I’m a morning person and if you’re a morning person you have to find more of your kind or you screw up cornflakes time for other people.
We’re in Sapa. It’s maybe 10am and I’m hunched over an omelette, sat with my buddy Pete and the girl who arrived yesterday. I wish I remembered her name. Something short and masculine, maybe Dom? She was cool.
It’s funny how you meet people when you’re travelling – they’re in your life for days or weeks and then not at all. I met this other guy, Luke, in Ao Nang. He looked super sketchy but he was so fun to hang out with – we spent the whole day motorbiking around mountains. Krabi is covered in these huge limestone plugs you can drive around, it’s like in the movies.
Later the same day we were sat in a bar and he tells me he works with DNA and had been fixing up dying kids at a hospital in London. Fucking cool, and a lesson to me about books and covers. He’d been reading research papers that morning because bitches love guys who read research papers and by bitches I mean me. I quizzed him about what’s new in DNA – he said they’re on the verge of fixing Leukaemia.
Anyway – me, Pete and Dom. We’d talked over beers the night before about her job. She’s from Australia – she goes out into the Bush and takes soil samples and figures out the best rate to reintroduce plants and wildlife. Apparently a load of damage was done with overplanting in the 70s and then again when they tried to fix it. I guess it’s a bit like art restoration – you can’t just go in and repaint the thing, you have to figure out how the last guy messed up and fix that, too.
The three of us were sat there breaking our fast when this guy joins us. That’s cool, hostel life. Morning guys. How was your night? Plans for today? Mind if I join you? It’s part and parcel.
This guy yawns ostentatiously. I bite. “Oh, I’ve been awake since five a.m.”
Christ, really? Why?
“I’m not, you know. I’m not really a conventional guy”.
Already I’m loving this conversation. Pete knows me well enough by now to spot the signs. Dom, who has this impish short-cropped thing going on and might not mind being described as unconventional, looks on in silence.
“Well, the bus I was on arrived really early this morning”
So, reader, here’s the thing. There are three ways to arrive in Sapa – you can take the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then a bus for an hour; you can take an overnight bus straight from Hanoi; or you can make your own way on a motorbike. Half of the trains and busses arrive early in the morning, so half the people in the room were similarly unconventional.
I myself arrived in town at six a.m., and I wear a shirt and suit trousers to work, in an office. In a bank. Sometimes I wear a tie.
We sparred back and forth for a while. I revealed I sometimes found travelling in China a bit difficult. He thought I was being patronising and condescending. I enjoyed pointing out his tautology. He didn’t like that so much. Pete and Dom shared a significant look and left us to it.
Later that day I was sitting at the bar and he wandered over and offered me heroin.
Normally I try hard to remember names but I can’t remember his at all. I saw him a week later in Hanoi; he walked slowly past the hostel, clocked me, nodded hello, and carried on.