Hoi An and the South
Just what I ordered. Pan-fried dog with garlic and chili. Medium rare. A bit chewy, definitely tastier than beef. This is finest quality dog- black dog, better than the brown and tan mutts. Black Labrador. With garlic and chili. Washed down with Tiger beer. Yum yum.
I lie. The above is my imagination. Not that I didn't want it to be reality, I'd love to eat dog, if for no other reason than to annoy all those dog lovers for whom the welfare of their pooch is more important than the welfare of their fellow man. Those doggy people who have no problem with fido pooping on the pavement. But that is the second reason for my not eating canine meat to which I'll come to later.
The first reason was purely practical. Dog meat was off the menu. Dog meat restaurants were closed. It was the first half of the lunar month, a time when eating fido is said to bring bad luck. No problem in the second half of the lunar month however when consumption of dog brings good fortune. And just before this time we see a truck rattling down the road. From a distance it looks like it is piled high of small cages containing animals, certainly goats or sheep. But as it nears, the goats come into focus. They are no goats, they are dogs. Must be over a hundred dogs, squeezed into tiny metal cages, ten or so high. Over one hundred dogs off to the slaughter house on the back of the truck... But until the second half of the lunar month, after the new moon they live. It's then the chili and garlic sauce, stir fried in the wok...
The second reason for not eating dog meat I have already begun to allude to. Doggy poo. The thought of consuming an animal that can create foul turds like the dog is an immediate turn-off. Nothing wrong with herbivore poo, cow pats aren't pleasant, and sheep droppings are not exactly (excuse the analogy) anyone's idea of a dogs dinner, but at least they are plant based, don't smell chokingly bad, and when dried can be handled without too much hesitation (in Mongolia we were using dried cow pats as fuel for our fire). But dog poo? Can you imagine ever touching that? Especially when it is old and hard (there's a question, why do you never see old dog poo with white bits in it like you used to?). So no dog meat because of doggy poo. Besides, it's not in the food chain is it? Herbivores eat plants, carnivores eat herbivores. Carnivores don't eat carnivores unless they are desperate or scavenging (do they?) And I am neither. So with a touch of disappointment, the delicacy of dog meat will remain a mystery to me.
It was early evening when we arrived in Hoi An. Or was it late afternoon? What's the difference? When is the cut off point? Rather than sit on the proverbial fence and suffer the indignity of getting splinters up my arse I'll start again. It was 5.45 when we arrived in Hoi An. That sounds like late afternoon. Or was it ten to six? That has a definite resonance of early evening. The time is of reasonable importance, hence my dwelling on it. Because when we arrived the hotel of our choice was almost full. And the next one was full. And the next one. No room in any inns in this town. Almost. I said the hotel of our choice was almost full- the cheap rooms were all taken. All that was left was the expensive upstairs room, weighing in at forty dollars. Too expensive. We took a look at the room. 'Spooky' said Lindsey, 'spot on' said I. The hotel was an old classical Chinese trading house and the upstairs rooms continued the theme. Dark and atmospheric, with wood paneled walls, a tiny window with bars and dark wood furniture with mother of pearl marquetry inlays. Wooden posts supporting the wooden ceiling. And a huge canopy bed with intricate carving on the posts and frame. A friend who had been to Hanoi several months earlier recommended this hotel and this room in particular. Cheers Eddy! But at forty dollars, too expensive. But this is where the time came in. Pointing at the clock I asked the receptionist what the time was.
"Any more tourist busses coming into town tonight?"
"So that room will be empty tonight then?"
"I suppose so if you don't take it."
"Excellent. How about twenty dollars for the night. And hey, green cash is better than an empty room!"
"OK, thirty five dollars" This is more like it.
"Come on, twenty five is good. Here, look at the colour of my cash- much more colourful than empty room!"
"Thirty is our last price. My boss won't let me go any lower"
"OK, we'll take it for thirty".
We make ourselves at home in this antique room of character then venture out for some food. As we pass the reception and hand in our key I ask the receptionist about trains or busses to Ho Chi Min City.
"Better you fly" she says.
"Sorry, but flying is just not on our agenda. We took the train here, and we are not about to start taking internal flights in Vietnam with Vietnam airlines".
"Eh?" she asked, "but you took a plane to get here."
"No, we took the train. And a few busses and a couple of boats".
"What all the way from England?"
"Yep!" She brings her hands together and bows down at us. 'Nuff respect!' Yes indeedy.
