much in need of a beer
Due to Vietnamese hotel policy of taking your passport on signing in, I was in a vulnerable position to say the least. So, to avoid any further altercations, I told them, I would pay for my room plus the $29 each for the two train tickets and be on my way. The senior member of the two, asked if we were not happy with our room and we explained we were but not with the staff. Utilizing their own cultural reservations, I said that with TET approaching, we did not want to start the new year off in bad fashion and thus ruin the luck of the whole year. This seemed to bring them back to reality, at least theirs, and soon, we arrived at an agreement. We paid for the room up till that point plus the originally agreed upon price for the train tickets and we got our passports back so we could go to the bank. Needless to say, I never gave my passport to a hotel clerk again as it was always conveniently in the Cambodian Embassy awaiting visa approval, whereupon I would present a photocopy for their inspection and information purposes.
Much in need of a beer after this pre-festivities spectacle, I was happy to find an old woman on our corner with a freshly tapped keg of the local Bia Hoi, a tasty if watery brew. We downed quite a few with some locals and though there was no means of communication between us outside of the odd nod, wink and smile, this simple setting finally brought about the holiday feeling we had anticipated. The haggard old woman, in particular, was full of warmth and readily accepted us as one of her brood. As comfortable as it was, we decided to make our move to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I motioned to pay and was embarrassed at the low cost of our bill. I tried to round it up but she refused anything extra. We shared one last smile and I happily walked away knowing that not everyone was out to make something extra on the TET this year. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)