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Worst. Idea. Ever, Part 2

March 6, 2011

I always wanted to marry a man with a good sense of humor – someone who doesn’t take life too seriously and doesn’t get upset when things go wrong. After this weekend, I’m so glad that I did. As Jonathan and I sat across from each other last night at dinner, we could only laugh at what a disaster our quiet weekend away had become. For those of you like pictures, I apologize in advance. This trip wasn’t very photogenic.

For the last week or so, life has been a little hectic work-wise for Jonathan, and I’ve had a miserable cough. Between me hacking half the night and him getting up at 3am for work (I’m on early morning sick leave,) we are quite the pair. We figured a couple days away from the city, somewhere we wouldn’t feel bad for being lazy, would be good. Buon Ma Thuot is one of Air Mekong’s destinations, a short, forty-minute flight north of Saigon, and other than being the coffee capital of Vietnam, there isn’t much to do. Perfect. Imagining a day in the sun, we found a hotel with a pool, packed our swimming suits, and headed out.

Like good Saigonians, we drove the motorbike to the airport around 4am. I love watching the city wake up – people out walking together, others doing Tai chi, and sidewalk restaurants opening – and we saved ourselves the $6 cab fare. Other than the usual feeling that I’ve forgotten something, the trip started off well.

As we flew to Buon Ma Thuot, my coughing and sneezing became uncontrollable, and by the time we arrived at the hotel, I was miserable and aching from the exertion. We checked into the hotel and were pleasantly surprised by a lower price, a comfortable room, a beautiful pool, and a good, albeit Asian, hotel breakfast – stir-fried veggies, pho, Asian dumplings, rice congee, chopped fruit, and tar-like coffee.

With full bellies, we headed to the nearest pharmacy. There were two old ladies out front and one rushed to meet us. She led us to the counter smiling, chatting, touching my arms, cheeks, and hair. We had no idea what she was saying, but enjoyed her cheerfulness. She sent us off with some cough drops and a bottle of cough syrup whose labeled we had to google translate.

It had been windy and overcast all morning, but, on our way home, it started to rain. That took the pool off the agenda, so we went inside to assess the situation and nap. We both wanted to get massages, and I wanted to do some writing. When I tried to use the computer, I discovered that all the plugs in the room were two prongs, and we had left our adapter at home. I also found out that I had miscalculated, and was unprepared to have my period.

So, our afternoon of writing and relaxation became a long walk around town searching for things that can’t be found here. No one, in any of the stores we visited spoke a word of English and electrical adapters and tampons are incredibly difficult concepts to convey using sign language. Evidently Vietnamese women only use pads (a topic for another time.)

Frustrated, we went back to the hotel to get massages. What we hoped to be a relaxing experience ended up being the low point of the day. I should’ve known. The girls that came into our rooms wearing tight, short dresses may have been professionals, but they weren’t masseuses. It was, by far, the worst massage I have ever had. A five-year old child playing drums on my back would’ve been more relaxing.

There was a bottle of baby oil on the shelf, but she hardly used any of it. Her technique consisted of running the edges of her hands back and forth on my back like saw blades, randomly stabbing her thumbs into me (regardless of whether it was a muscle or bone,) squeezing my arms, weakly flopping her hands around, or beating on me with her fists. She massaged one of my feet for about thirty seconds and skipped the other. The scalp massage was nothing more than her putting her thumbs in the same three spots on my head over and over and over and over… There wasn’t a hole in the table for my face, my neck hurt from the pillow, and I coughed the entire time. She stood in front of the door until I tipped her.

It infuriates me if I think seriously about it. I should’ve gotten up and left. I shouldn’t have paid her. I definitely shouldn’t have tipped her. I’m twice as big as she is! And, after we paid I realized our massages were forty-five minutes instead of an hour. There wasn’t any point in complaining though. None of the workers spoke English, and I was happy it was over. If that wasn’t enough, the other lady asked Jonathan if I was his wife and whether he wanted his penis massaged. This has happened before, and the other time it was also in a hotel’s spa.