"So how about reducing the room rate for us?"
"So are you from Hoi An?" I ask,
"No, from Danang"
"So you take the bus in every day?"
No, I rent a room here. Thirteen dollar a month..."
"Hang on; you could live for three months in your room for one night in ours. And I bet you have a fan..." We don't have a fan, and the air-conditioning takes an age to cool the room. She laughs. And still refuses to lower the room rate. Ho hum.
We leave the hotel and find a restaurant that serves the finest fish wrapped in banana leaves with a salt, pepper, lemon grass and garlic marinade. Oh eating sunshine.
Cold in the heat
Bloody marvelous. It feels like someone has rammed a flaming cork up my right nostril. My sinuses are burning up and the snout is blocked. Call out Dynarod! The other nostril flows quite freely. Uncontrollably in fact, a snot waterfall. We need to mop this up, now onto the second handkerchief, working my way round it, increasingly fewer dry patches remaining... can't practice the snot rocket here- sitting by the pool in the courtyard of the hotel. I'm staying away from the room; too much air conditioning has gifted me with a second cold only days after recovering from the last. Find a pharmacist. I've gotta cold, the flu, blocked nose, painful sinuses. I am handed a pack of amoxicillin. Penicillin? For a common cold? Slight overkill. Besides, the last time I took Amoxicillin my skin erupted, infernally itchy spots all over. So I'm allergic to the stuff. Hey, all I want is a decongestant and some paracetamol. We get there eventually.
The question is, how long must I suffer like this. My energy is sapped; it drains away through the throbbing head and the stiffening limbs. How lucky I am to have such a great wife who nurses me. So excuse me whilst I sniffle, apologies for my groans. I feel awful.
Made to measure
...And too ill to have any clothes made. It was the plan. Come to Hoi An and take advantage of the plethora of tailors. Every other shop is fronted with mannequins, young girls pouncing 'Come in please". Just looking. "We make suit for you. Maybe later" And because Hoi An is so small when you walk past them again after ignoring them the first time the patter becomes "you remember me. You say later. You looking now". Lindsey has had a shirt made and a pair of shorts. And I was going to have a new wardrobe made, surely it would be silly not to? For US$30, a tailored suit? But hey?! Do I really need to have a suit? I've got more than a few at home (most of which were tailored in India. And whilst they looked good at the time do I wear them now? The gold silk double breasted number for example? When was the last time that saw the light of the day? The last job interview I attended and got rejected,, before investing in quality Versace threads from M&S and I got the job…) With this cold the last thing we want is the hassle of a huge back pack again- so soon after successfully reducing it in size. And the thought of posting a parcel at the post office sends shivers down my spine.
On to Na Trang
Na Trang wasn't on the agenda. It slipped in because it was half way between Hoi An and Saigon. Looking at the map, the distances are not so great, but transport in Vietnam is still at the speed of the ox cart; the train, the reunification express takes twenty odd hours and the bus takes a shade longer. Of course the flight is under an hour, but we don't do planes, do we Lindsey. (She mumbles 'no' at me and smirks a knowing smile, 'you know that I'd do anything to fly. Anything to avoid sitting on a bus for hours at a time and not worry about where the next toilet may be...) The train was all booked up, so, grudgingly, the bus it was. Thirteen hours down Highway One.
Highway one is the principal transport artery in Vietnam, connecting the North with the South. It is a single lane carriageway, clinging to the east of the sliver of Asia that is Vietnam. Bouncing on and off from the beaches of the South China Sea. Passing endless concrete pill boxes (yanky or VC?) and neat cemeteries, row upon row of white headstones arranged around a central concrete monument. Chilling reminders of the American War as they call it here. A war that, with the spectre of communism and the cold war a fleeting memory, seems such a waste of time. What was the point? (And what hell it must have been for the Americans,- movies touch just the sense of sight, they tell nothing of the sense of touch- to feel the infernal heat here.... and it makes you wonder about the smells... all for what?...) The guidebook tells of an American officer returning to Vietnam after the war and on meeting his Vietnamese counterpart of similar rank said proudly that the US never lost a battle in Vietnam. The VC veteran replied curtly 'yes, but that is irrelevant, isn't it. )
But back to highway One. So it is something like the M1, but without the lanes, the barriers and the speed. Oh, and with the addition of the ubiquitous sea of Honda mopeds. What does the sign say at the entrance of motorways in the UK? No Stopping, No three wheelers, no learner drivers, no bicycles, no tractors and most of all no mopeds. Nothing under 150cc. Most of the traffic on Highway 1 falls under those prohibited categories. Hence things go rather slowly for most vehicles. No, all vehicles except for the public busses. Rocket busses hurtling between Hanoi and Saigon. Death traps, the roofs carrying the luggage, anything from live pigs in baskets to Honda mopeds. And as they torpedo past anything that moves, from the open door at the front, the bus conductor hangs out.
