Tag Archives: life

Hidden Dangers of Cycling in Hanoi

8 Nov

The following incident took place a few weeks ago. I am only just recovering from the humiliation and so, it has taken me this long to post the story that I wrote some time ago. Enjoy.

Standard bicycle scene in Hanoi...

Standard bicycle scene in Hanoi… Taken from the back of our motorbike

Living in Hanoi teaching English, it is considered something of a crime not to drive a motorbike. A failing almost. Everyone has one. Seriously, everyone. It is just part of essential everyday life here, with the public transport system being practically non-existent and very difficult to figure out for non-Vietnamese. Truthfully, I’m too scared (don’t judge me). I will happily ride around as a passenger on the back of John’s Yamaha and have actually given it a try myself but I really don’t feel great about driving a motorbike with no insurance in the crazy traffic. I have resolutely stuck to my bicycle since I arrived here, stubbornly denying claims that it is too hot to cycle to work in the heat of Hanoi’s summer. The sweltering temperatures, combined with the fact that I generally have to wear smart black trousers, means that I consistently arrive to work clad in a suit of sweat. Lovely. Attempting to try and aid the airflow a little, I wore a loose, long flowing maxi-dress to work the other day. While aware that it wasn’t really appropriate cycling attire, I decided that minimizing my intolerable sweat situation was more important.

Mistake number one.

I was soon to find out that bicycles can, in fact, be even more dangerous than motorbikes.

As I cycled home from work that day, I was enjoying an unusual breeze as my dress floated around my legs in the light wind. Just as I thought to myself what a welcome respite this was from the usual stifling heat of my smart trousers, I heard a huge ripping sound and my bike began to skid to a stop. My dress had become caught in the back wheel of my bike. It felt like slow motion but in an instant my dress ripped right off from the waist down, causing me to topple off of my bike, on to the ground with only my underwear protecting my modesty. Kneeling at the side of the road, practically half naked, trying to untangle my dress from the wheel, a Vietnamese man stopped to help me.

Although touched by his kindness, I was far too embarrassed and over-exposed to want any help so I attempted to wave him away politely. He persisted in untangling the remains of my dress and, politeness prevailing, I let him.

Mistake number two.

Obviously encouraged by me allowing him to assist with the situation, he started rubbing my arm and gesturing wildly at me. Confused, it took me a moment to grasp what he was trying to say but I was soon able to work out what he was asking me. Wait for it…

He was asking if I would perform oral sex on him – FOR MONEY- all conveyed through the power of sign language.


What was he thinking? He saw me topple off my bike. He saw the dress rip and so was aware that I was not just hanging around the street in my pants, waiting for business. What was it about the incident that made him think it would be an appropriate time to suggest I gave him a blow job?! Seriously. At least he offered to pay, I guess.

Anyway, after using some ‘sign language’ of my own, I made it very clear that this would NOT be happening. EVER. I then set off home with my underwear on display and my dignity (and dress) in tatters. Cycling home through Hanoi, I attracted a lot of unwanted attention and just as I was confident that the journey couldn’t get any worse, one of the very few people I actually know in this new city pulled up beside me at the traffic lights (on a motorbike of course, dammit). Noticing the horror on his face, I proceeded to make polite conversation while he awkwardly attempted to divert his eyes, speeding off before I had a chance to explain the situation.

I had no choice but to wave him goodbye and continue the journey home in my underwear. Despite being one of the most embarrassing journeys of my life, I did see the funny side and cycled home with tears of laughter streaming down my face!

I still haven’t graduated to my own motorbike yet but I have learned my lesson – maxi dresses and bicycles DO NOT mix.

Here is picture evidence from that fateful day. I can’t quite believe I am posting a picture of myself with my ass out on the internet but I feel it tops off the story nicely.

The grand unveiling...

The grand unveiling…


Happy Birthday Granny

14 Sep
Glamorous Granny and Grandad

Glamorous Granny and Grandad

Today is my Granny’s birthday. And her death day. Last year, on this day, she left her body on this earth, after managing to make it (just and no more) to the grand old age of 88. Like other distressing events, such as 9/11 or the news that Michael Jackson had died, I’ll never forget where I was when I found out. It was completely unexpected. I was on a shoot with work, staying alone in a hotel in London. I had an early start ahead of me and my alarm was set for 6.30am. When I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing my first feeling was that of panic, I assumed I must have slept in for my shoot. After I managed to focus my bleary morning eyes on the screen, I realized it was my Mum calling. Before 6.30am. My initial feeling of panic manifested itself in a sinking lurch in my stomach. Of course I knew straightaway something was wrong. My Mum would never call me at that ridiculous time. Nobody would, unless it was a Sunday and some of my friends were still up, having life changing discussions after a particularly heavy night out.

For a split second, I thought about not answering, knowing deep down that something terrible had happened and wanting to protect myself from whatever news was about to be bestowed upon me. Honestly, I didn’t expect that it would be about my Granny. Despite being 87 years old and having taken a bit of a downturn with her dementia recently, I still thought of her as being the strong willed, hilarious, lively woman, full of life and a passion for fashion, that she’d always been. Of course, she was absolutely still this woman but perhaps with me living in Glasgow, being very busy with work and my selfish twenty-something life, I had missed how bad her dementia had got and turned a bit of a blind eye to the decline in her general health. I have a tendency to bury my head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening when it comes to things like that. Now, as so often is the way in this life, I wish that I had confronted the facts at hand and made the effort to go and visit her more often than I did, while I still had the chance. That’s not a nice feeling to address.

