbling “Vietnam… Vietnam… Hmm…”. That didn’t fill me with confidence. Upon eventually finding the answers she asked “which arm do you write with?”. I answered, and then she giggled, going on to explain that I was getting an injection in each arm anyway so she didn’t really need to know. Yea, thanks for reminding me about those two needles, both of which I’d been staring at since she pulled them out of the fridge, like a cat studying a laser dot.
After sticking me with aforementioned needles, she suggested that the third vaccine could be given as a capsules, rather than jabbing me again. This seemed fair. And wise, considering I hadn’t eaten anything at all today and was feeling slightly sick enough. I agreed, knowing full well the other option would be Needle 3, followed by vomit and possible black-out.
What it doesn’t cover me against is stupidity, bribery and a sense of direction. These things I’ll have to deal with myself.
I was also recommended to get a hold of anti-malaria tablets. Although the nurse at the surgery could supply them, the NHS purchase them from a specialist company and as such I’d be charged a fortune for them. The nurse recommended I buy them from any pharmacist other than the NHS, as they’d likely be cheaper.
And she wasn’t wrong.
The pharmacist in the local storeo told me I needed to take one anti-malaria tablet per day, and that I’d need to start taking them 3 days before I go, and also to continue to take them for a further 7 days after the trip. This meant I needed a total of 39 anti-malaria tablets. She informed me a branded tablet would cost £2.69 per tablet. This brought the total to £104.91.
Now I’m sure when I watch Comic Relief they say that anti-malaria tablets are as little as a pound each. So where are these tablets?! The pharmacist noted my tone, and suggested a non-branded version is also available for £1.29 each. This brought the total to £50.31.
Now that’s better. Why on earth would I want to pay almost twice the price for the same thing? It’s unlikely the tiny brand logo engraved on said tablet is going to be groundbreaking stuff. Unless there’s a whole world out there I didn’t know about…
With Vietnam a mere seven weeks away, the fear of not being prepared keeps slapping me in the face. Quite hard. Occasionally something comes up that needs urgent attention (vaccinations and a visa off the top of my head!). With this in mind, I’ve written a list of completed tasks, and a longer list of things still to be done.
So far I’ve completed the Compulsory Basic Training “course”, as set out by the UK Government. Since this 8-hour training was completed on an automatic bike, I’ve also gone ahead and completed a “Gears Conversion” course. This course is a step up to manual bikes, which opens up our options of what we can buy when we get there.
I’ve also already purchased a helmet, gloves, waterproof jacket and trousers, and waterproof boot covers. Why not just buy a helmet there? Well, some folks have suggested that helmets bought in Vietnam might not exactly have the best safety measures, or have the best processes during their production. It seemed best to just buy a helmet over here and take it with me. Thankfully it won’t take up too much space in the rucksack (UPDATE: This was a mistake. The helmet took up 1/3 to 1/4 of my rucksack, so it ended up stuffed in a smaller backpack that went on as hand luggage).
On the other hand, still to be looked into is the following:
- Get vaccinated
- Get a Visa
- Get dollars
- Get dong
- Unlock my phone for International use
- Get a Vietnamese SIM card
As the days count down, it’s about time I get the rest of these things ticked off the list!
This blog post describes a future trip and the reasons for it, delving into the thought processes of what might be required to travel 1600 miles from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh.
I spend a lot of my time doing things for other people. I do it naturally without thinking, and it’s always been just the way I am. If someone needs a hand with something or I can be of assistance in any way, I’ll “down tools” and help. Simple things like swapping shifts to ease someone else’s troubles, picking up and dropping things off because someone isn’t in a position to hire a van or has no licence to drive themselves, or storing someone’s belongings long-term up the attic whilst they work abroad. If someone needs a lift to work, has some shopping they need collected, something dropped off at the post office or their kids collected from school, I’m the one to do it. Not to mention the three years I spent as a Special Constable Police Officer in London, giving my time every weekend and other spare hour to volunteer and help the city and its inhabitants. God knows how many hours of my time that was, and the countless human interactions I must have encountered and helped along the way. But these are all easy things to do at little or no cost to me. And whilst these examples are in no way any burden or problematic in any way, it was highlighted to me that I don’t necessarily look after myself in the same way that I might look after other people. And that’s a fair point. So when a discussion at work arose regarding a long, and rather daunting, off-the-beaten-track “holiday” to Vietnam, it seemed like it could be the ideal trip for me to take the time away and hit the “reset” button, and do something I wouldn’t normally do. And do it for myself. It’d be nice to be out in the wilderness, away from society and technology, and take a closer look at life elsewhere. An eye opener. Perhaps a slap in the face. We’re all of limited time on this earth and I’d hate to have missed the opportunity to take on such a task. Especially given my nature with not doing things for myself! So with my limited spontaneity (I don’t like unpredictability), I agreed with my friend, Clarence (not his real name!), to join the trip. There’s a high percentage of people who’ve suggested they’re quite jealous of the prospect ahead for Clarence and I, though I realise there’s also a handful (my family!) who’d rather I wasn’t risking myself in such a way. Hopefully all ideas of fear and dread will fade as time goes on, though I understand the situation and their thoughts completely.
Long story short, the journey involves myself and a friend flying to Hanoi in northern Vietnam, buying motorbikes and travelling southwards towards Ho Chi Minh over a period of 28 days.
Easy, right? The distance would vary, depending on the routes we decide to take (and how lost we might get), but could be anything from 1200 to 1600 miles. We’ve worked out worst-case scenarios including delayed flights, how long it might take us to find second-hand bikes, weather conditions (it’d be at the end of monsoon season), accidents, getting lost, etc. With contingencies considered, we decided upon a target of roughly 60 miles per day. Given the length of time we’ve given ourselves, we could easily complete the journey in 25 days. With bikes that will likely only be able to do 30-40mph, we’d only need to travel two hours per day to achieve this. Depending on where we end up, and the weather conditions, we may end up riding longer than required just to get to a hotel or hostel (or beach). This gives us extra time at the beginning of the trip to find the bikes, and time at the end to get to Ho Chi Minh the day before our flights home. 28 days seems perfectly achievable. Today we sat down to work out a rough plan. One thing we’ve both agreed on is not to have a fixed itinerary. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve both researched other bloggers and travellers, reading reviews of similar trips, gathering do’s and don’ts, tidbits and gems. All of them seem to suggest taking it easy, and taking each day as it comes. Don’t plan anything. For us this is perfectly do-able, though we have factored in a visit to a friend along the way. This pit stop works in our favour as they live in Da Nang, which sits roughly half way down the coast. This basically means we should be half way through our journey by the time we reach Da Nang. With a few other key places along the way, we’ve more than enough days to take time, stop, and just look around. One thing we discussed was shooting travel documentaries for websites, in order to give future travellers an insight into what they might experience on such a journey. With this in mind, we’ve also agreed on taking camera equipment split between us so we can capture both photographs and video of the journey. As it stands, a lot of this trip is completely unknown. There’s probably dozens upon dozens of worthy sights I’ve seen online. Clarence has too. But the best plan, if you can call it that, seems to be just to get there and see what happens.
28 days in Vietnam with nothing but the unknown ahead. Getting to the start seems like the easy bit. What happens next is completely out of our hands. And that’s something I’ve fallen in love with.
Have I mentioned I’ve never ridden a motorbike?