Would be an interesting study,- occupational hazards for public bus conductors in Vietnam. Fatalities must occur. These men hang from the door, clinging on with one hand with the other arm and leg outstretched. And they are hanging out like that continuously. Passing people by the roadside - 'hey guys, we're thundering to Saigon, wanna get on the bus?' And then past a wedding cortège, (the bride and groom's chosen vehicle? a Honda of course) and the conductor slaps the bride on the backside as they overtake, and then overtaking other vehicles and still hanging out. On the odd bus we have seen where the conductor is not trying to emulate an acrobatic circus performer, they sling a hammock in the doorway and take a snooze.
But we don't take the public busses. Not for want of trying. But Lindsey has put her foot down.
'I will not go on one of those busses. Dangerous things. They'll kill you'.
'But I want to travel with the local people...'
'If you want to be killed you can.'
I am never going to win this one, and as we pull into Na Trang we see another fatal road traffic accident and that puts an end to my aspirations of traveling away from the tourist busses.
We arrive in Na Trang and check into the hotel that the bus drops us off at. I'm still suffering from the flu, and after thirteen hours on the bus we are tired and look forward to some shuteye. Zzzzzzzzz.
Na Trang Mud
We find a better hotel the next morning. I'm still suffering with the flu and Lindsey has a delicate stomach. Not the runs mind. Quite the opposite. ( Shhhhh, she doesn't want you to know this, but whilst she's looking the other way I let you into a secret. She's not been for three days. Constipation is Lindsey's affliction). Luckily there is a health farm just outside Na Trang. Hot Springs, the works. So off we go.
A friendly taxi driver took us to the outskirts of the town. Probably the slowest taxi in East Asia, a problem with the petrol supply resulted in a staccato journey that was only made bearable by his friendly banter. For once when we came to the 'how old do you think I am?" I was able to correctly guess 'thirty,' a kindred spirit in the aging game.
First up was a massage. Lindsey wasn't up for one, so alone I trotted into a small booth, was instructed to remove my clothing, put on a loose fitting pair of shorts and jump on the massage table, placing my head in the hole at the end. The man who gave me these instructions left and a couple of minutes later someone else entered the room. 'Hello' she said. Hello?! She jumped up on the table and started walking up and down my back. Crack. Then a feeling of liquid. Must be the baby oil I'd noticed on the shelf by the window, baby oil is being rubbed all over my back, following the curve of my spine and... Steady on there! She pulling my shorts down and is rubbing baby oil on the tops of my arse cheeks. Any lower and she'll be venturing down the crack. Hang on, it's not meant to be one of those types of massage parlors. This is government run! Now her hands are running back towards my neck and she is undoing all those knots and stiffness from too much traveling and I am feeling good. Easy there lady as she runs her knee down my spine. And again she is at my waist and now she is kneading my buttocks, I've still got my shorts on mind, and I want her to get on to my legs because I'm sure my wife wouldn't approve of another woman's hands on my back side, but you see she's found considerable tightness around my buttock cheeks, a particular tenseness that she is really going at to loosen. But it is not a muscular thing; a huge fart has been brewing in the intestinal food processor and I'd like nothing more to break wind, here and now, but I can't so I'm clenching, holding it in, and my masseuse clearly can feel this and thinks it is something she has got too loosen, but there is no way I'm going to drop one with her face hanging over as she goes to work on my bum.
Legs, knees, ankles, feet, toes, I'm getting good value for my four dollars. Must've been 45 minutes. And now she is rolling me over and bloody hell!! This is the first time I've seen her and she is a pretty young Vietnamese girl, with a dress that is barely a dress, the sort of thing that makes a mini skirt look long. And she has been rubbing around on top of me in that?! Calm. Lindsey knows where I am. This is a government run place I keep telling myself. Totally innocent. But then the music cuts into my consciousness and it is seventies porn music and this is too much. Even more so when she starts working on my legs and her oiled hands are getting uncomfortably close to my crotch (uncomfortable is not really the appropriate word. It is very comfortable having a scantily clad Vietnamese babe's hand edging up your shorts. No, the word is wrong. And I told her so). It had to end there. She left the cubicle; I rushed to put my clothes on and dashed to Lindsey. "You'll never guess what..." Lindsey was chatting to another masseur. They ended their conversation and we went off to the mud tubs.
