Vietnamese Coffee: The Paranoia-Enducing Drink that Governments Should Investigate / Use

You know when you can’t sleep at night and you just toss around like a lumpy sack of potatoes? And then you realize that you probably shouldn’t have had coffee at 3pm? Especially not when you’ve been a tea drinker for years and this entire year has been such a caffeine-lessened year your body might as well just be full of water?

Well, after Vietnamese coffee (which is delicious) the experience of being a lumpy sack of potatoes gets hightened into being a lumpy sack of potatoes that knows it’s destined for the slicer and the frier. 

It was 3am, we were waking up early to ride motorbikes from Hoi An to Hue, an 8 hr journey, “the same one the Top Gear guys did.” It would take us around the Marble Mountains, through the 32 km of gorgeous Da Nang Beach and then way, way up into the Hai Van Pass (ocean-cloud pass).

It was 3am and my brain was telling me not to get on the bike. To be clear, I wasn’t even driving the bike. I was merely riding it while someone else, someone very experienced was driving it. My brain was envisioning itself being flung off the Pass, my body rolling down the hill like that sack of potatoes. My brain was saying that if I don’t die, tomorrow will definitely be the last day that I walk. 

Good thing whoever was reading those coffee beans did a bad job, because I didn’t get flung off the Pass, and I am still walking, and except for about an hour where I kept saying to myself, “try and remember what walking feels like in case this really is the last day,” it went great and I loved it.

So everyone, face your fears (even the nonsensical ones) and to all the governments out there, if you’re looking for a new torture device, I’ve got a cheap method to sell you. 

PS – I did this trip with my parents, and they had none of these fears, A) they are (mostly) immune to the effects of coffee and B) they are way cooler than me

The top of The Pass
On the way up The Pass
See, everything worked out great
The Culprit

Without Google Translate, We’d Still Be On The Train Tracks

“There is no one left on the train” said my father as my mother and I looked up from our game of cards. 

We looked at him weirdly and then got out of our cabin to inspect the situation. 

Indeed, the train was empty. As if Murder on the Orient Express had just happened en masse, and in the game of “whodunnit” the only suspects would be “Ms Short, and Mr & Mrs Parents.” 

Luckily, before we could fully contemplate our fate: Vietnamese prison or endless days walking along a section of track whose GPS coordinates were stubbornly not communicating with Google – two men appeared. 

They said something in Vietnamese, obviously we did not understand. They typed it into a version of Google Translate, “must get off the train here, take a bus and then get back on the train.”

“So that’s what all those announcements were” said the imaginary cloud bubbles above our heads.

Our rescuers smiled at us as what was happening dawned on us: either the train had broken down, or, part of the track needed to be fixed after the typhoon last week. 

Two seconds later, another English speaking couple (the only other English speaking couple) peered out of their cabin. Our rescuers asked us if we would speak English to them and explain – it was like a giant game of Telephone being played with real telephones – a lot was lost in translation – the couple didn’t want to leave because they had small sleeping children with them. 

Eventually, we all made it off the train, rejoined the rest of our fellow night-train travellers, waited for our bus to arrive, got on the bus and then made it to the next train, where luckily, eight hours later, someone knocked on our door and told us to get out – at, luckily, the right stop. 

Goodbye, Empty train: our first mode of transport on the night route from Nha Trang to Da Nang, Vietnam

When Your Luggage Sails Off Into The Air, And You’re On The Ground 

One of modern life’s great moments of anticipation: the luggage carousel, that familiar, “will they, or won’t they?” game your brain plays with you as you wait for your bags. You watch everyone else pluck their intended from the line and move on, to carry on with their lives. Sometimes, you’re one of them – one of the Lucky Ones. 

And sometimes, you stand alone, beside nothing, pre-mourning your stuff. An Unlucky One.

Yesterday, I was an Unlucky One. I waited patiently, at a carousel that was unloading two flights. I watched everyone from my flight leave. 

Head down in remorse, I went to the Baggage Claim Office. 

My luggage, in it’s desire to see the world, had decided not to disembark the plane. It decided to carry on to the next destination. 

Customer Service assured that me, if, someone at the next destination read the report she just issued, my bag would get back to me around 10pm. If not, definitely the next day. 

“I’m travelling to Sydney tomorrow, if the bag doesn’t make it by then, what happens?”

“We can send it to Sydney, you would just have to pick it up at the airport.”

Okay. She handed me a WhatsApp number and told me they would text me if they heard anything. 

Problem was, my bag was a bag without a name. The systems were down in Mulu, so, unable to print luggage tags, they just wrote on the destination (Miri) on a piece of paper, “MYY”. So, my bag was untrackable. It was basically single and ready to mingle. 

I, on the other hand, was single and ready for a shower. My brain immediately went to thoughts of “how long will these smelly, dried-sweat filled clothes last – will they make it 24hrs?”, “Will they make it onto the next plane? And if they do, will the people next to me start to complain about holding their nose for eight hours?” Without my luggage I was a stinky-time bomb that no one would want on a plane. 

Like most things, you don’t realize what you had, till it’s gone. But, like a good relationship, a break doesn’t necessarily mean a break-up. 

At 10pm my bag showed up, looking a little naughty – but hey, what happens in Cargo Hold, stays in Cargo Hold. 

Sometimes, luggage wants to go on an adventure too
Spotted on the first leg to Sydney: my luggage under the nose of the plane, looking a bit like R2D2