Day 646: Slumdong Millionaire
After a good couple of hours kip, I was roused by Thro on his way out to work. I started uploading my epic Korea blog now that I could access Facebook and YouTube and Twitter (something I couldn’t do in China). When Thro got back from work at 12, I was still at it (I hope you appreciate how much work goes into these damn things!), but I was ‘nearly done’. The last bus for my next country – Cambodia – left at 2pm. But then, there was an alternative…
At 11.45pm there was a night bus to Cambodia. In fact, I could buy a thru-ticket all the way to Bangkok in Thailand. That meant I could hang out with my buddies a little longer and save on accommodation costs (something that at this stage of the journey I do not take lightly). And if by some miracle I made it to Chang Rai in Northern Thailand by the following morning, I wouldn’t have actually lost any time.
Okay. The decision was made. I headed over to Stan & Helen’s guesthouse and booked my ticket. Only, damnit – I had lost my debit card. Christ. 650 days on the road and I had only lost my card once before, on the cargo boat from Dominican Republic to Jamaica, 600 days ago. Bah!
Luckily I have a back up (there are some things you have to lose along the way…) but it was back at Thro’s. He subbed me the ticket to Bangkok (I owe this guy BIG TIME) and we went back to cancel my card and grab the rest of my gear.
You know HSBC is supposed to be ‘The World’s Local Bank’? Why then can’t I pick up my replacement card from a branch in Malaysia, or Singapore? From their slogan you would think I could regard any branch anywhere in the world as my ‘local’. But I can’t. This obvious (and let’s face it, populist) bit of bikini marketing could be the extra mile that HSBC takes you that no other bank possibly can (there are no Bradford and Bingleys here). But no, after all, where’s the profit in ensuring that your customers are never more than a few days away from a replacement debit card? Let them use their backup Barclaycard instead, we don’t want their overseas withdrawal fees anyway.
Buffoons. Glad I’m not a shareholder…
So an afternoon spent shooting pool and drinking on the balcony was followed by a short walk to a Vietnamese restaurant and a slap-up feast, all for less than a fiver. One thing that’s quite annoying (or cool, if you think about it) is that in Vietnam, a quid is worth 30,000 Dong (hee hee! DONG!), which means that if you withdraw 35 quid you become a Dong Millionaire. If you took out 3,500 quid, you’d be a Dong Billionaire. (If you’re wondering why I don’t just use the pound sign, this laptop has an American keyboard, sorry, quids will have to do.)
But counting the noughts becomes a drag after a while and you have to wonder why the government just doesn’t knock three noughts off the currency. Or join the Euro.
So dinner be done and after a few to many rounds of the grand game of backpacking, La Tete Merde, the night closed in on us. I said my tatty-byes to Stan and Helen and waddled up the road to the bus awaiting. It had been a blast catching up, but the time had come to move on. Sleeping on the bus was made infinitely more difficult by the broad Yorkshire accents to my left emanating from a couple of volume-control-deficient morons who thought it acceptable (if not desirable) to natter loudly all night about absolute bollocks. Well, I like doing that myself sometimes, but not on a bus full of strangers. I grumpily stuffed my iPod into my ears, turned the volume up to eleven to drown out the incessant drone and was soon whisked off to the land of nod.
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