We lounged in tubs of hot mud for half an hour, Lindsey particularly enjoying it, "like doing what you were never allowed to do as a child!" And then on to the hot tub. Stingingly hot water. And then to the hot pool. Swimming pool, temperature forty degrees. Nice. But need to cool. Need an ice cold plunge pool. No we don't have those I am told. Cold shower? Over there. But you don't want to do that. Hot hen cold will make you ill. I'm not so sure, we cool off under pleasantly cold/ luke warm showers.
"...A trip to these Islands is one of the main reasons for visiting Nha Trang, so try to schedule at least one day for a boat journey." So says the Lonely Planet. Luckily there are plenty of boat trips that leave the hotels; choosing which operator to go with is a bit hit and miss, they all offer the same kind off stuff, same places etc. Close the eyes, and pin the tail on the donkey. Hahn Cafe Boat trip. Start at 8.30am (an Eastern 8.30 that actually means 9.15am). Bus to the boat. Not many people on the bus. Augers well. Get comfortable on the boat, a robust single decked wooden affair, a roof with a tarpaulin stretched out over it. Maybe forty foot long, but I'm no good with measurements so that could be wildly out. No matter. Big enough for the twenty or so of us who are on board. We wait. And wait. And huh? A bus has just pulled up and thirty plus people are getting off it, they wandering across the quay and boarding our boat. No bloody way. Both Vietnamese and western and this is too much. Too many people. Grumpy head is now on. Both of us. Lindsey was none too pleased to be getting up early in the morning after a sleepless night (we'd opted to forgo the air conditioning for a fan that wasn't up to the job).
We motor out of the small harbour, negotiating around the other tour boats going out (none of which appear to have quite as many on board as we do). As we venture out into the transparent turquoise sea the western sun seekers troop up to the roof whilst the Vietnamese, an Irish couple and us remain down below. Fewer people. This is more like it.
First stop, an Island. Well, Islands are ostensibly what this trip is about. To my surprise there are enough masks and snorkels to go around those who want them. Lindsey floats around on a ring, holding on to me as I put my mask on. I peer into the clear water. And immediately flick my head out of it. I'm spooked. It is so deep and yet so clear. It's been a while since I last went snorkeling. Slowly slowly. I try again; Lindsey holds my feet as I use my arms to move around. Gazing down at the coral and the multi-coloured fish below. The creator must've been on acid when he made some of those fish. Surely an argument against evolutionary theory, with its dependence on causal factors, seeking parsimonious explanations for how and why organisms have evolved. Evolutionary stable strategies to ensure the survival of the fittest. And where exactly do florescent red green and blue bands fit into that? Not exactly camouflage from predators. Maybe a display of fitness in the mating selection game (a thicker red band being the equivalent of a Gucci/ Armani display of wealth...) Or maybe it is just an overdose of naturally occurring LSD in the slimy aquatic gene pool many millennia ago.
I'm talking arse. Must be the heat. So I'm snorkeling (Lindsey had a go but didn't like it) and watching the fish go by and am admiring the coral that is hard to admire, much of it is bleached, dead or decaying. The last time I saw coral was in the Red Sea in Egypt, arguably the best place in the world for it. Or so divers have told me). Excellent!
Back on boat. Island number two. More turquoise sea, crystal clear, white sand beach, palms, it is one picture that is not hard to paint. Just leave it to your imagination and you've got it. Moored off the Island and a smorgasbord of food is dished up. Washed down with the first beer of the day. With eating over, me belly be full. Swimming is out of the question; too many spring rolls will act as ballast. The little man who calls himself 'strong man' (well that was the English interpretation- we can't remember the Vietnamese) grabs a guitar and announces that he can sing songs in over thirty languages. He picks off the different nationalities on the boat and croons national songs. His guitar is painfully out of tune; his voice is not much better. But it is the effort that counts. Pure comedy value as he hacks his way through the Flower of Scotland, Wild Rover, Waltzing Matilda, And then a song for the Japanese duo who are really getting into it. What do you expect from the people who gave the world Karaoke?
