It seems the Internet sharks have been busy again, with the interweb scheduled for repairs between June 22 and June 27. Many continue to blame the breaks on the sharks, after they were reported to have bitten the cables off two years ago. Suffice to say, they must have the best dentists in Vietnam! If you stick around this country long enough you’ll encounter the mysterious phenomenon of the Internet speeds with more variation than orders at a highway Banh Mi stall.
Having said that, it’s vastly superior to Australia’s mythical national broadband Internet scheme which is over-budget, behind schedule and possible already out-dated. Maybe cousin Vien should take over the project and build a highway while he’s at it.
Somewhere between blackouts, power cuts, cable routing by hand using giant bamboo ladders and neighbors accidently pulling out your Wi-Fi while setting up their wedding, you’ll still need ways to chill out and deal with the voices in your head demanding Facebook responses for that mean comment someone threw at you last night.
In the interest of public sanity, safety and tourism, I’ve put together a few ideas.
All of these presume that you have candles, oil lamps and some non-perishable food, friends or a bar nearby, a topped up motorbike and some cash (if it’s after the 5th of the month)
1) Get a life Tip-tapping on a keyboard should be left to the professionals like me, who make a meager living providing content. Your goal should be to explore Vietnam and the 3,000 ways to carry something on a motorbike. Take a boat trip, but stay on the upper deck. Go to Ba Na Hills park and take pictures of Da Nang through the cloud cover. Go to a local shopping mall, though be sure to wear ear plugs. Also take the Missus, the kids and the pets too – they’ll all fit on a Honda Cub, no problem!
2) Dare to get on a bus
Yeah, this is scary but it will put hair on your chest and your mum will be proud of your bravery. If you survive, you will learn something the Internet can never teach you – the choices you make have consequences – so next time, take the train and a case of beer.
3) Learn a language
You came to Vietnam for experiences so this is the penultimate one. Learning to haggle will give you a wonderfully false sense of empowerment that will lead you (and your bank account) into realms of fantasy you simply wouldn’t get back home. Who knows? You might even be able to pronounce the ‘ng’ sound!
4) Try to buy shoes
Similar to number 3 because I was struggling for ideas. Shoes are an education in quality control and communication. The notion that shoes, particularly sneakers, need to be stitched, not glued, is a mystery to a nation that mostly wears imitation leather sandals. Should you actually manage to get what you ordered, I recommend you frame the result and never wear them for the rest of your life.
5) Do some repairs
There’s something so satisfying and ‘cavemanish’ about repairing things. Suddenly you’ll realize you can make fire by yourself, catch meat in the wild and fashion a spear from bamboo like a local. However it is advisable to take a picture of what you need and a dictionary when you approach the hardware stores.
6) Order takeaways
A sign of mastery of the Vietnamese way of life – the simple act of successfully getting your address right on the phone without having to stand outside waving frantically in all directions will thrill your worried parents back home and be living proof that you can learn from experience.
7) Draw something – no really!
Even simple doodles sometimes awaken the inner child and create that sense of mystery you paid thousands to travel half way around the world to get. The act of drawing is soothing, clever and a great bar conversation piece for those nights when the Internet is too slow to watch football.
8) Have a REAL conversation
No, seriously – the end of the Internet is not the end of life as we know it. There are these things called ‘people’, who use ‘communication’ with their faces. You’ll be surprised how much local news you’ve missed out on because you’ve been obsessed with Donald Trump or saving cats. Who knows? You might start a romance, discover that someone has something in common with you or you could secretly think “I’m glad I don’t have your life”.
Try them all – the advantages outweigh the disadvantages – besides it’s a chance to remember why you’re here in Vietnam – to be surprised by life.