June 14, 2002

The Cheshire Grin

A Vietnam Story by Señor

The shit really hit the fan in Hanoi but the trouble had been brewing since Hoi An. Everything was going great. I'm in a beautiful country, traveling with a beautiful woman named Hang, the weather is glorious… life was good!

Hoi An is a picturesque Vietnamese village located some 20 miles south of Danang. Hoi An is famous for beautiful beaches, enchanting laid back atmosphere, and dirt cheap shopping. That’s right, the main streets are lined with tailor shops after tailor shops, where one can buy an Armani suit or Versace dress for $10 US dollars. Ten bucks! But not even the deal of a century could get me to buy a suit. You see, I just recently quit being "a suit" and the last thing in the world that I wanted to do was buy a suit.

Hang and I are driving from Hue’ to Hoi An. The previous night we shared our first (which also turned out to be our last) passionate night together. But, now we were acting like two school kids with crushes. I have to admit, it was kinda sweet. Unfortunately, things changed suddenly just as we arrived in Danang. For the next several hours Hang alternated between completely ignoring me and giving me attitude. I am not sure which I preferred! Now I imagine I must have done something to set her off, but for the life of me I have no clue what that something was. In Hoi An we rented a moped, in silence, and headed off to the beach. Half way there I decided enough was enough! "I’m on vacation, I don’t need to deal with this bullshit!"

After the beach I planned to take a taxi to Danang Airport and catch the next flight to Hanoi. There Hang and I would part ways. Hang, off to her home and as for me, well I would be free to pursue happiness in peace! I told Hang the plan and she thought it was a great idea. As a matter of fact I hadn’t seen her this happy in hours, which of course just pissed me off even more!

By the time we got to the beach Hang was a different woman. Actually she was the same woman she had been the night before. She was smiling, laughing, holding my hand, kissing me… this chick is schitzo!!! I decided to enjoy the moment while simultaneously I looked forward to our parting of ways. Happy Hang did not stick around for too long. At the Danang Airport she wouldn’t even sit near me, much less next to me. On the plane she wouldn’t talk to me. As the plane was landing at the Hanoi Airport, I decided to make a bee line for the taxi stand and be done with Hang for good. That was not meant to be. Hang, now speaking to me again, convinced me that it would be better if we took a bus together to downtown Hanoi. There I could take a taxi and she would be met by her brother. Why I listened to her when I could’ve just gotten the hell away from her, I‘ll never know!

By the time we reached downtown it was almost midnight and I had no idea where I would stay for the night. Much to my surprise Hang took her brother’s moped. Yes, they all have mopeds over there! So Hang told me to hop on and told her brother that she would be right back. I thought, "Should I go with her? I am the adventurous type, what the heck!" I hopped on and off we went. Hang told me that she would feel awful if I had to take a taxi so late at night. She knew of a nice hotel that she would take me to. This must be the Sweet Hang.

Fate intervened with her good intentions. The hotel was closed for renovations. What to do now? I asked Hang if she could take me to another hotel. Apparently this was the wrong question to ask! Hang turned around and told me to get off the bike. I got off the bike while Hang calmly explained to me that her brother was waiting for her so she couldn’t possibly take me anywhere else. Off she went and there I was stranded in the middle of nowhere at close to one o'clock in the morning.

I picked up my backpack and began to walk back toward town. As I walked I just couldn’t prevent a smile from appearing on my face. Before I knew it I was grinning from ear to ear. You see, despite my current predicament I realized that I had finally gotten rid of Hang!

The Cheshire Grin by Señor is the first story in a collection of travel stories from his recent trip to Southeast Asia.

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