Meanwhile from the other boat that surreptitiously moored up not so far from ours a band has struck up. Badly performed Beatles numbers are echoing around the bay. Twist and shout becomes la la la bamba and the guests are dancing on the tables and there is obviously the 18-30 boat. Once again we are just one step below Saga...
The ballast has settled, but not enough to be allowed to swim unaided. Strong man, the master of ceremony orders us all into the sea. The skipper of the boat threw in life saving rings for the guests to float in. A one legged leather skinned man who would find no difficulty in being cast as a pirate. A wild smile, balding head, and for those of you who know him, a Vietnamese spitting image of Chris the plumber. Even his mannerisms were the same, as he sparked up cigarettes and passed them to the revelers in the rings. Oh yes indeed revelers. Because strong man was in the biggest ring of them all, passing out cups of Vietnamese red wine, with pineapple chunks floating in them. Ensuring everyone was getting half cut. I was wrong. Suddenly we felt club 18-30. Barman, charge the glasses. To the top my man, careful not to spill any in the sea. Hah! Ever tried boozing in a rubber ring with the waves lapping over you? You try not dropping a drip.
And here is where the almost fatal mistake was made. Lindsey was as much guilty as me, although her exposure was less. The factor 30 remained in the bag. The skin was naked. The skin was burning. The brain was too pissed to notice.
Talking. To the Irish couple. All bobbing up and down in rubber rings. From Dublin. Work in London. In IT. Here we go, not the same firm I work for by chance?' "Yep!" Geezer is on a leave of absence. Barely past the pleasantries, the what office, what project before "Are you a consultant?" Because the grade will affect our relationship out here? Yeah right, particularly after all this booze. But I asked the same question of the last employee from the firm we met in China. Small world etc. And Lindsey has a kindred spirit to moan about hours her husband is away, at work, on bloody projects that demand their pound of flesh...
The hypothalamus is confused
"No you're not."
I feel like poo.
"I've got a fever."
"No you've not." In goes the thermometer. 37.2. Normal. "You are just sun burnt". My arms are blistering, proper burns, liquid gathering under the skin. And it is burning. I am burning up. But I am also cold. And sick. Lindsey I feel nauseous, I'm gonna heave.' I'm in bed and the air conditioning is on and it is making me cold. Too cold. Goose pimple erupt like mini volcanoes, the hair standing erect to attention whilst the sweat erupts out of the follicles and runs down the sides of the pimples. Urrrgggccchhhhh. Fever. Lindsey takes my temperature. Rising. Steadily. Touching 38 now. Hmmm. Now I'm supposed to me the authority on heat stress round here. I've given lectures on it. I've spoken at international symposiums about it. My PhD Thesis overflows with references to human thermal physiology. But I'll be arsed if I know what's going on with my physiology right now. I'm peaking at 38.5 now. A core body temperature level that the World health Organization has deemed employees in occupational settings shall not exceed. Yet I am shivering. The body shivers when it is cold. It is a mechanism for increasing the metabolic rate, for warming the body up. The hypothalamus the part of the brain that controls temperature regulation is clearly knackered. Doesn't know what time of day it is. I'm burning up, exceeding WHO guidelines and it is instructing the body to shiver. Arse. Or is it malaria? That dreaded word. But for once we are religious with our anti malarials, and from experience I know this isn't it. I can feel it isn't. Lindsey rips the blanket off me.
"You are not cold you fool".
"I-I-I'm b-b-b-bloody f-f-f-f-freezing"
"You are burning up" as she wraps a wet towel across my head. "Drunk and suffering from sun stroke. I don't care about your knowledge of heat stress. What I do care about is do drinking enough water to prevent us both suffering from your hangover tomorrow morning. Now DRINK!" My enough is not the same as Lindsey's enough. She has me drinking and drinking. And then at some time I loose consciousness. I fall asleep in my wife's arms. And awake the following morning alert and well. Good morning Lindsey my hero. You averted the hangover from hell. No hint of a fever. Time to enjoy the day. "Lindsey?" 'Leave me alone, I'm tired, I'm sleeping. Nursing you last night has taken it out of me!"