Back in the room, mouths gaping in disbelief, we contemplated our options. Our original flight home was twenty-four hours away, but neither of us wanted to find out what else could go wrong in that much time. We thought about leaving that night, but there wasn’t enough time. While Jonathan re-booked us on the early morning flight, I opened an avocado I had brought with us – the first I have purchased here – and found it squishy and flavorless. My throat hurt and I wanted to cry, but we laughed instead.

For dinner, we chose the restaurant immediately across the street. If I was going to be disappointed again, I wasn’t going out of my way to do it. It was a fancy place – high ceilings, stone walls, white cloths on every table, and about three times as many waiters as customers. We ordered a variety of things, and when the first plate of fried tofu came out, we thought our luck might be improving. The garlic toast was on white bread, but it doesn’t take much to please garlic lovers like us. When the spring rolls and garlic fried rice came out, we started tallying up what we had ordered and what was still to come. The portions were huge, and we started to get concerned. We were both still waiting on our entrees.

When they finally arrived, we were happy we had ordered all the other food. Both entrees were inedible. The squid was too tough to bite through, and the pork ribs tasted like they still had hair on them and had been dipped in vinegar. We made our apologies to the staff and paid our bill.

Back in the room, as we began packing, I noticed that Jonathan’s body was covered in red dots. As if the massage wasn’t bad enough to begin with… I was already unhappy about a spa using baby oil, but now I am wondering if it was even baby oil. What other kind of foul substitute could it have been to make him break out so bad?

We rounded out our relaxing weekend by getting up at 5:30am for our flight and going straight to the doctor. I am on antibiotics for bronchitis, and Jonathan is taking an antihistamine because they can’t figure out what else to do.

In spite of everything, the cool weather was a nice change. I don’t remember the last time I had an opportunity to wear a scarf and jacket. The people were very friendly and amused me with their staring and pointing. The airport station manager recognized Jonathan and asked us to join him for coffee this morning. We both agreed our ten cent roadside waffles, similar to waffle cones, were the highlight of our trip.

It was a disaster, but we made it a fun disaster, and here are the lessons we learned:

1.     No more massages in hotel spas while in Asia.

2.     Never take the adapter out of the backpack that the computer travels in.

3.     Never order squid if we are more than walking distance from the nearest sea.

4.     Spare tampons are worth the space they take up month after month in my purses and bags.

5.     Use caution when ordering while hungry.

As I was finishing this post, Jonathan saw this outside our window. I think God is trying to remind us that there are better days ahead (and that it’s time to buy a poncho.)


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Israel permalink
    March 6, 2011 08:06

    This is really edgy. I don’t think I’ll ever pass judgment by using the acronym “TMI” but I got pretty close this time.
    Massages in Asia – I’ve given up, but mostly because I’m lazy. Massages are cheap but I don’t like to get bruised and I’ll certainly never try at a non-western hotel.
    You’re allowed to get loud and rude with the staff of a hotel when they offer sexual services to your spouse. Believe me, they’ll understand and the management will come and apologize.
    You let girls with tight outfits into your room… I’m just glad you still have your wallets.
    You’ve got another month up here when you can wear your jackets anytime!

    • March 6, 2011 21:08

      Just wait til I write the blog about Asian women and their tampon-free lives 😉

      We’ve also given up on trying any place that doesn’t come highly recommended.

      I didn’t find out about the sexual offers until later. We didn’t invite them to our room. We were in the spa in the hotel and Jonathan and I were in separate rooms. Their outfits weren’t racy like some we have seen. They were just short. It just makes me realize that they are offering that because it is what most of their customers want which is why we will always avoid places like that in the future.

  2. Jonathan permalink
    March 6, 2011 15:56

    Thanks for being my girl and I also want to thank you for making me smile while enjoying life’s little vexations. I can always count on you, love you Lemon!

  3. Robert Tran permalink
    March 6, 2011 18:20

    9/10 expat blogger scan’t be wrong: Vietnam is SE Asia’s handjob central. All I get when checked into a cheap hotel here in Vegas was just free pornos on TV. Boo!

  4. Charity permalink
    March 7, 2011 09:38

    Wow is right! Glad you could depart early and could/can laugh about it!

  5. Sarah permalink
    March 12, 2011 11:14

    This really made me laugh…mishaps are my absolute favorite!


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