Monday, December 8, 2003

A tale of two cities and their folk

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003
AFTER 10 exciting days in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I moved base to Hanoi
yesterday afternoon. It was not only the cool weather which greeted me,
but also a rather cold atmosphere in the capital, which is supposed to be
the heart of the Games where 22 sports are being competed.
Maybe I was spoilt by the friendly and helpful volunteers, officials and
people of HCMC.
But my apprehensions were confirmed when I went to the Main Press Centre
(MPC), where I met the "Malaysian media contingent" who confirmed my fears
that life is not going to be as smooth as HCMC.
I had been forewarned by my colleague, Rizal Hashim, who has been in
Hanoi for a week now, that things would be different. After checking out
the MPC and settling in, I found that it was adequately equipped with all
facilities at hand, definitely bigger than the MPC in HCMC but lacking in
I soon realised my stay here is going to be taxing as I asked for
directions to Daewoo Hotel where the Malaysian soccer team are staying.
The volunteer told me that it was nearby, a 10-minute walk away, and at
the same time, enjoy the scene in Hanoi. I was supposed to take the road
down the MPC, make a left turn at the first junction and the hotel would
be there.
That was simple enough, and I decided to walk. Hardly, had I walked 30m,
I realised there was a left turn, but it was a narrow road which led to a
Then I saw another small passage which led to the main street and 200m
away, was the Daewoo Hotel.
I decided to take a cab back after meeting the Malaysian team.
I had asked the volunteer at MPC to write the address in Vietnamese and
boarding a metered taxi from a five-star hotel, I was sure my nightmare
was over. How wrong I was!
The taxi driver, who had nodded that he knew the MPC, lost his way and
guess what ... we came to a dead-end. The driver had to ask for directions
before he finally said I've arrived at my destination. But it did not look
like the MPC because it was the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC)!
I asked one of the electronic journalists from Vietnam for the MPC but
he didn't speak any English. But after pointing on the map, he instructed
me to head for a supermarket as the MPC was nearby. As I headed towards
the supermarket, someone called my name. It was sports commentator Shaukei
Kahar, who was having a cup of coffee.
I was relieved and asked him for directions and he said that I had to
walk around the supermarket. I headed for the MPC, pleased that I have
finally got the right directions.
I took the turn but there was no MPC but a dark alley and with no signs.
I decided to walk back to the supermarket and ask for directions. I got a
promoter to look at the address and she said that this (the supermarket)
was the address on the paper!
I walked out and asked some uniformed men for directions using the map.
One of them pointed back to the alley and told me to walk right to the
end. Sure enough at the end was the back of the MPC.
I'm already missing the city with one million motorcycles that is Ho Chi
Minh City.

No comments: