Maybe some background as to how I pitched up in Hanoi might be in order.
In September (2014) I embarked on a very belated gap year. Mainly, it has to be said, because they hadn’t been invented back when I was 19. At that age I was broke and managed all of three weeks between college and starting my first job.
Spool forward to my 50th birthday and finally time and opportunity arose to set out on my travels just as I had dreamt all those years before. Vietnam was my first destination and I spent seven weeks here travelling from north to south.
Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only UK traveller that had been inspired to visit on the strength of the Top Gear Vietnam Special on TV. In Da Nang I met a bunch of English lads who had flown to Ho Chi Minh City, bought motorbikes and were recreating the Top Gear road trip to Ha Long Bay. By the time I met them at the half way point they were completely exhausted and doubting very much the veracity of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s journey the length of Vietnam.
One of them told me: “There’s no way they rode motorbikes all the way. They filmed for a bit, stopped and then put their bikes on a trailer and were chaffuered the rest of the way. In one day they supposedly rode 600 kilometres, there’s no way they did that on a bike on these roads.”
Six months later, after having visited Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, I was simply not ready to go home. With no job to go to and, technically, nowhere to stay there were few compelling reasons to return to Scotland. So it was back to Hanoi and a new life in Vietnam.
As Jeremy Clarkson likes to ask, “What could possibly go wrong?”
Ultimately I lasted five months then returned home mainly to visit family after a year on the road and to tie up some loose ends. The first couple of months were hard going. I was unsettled and spent most of the time plotting how to get back.
Finally, after just five months in the UK, I succeeded in returning to Vietnam in late February after a brief stop to visit family who live near Stuttgart in Germany. Twenty hours door to door I was back in my favourite Old Quarter hotel.
Thanks to a bit of forwarding planning I put a deposit on an apartment in Tay Ho the very next day. The ‘plan’ now is either: find a job and stay permanently, or see out my current visa, work in Scotland for six months and then return here for six months. If I can time it properly I could miss out the worst of the Scottish winter. Sounds like a plan to me.