TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

Coincidences Can Give You Goosebumps

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Globetrotter

31 October 2018

Halloween may be scary, but so are some of the coincidences that happen in our life.

Sometimes it really seems like I have a guardian angel. My most recent experience feeling this was when I fell off my bike in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. I’m talking a plain old bicycle, not even a motorbike. But it definitely shook me up. The streets in Ninh Binh are pretty narrow, and when a car passes, it doesn’t even move all the way over to let bikes pass with security. A large truck was parked on the road and there was a narrow passageway to its left. I saw a motorbike go through, so I figured I’d give it a chance.

The true victim of my fall.

Photograph by Heather Markel, copyright 2018

The big problem, of course, was that I didn’t really believe I would make it. In the end, my lack of confidence caused me to freak out when beside the truck because I was right next to a steep drop into a river and couldn’t hold the front wheel steady. The bike gave way, I somehow grasped something on the truck, and what could have been a really bad accident ended up being minor scrapes and a bruised ego.

“In the end it was my lack of belief in myself that made the bike go askew.”

In my bike’s front basket I had my knapsack with my computer, my camera, my GoPro, my iPhone…not one of them took any damage at all. It’s really a miracle that neither I nor any of my electronic gear suffered too badly. The truck driver was kind enough to actually get out of his truck and see if I was ok. Even a motorbiker behind me came to my aid. It gave me a nice experience of local people.

Peaceful scene in Tam Coc, Vietnam.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

But some hair-raising experiences can come from day-to-day behaviors that make no sense. Here are a few examples.

At one of my many free breakfasts they had Vache Qui Rit cheese packets! I love the stuff. For an unexplained reason, I left with an unopened one. It was quite silly really, so I left it in my room. I walked around all day, and didn’t get a chance for lunch, so I was starving. I got to my room, and what was waiting for me?! Tied me over perfectly.

I got some laundry done and paid in US Dollars. Only because I did the math did I find out I was owed another 1,000 Dong, giving me 2,000 Dong. Later that day I was on a bus and we stopped at a rest stop where we could use the bathroom. I had no idea it would cost money, and the price was 2,000 Dong.

On that same bus ride (my first one in Vietnam so everything was a new experience) I found out I had to remove my shoes to board. I was handed a plastic bag to put them in. Later in my trip I unexpectedly had to pack for a homestay and leave my luggage behind. I desperately needed a plastic bag to keep my clothing separated. Boom – I had the one from the bus.

I took a train ride from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. That’s when I learned there are no luggage racks, only overhead space. And, that space is very high up – too high for me to reach, and since most people in Vietnam are my height or taller, they can’t reach it either without standing on a seat! “Luckily” I was seated next to a very tall woman who ended up being French and strong. She helped me put my bags up and take them down!

I tried to buy another train ticket when in Ninh Binh. The woman at the counter (the only one working) did not speak English well and quickly became frustrated with me and tried to close up and leave! She would not let me pay with a credit card, and I insisted on getting the ticket, and got ripped off in the process. Then I got to my homestay and it was so beautiful I added an extra night. So the asshole train agent was the universe telling me not to buy that ticket, creepy! (But cool too.)

Finally, and this was really freaky, I met a lovely Swedish family on a tour I took from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. We instantly became friends and I decided to join them on their pre-booked private tour of Siem Reap. On our third day together we went out to dinner and something about them looked very familiar. We were talking about various places we’ve eaten in Vietnam. They mentioned a French Bistro they loved in Ho Chi Minh. Now, a few nights before, I was in Ho Chi Minh and had found an awesome restaurant, 4 flights up a weird apartment building, called “The Secret Garden.” I liked it so much I returned a second night, but debated whether to eat at the same place again. So, before heading upstairs, I checked out a restaurant in the alley it’s located in. It was a French bistro. There was a family of 4 sitting there, and I didn’t go in because they were the only ones there. Turns out, that family of 4, that night, was the same Swedish family. When you’re meant to meet, I guess you do!

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