Fads (Mui Ne beach)
Throughout my life I have gone through a number of fads. Passing interests that I have been passionate about, almost obsessive, but then something has transpired to dullen that passion and I have moved onto the next thing. For example, BMX. Or rather freestyle BMX. I go to the BMX track and know, just know that I'll be doing tricks like I've seen in the magazines. I know I'll get rad air on the quarter pipe. I just know it. I was born for this moment. And I'm at the quarter pipe, and all the other kids are riding up it and doing aerials and man that's rad and they are all doing them anti-clockwise, riding up the right hand side of the pipe, getting air and coming down the left hand side. But I can't do that. That was never part of the plan. My affliction is the cack hand. The hand of the devil. Sinister. I do things differently from the other right-handed kids. I've gotta go the wrong way round the quarter pipe. So unlike being crap and just blending in like most of those freestyle BMXers I stick out like a sore thumb. Like a crap sore thumb. Come on guys, it'll take practice... but I'm already feeling humiliated. Not so much from the kids who are laughing at my crap efforts, but from myself. I was supposed to have been born for this moment. I was supposed to be able to get rad air like in the BMX magazines, just like that!
After BMX it was windsurfing. This time it wasn't because I was crap, it was the equipment. The tail fin or whatever it was called had snapped off. But I never did that again. Rugby- crap. Football ditto. Skiing. Not too bad on the school ski trip. In fact I was the best. All those days bunking sessions on the local dry slopes had paid off. But you can't really have skiing as a sport you are dedicated to... Next fad is travel/ Volkswagen camper vans. Buy one that is crap and breaks down the day after I get it home. Magic. Get lots of tricks, understand how they work but am always spotted in the performance. It's up your sleeve! Music. Got the instruments, can knock out a tune or two, but not to pull them all together on the recording studio on the PC. Cooking. I ruffle up a good Indian. Try my hand with Gordon Ramsey's cookbook and dishes just don't work. Crap again. I mean really good at? Will there ever be anything I try that I am good at.
Before this trip it was kiting. But it being winter it was too cold to take up kite surfing. Still, I had the magazines, the brochures (I'm sick of tidying up these kite magazines after you Marc" Lindsey would say). And then Mui Ne beach. Who'd've thought you could do Kite Surfing here. And look Lindsey, they even sell the kites. Blimey. Really cheap here. I'm going to do it tomorrow and I'll be good at it and I'll buy one of these kites coz they are such a bargain. I was born for this! And this time I know it. Lindsey, did you hear what that bloke who was talking to me said? Yeah, that French geezer who worked as a hairdresser in some poncey salon in London (sorry mate, I meant hair stylist. Or was it creative director?) ... He said that I was really good at this. He saw me flying my kite and said he could tell I'd done it before. So natural finding air..."
My kite is a tiny 2.2m fun kite. I start with a 3m kite with a control bar and harness. Awesome. Getting dragged down the beach. Into the sea. Feel the pull. Next up the 5 metre affair. A biggy. Three lines, thick lines that make those on my kite look like cotton threads. It fills with air. Shoots up into the air. I walk it into the sea, high above me. And then turn it left towards the sea, cut it right into the power zone, the danger zone. It rips me off my feet and it is dragging me across the waves. Face and chest well up out of the sea. Awesome! But I'm now too far from where I started. Got to walk it back. Pull it high into the sky, vertical, above me. But then a moments lapse of concentration and it cuts down, I'm cutting a figure of eight, I'm in motion again as I hit the power zone and then I loose it. Too close to the trees and it doesn't respond as quickly as my little kite, it moves too slowly, much too slowly.
I'm yanking at the bar, twisting it to the right, forcing it to the right, urging it to the right, praying it to the right but it keeps going left. It doesn't respond. And crashes into the trees on the beach.
We retrieve it and I get it airborne again. And promptly ditch it into the sea. The wind is more gusty now and with an unresponsive kite it troubles me. The chambers of the kite fill with water and despite my best efforts I am unable to keep it airborne, even when I finally manage to launch it.
The next couple of goes are better, but still, after every flight, sooner or later things go pear shaped and I ditch, struggle to get airborne and have to give up. I was supposed to be natural at this. I'm not a Zen kite master after all. I'm fighting with it. I don't feel it. I'm not at one with it. It's going to take more days than we've got to crack this one. The French guy who owns the place doesn't want to sell me a kite, despite the credit card panting and pleading to be used. And so another fad passes me by. I'm not admitting defeat (we'll find somewhere in Thailand), but I'm not the natural. The evolution from small kite to big, dragged in the sea to surfing on the board have failed. Just as it was always going to. Face it Marc McNeill, you are tub of lard who will never be very good at anything.