Riding Vietnam Day 193: Thanking My Lucky Stars

I pulled myself out of bed early ready to journey over to the Indian Embassy fully prepared to be interrogated and possibly denied in my pursuit of the almighty visa, which could open the door to a subcontinent’s worth of cultures, foods, peoples, languages, and challenges. To my surprise, I woke up with a message from the English guy from yesterday who had initial interests in my bike was now ready to purchase my bike today. Of course this threw a bit of a wrench into my plans possibly stalling my efforts to procure the Indian visa but I had to take advantage when opportunity struck. Upon learning that they would be delayed an hour to get the money and have everything prepared for their outward journey on the bikes, I chanced that I could g t the visa application in during this seemingly narrow window. I entered the gates of the Indian embassy (a building which offered no indication to its own representation) and filled out the sign-in sheet before being seated to wait on my appointment. This process so far was much more organized than the forced shoving contest at the Myanmar embassy in which everyone struggled to fit into the narrow doorway to further themselves up in the queue. Once called into the representative’s office, I was a bit nervous figuring they would find some excuse to deny me entry into their country or at least force me to refill out the application and come another day. Upon his request of the application I fumbled through my bag to procure the paperwork. While I stared at the photos on his wall showing temples and monuments of the country, he quickly went through my application like any other. All I needed was to fill out the online application, print it out, attach a passport-sized photo of my headshot, pay the man, and hand over my passport for the time being until they could stamp my visa into my all-important passport, which has found its pages filled quite thoroughly lately. My worries in the matter were unfounded as it could not have went over anymore smoothly. In four days on this Friday, I would be able to come in and retrieve my passport with the Indian visa included. If I can just complete the motorbike deal, I may be able to leave Vietnam earlier than I had originally expected. Sure enough, the negotiation process to sell the motorbike was just as easy. After starting off at $220, we met in the middle at $210. Originally I had planned to sell off my spare parts and tools to a mechanic but I knew in the end I would be getting peanuts compared to their original worth so I handed it over as inclusion to the purchase of the bike (much better in a backpacker’s hands than a mechanic who would scoff at my attempts to recover any fair value). It was just past eleven o’clock and I had accomplished all I could have ever wanted today. I toured Hoan Kiem Lake including the temple resting on the small island occupying the lake. It wasn’t something I had planned to visit but when I found out I could use my old student ID card I had to take advantage of getting 50% even if it meant half off on a mere $1.50 fee. The temple was like any other I had seen in Vietnam with incense sticks, ancient writing on the red pillars as well adorning the walls. The unique part was the small exhibit on the legendary gigantic tortoise which has an King Arthur and the magical sword sort of backstory. Around the lake I eventually came to the Hoa Lo Prison where I also managed to use my old student card. Hoa Lo was a prison used by the French to detain and interrogate Vietnamese rebels while later serving as cellblocks to house American soldiers/pilots including John McCain who were shot down and captured. I wish I could have had more appreciation for the museum but I am not a big fan of modern war history as well as the patriotically induced agenda by Asian museums (then again probably all countithe s do the same for their own historical remembrance) plus I was filling ill from the recent food that I had been consuming that got only further compounded by the unsurprising heat. Back at the hostel after I cooled down in my room, I acquired a bus ticket to Vientiane, Laos for Friday to begin my short trip into Laos before leaving at long last to India. Also, I settled on my Halong tour package but would need to visit the office if I wanted to save on the $8 processing fee. I had wanted to avoid the touristy Halong Bay experience by finding alternative routes but with my need to get into India as soon as humanely possible, I figured why not see what I had considered until recently (the completion of the North and similarly landscaped Ninh Binh now expiring those thoughts) would be one of the highlights of my trip in Vietnam. Everything was going smooth and to form but I had begun to feel quite lonely, exhausted from traveling, overwhelmed from a variety of reasons, and sick of the never ending sweating and feeling uncomfortable. After a bowl of one of my better bowls of pho (I had no choice but to discontinue my resilience of avoiding the consumption of pho when soup was the only thing my body could seem to tolerate), I made a short walk around the streets of the Old Quarter before turning in for the night.

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