So, as I write, around this time, a year ago, I answered that phone call from my Mum. I immediately asked what was wrong and after a brief pause she just came right out and said it. “Granny died last night.” She had a stroke and it would have been fairly instantaneous with little or no pain, she reassured me.

They were words I hadn’t expected to hear for AT LEAST another five years and it took my brain a few minutes to process the information. I didn’t even cry at first. My throat ached and my head spun but I couldn’t quite translate these feelings in to physical tears. Embarrassingly, it wasn’t until I was leaving a voicemail for my boss, letting her know that I wouldn’t be able to make it to work that day, that the sadness was able to express itself in physical form. The tears started to flow and once the floodgate had opened I couldn’t stop. I can’t remember if I even made it to the end of my message but my work were completely lovely about the whole situation and arranged to get me on to the next flight back to Scotland.

Strangely, while on the Heathrow Express going to the airport, I ended up sitting across from a tiny, elderly lady who was sobbing uncontrollably, in complete silence. She looked heart-breakingly sad and usually, I would have been compelled to ask what was wrong and tried to comfort her. But on this same day last year, the tiny, upset lady and I sat across from one another in simultaneous silent tears, with only a brief single glance of understanding exchanged between us. I hoped she was OK but in a strange way, I felt that we comforted one another a little with our mutual sadness.

So, that’s how I spent this day last year.

This is a travel blog, you may be thinking. Where does the travel part come in? Well, one thing that makes me swell with pride when I think about my Granny, is how much she loved to travel. Alongside poppies, fashion and my Grandad Arthur, it was one of her long-term loves. At just the age of 28, her and my Grandad (30 at the time) packed up their lives, including a two year old Joyce (with a baby Bette soon to be on the way), and moved over to New York where they lived and worked for a total of five years. Back in the 50s, this was a completely unheard of thing for a couple of twenty-something’s from the small town of Brechin, Scotland to do. But they went and they did it. They defied the odds in pursuit of adventure, something they both sought out their whole life.

My Mum and Auntie Joyce in New York

My Mum Bette and Auntie Joyce in New York

Grandad and Joyce

Grandad and Auntie Joyce in New York

Throughout both my Granny and Grandad’s lives, they traveled a lot. A lot by anyone’s standards but particularly so for their generation, when it was still considered wildly exotic to cross the border in to North England for your honeymoon.

From the legendary road trip from Scotland to Majorca with five children, ranging from 3 months old to 13, crammed in to the back of a tiny Hillman Minx; to the round the world trip they took upon retirement which saw them conquer New York, LA, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Singapore; to everything else that came in between, their passion to see the world and everything in it was nothing short of inspirational.

Road trip to Majorca in the Hillman Minx!

Road trip to Majorca in the Hillman Minx!

Some of the other countries that they travelled to (the ones I am aware of) included France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Holland, Austria, Turkey, Egypt, Florida, Canada and the Caribbean, where they indulged in a fantastic cruise, worthy of a place on any self-respecting bucket list. My Grandad also saw a lot of the world during the Second World War, when he was placed on various ships in the Mediterranean and spent time in South Africa. Playing in the forces football team, he would often travel wherever the team was summoned for matches. He was once almost adopted by a South African, department-store owning, couple and I’m pretty sure he probably came close to adopting a couple of African children himself (that postcard is another story….).

Yes, it’s certainly fair to say that neither of them were ever short of a story or two. Their passion for travel and zest for life is something that will never be forgotten by me, my family or anyone who knew them.

What I’m trying to say is that, although I’m over here in Vietnam, while the rest of my family goes out for a celebratory happy birthday meal, I feel as close to my Granny as I ever could. As much as I wish I could join them and raise a glass of Baileys in memory of her genuinely inspiring life, I know, more than anyone else I have ever met, she would understand the need for adventure and my desire to travel. I just wish that she could have been here to hear my stories. I can only hope that they will live up to hers.

Happy Birthday Granny. I hope you guys are having the biggest adventure yet up there.

On the beach

On the beach

Road trip!

Road trip!

Family camping trip

Family camping trip



New York

New York

Granny with Mum and Joyce

Granny with Mum and Joyce

Despite the ever present passion for travel, she was always a huge part of all her grandchildren’s lives! (That’s me playing it cool back right!)

Despite the ever present passion for travel, she was always a huge part of all her grandchildren’s lives! (That’s me playing it cool back right!)

Today is the first day of the rest of your life*

8 Sep

(*Embarrassing post alert. Feeling deep today.)



This quote has become something of a cliché but I genuinely think it’s something we should keep in the forefront of our minds, every day. If you really consider the meaning, it is more exciting than any other gift we could be given. If you are not happy, do something about it. Any dreams or aspirations you have, don’t put them off any longer. As hinted at in the title of this blog, I am very guilty of procrastinating in most aspects of my life and it really is a terrible characteristic to uphold. 

As humans, our mortality is hard (if not impossible) to fathom but we really do only live once. This IS it. We are only getting older and with each second that passes we are missing out on wasted opportunities.

Finally making the move to come over here and do the travelling and teaching that I have wanted to do for years has made me realise, that actually, it is easy to do what you want to do. You just have to do it.

Only you can make it happen.



6 Jul