One of the great things about travelling is the people you meet on the way. Mine are normally people I met in a bar for some unknown reason. Some come from countries I know and we can talk about times spent there and some obviously from places i have never been.
Two nights ago I was chatting to a guy from Finland. Now Finland has never been high on my list of countries to visit, really cold in the winter and loads of mosquitoes in the summer but if this guy was anything to go by the people are very nice. He lived just north of Helsinki and worked in the I.T. business there. The company he worked for had needed to lay off a few people and he volunteered. Being Finland he received over two years salary to go plus some benefits and some union payments. He decided to use the money wisely and travel for a year or so and headed for Vietnam.
He told me one of the pastimes in Finland in winter is to make a hole in the ice and jump in to the freezing water. Does wonders for the system he explained. It sounded absolutely fearful to me but then i have never enjoyed swimming in anything under 24C .
Saunas are big in Finland too. 1.3 million houses and 2.7 million saunas it seems, so everyone has two.
I have never been a great fan of the sauna myself. My introduction to them was in London when renting my second flat. London in 1970 was very different to today and pubs closed at 10.30 p.m. The challenge we set ourselves therefore was could we keep drinking all night to beat the system ? Once after the pubs closed and then the drinking clubs also closed you next went to the Savoy Turkish Baths at 92 Jermyn Street just off Piccadilly. If you used the turkish baths then for some reason you could also get a drink. At 2 a.m. on to Covent Garden market and as long as you said you worked at the Market the pubs that opened for the workers would serve you quite happily . At 5 a.m. on to Fleet Street where the pubs opened once the newspapers had been put to bed and thirsty journalists and printers went to them. They closed at 11 a.m. when normal pubs opened. Job done.
I didn’t really like the sauna bit of the Jermyn Street Baths ( they closed by the way in 1975 and the entrance is now the entrance to Harvie and Hudson the shirt makers).
The Finnish ones sounded even more like purgatory as they push the temperatures up through 80C and beyond. Mind you a lot of beer evidently gets consumed so there is an upside I guess but quite why you have to fry alive to enjoy a beer I am not sure.
Still we spent a happy couple of hours chatting over a few Saigon Green Label beers before we went to eat and he went to play poker in his hostel .
Amazingly as it was just and the guy in Chiang Mai had described events to me, the 5 russian guys set off through the doors of the hotel at 7 p.m. last night and didn’t return until 4 p.m. this afternoon looking a little worse for wear.
Their wives sat drinking last night by themselves and were at breakfast as a female group. They didn’t order their first beers this morning until 9.30 a.m. and then spent a clearly hilarious morning by the pool. My Russian is non existent but it was clear by the way they were mimicking deep male voices that they were all having a good laugh at their husbands expense. Clearly they are used to this behaviour and greeted the menfolk back as if they had just come back from the supermarket.
The Villa Aria does boast some lovely balcony furniture. normally it is a couple of chairs and a plastic table if you’re lucky but this stuff is fit to sleep on
and having to chose between blogging in the afternoon and just lying down on these chairs is a difficult decision each day.
Don’t be surprised if the chairs win on some days !!