GROUNDED IN VIETNAM
Whether it was the repulsive whi of another cocktail bucket or the sight of a young backpacker showfully setting fire to a delicate part of his anatomy, at 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening I decided it was time to leave Nha Trang. Salvation, I was sure, awaited me in Hanoi, but when I arrived at the train station I was informed that all overnight trains were fully booked. With a dogged determination that bordered on derangement, I jumped in a taxi and headed for the town’s airport.
An hour later, I arrived at a remote facility that had evidently closed for the night. Cursing my stupidity, I curled up in the deserted parking lot to sleep, only to be prodded awake by a security guard undergoing his rounds on a dilapidated bicycle. Abandoning his responsibilities, he spent the night chatting with me. His name was Duc. He was a chain-smoking Hanoian who had moved to Nha Trang to pursue a career in security. Between drawnout drags he explained that his family still owned a restaurant in his hometown, where he insisted I dine upon my eventual arrival. He even called his mom so she would expect me.
Aer landing in Hanoi the following day, I followed Duc’s directions to his family’s rustic restaurant, burrowed deep within the warren of Old Quarter alleyways. Here, I was treated to the best – and largest – meal I had during my whole time in Vietnam. The best part: not a cocktail bucket in sight.