It is no secret that a trip to Vietnam is a staple of many a young person’s gap year, not least for the calibre of posho who studies at the University of Bristol. It may be impossible to forget the sights that these people saw, with some seeing ghosts from their gap year everywhere they look.
In an exclusive interview for The Whip, we spoke to gap year student Willow Yarrow who suffered a vivid flashback after being fingered in an alleyway by another student called Charlie after a particularly sweaty and humid night out on the Triangle. In order to protect their identity and privacy, the names and many of the places involved have been changed.
“It was just an ordinary night out”, Yarrow told us. “I had walked back with a guy called Charlie who seemed really nice, one thing led to another and we decided to take a quick break on the way back for a little bit of petting in a back alley.” Yarrow proceeds, “I was suddenly transported back to my time in South East Asia. I remembered everything. You never forget your time touring ‘Nam.”
“I saw terrible, terrible things – sights that consume you every time you close your eyes. Like that fateful day when Minty took 3 Valiums in Hanoi and fell off her moped and grazed her knee. The rain falls from the sky relentlessly, as if it was an omen from God. I saw countless burns victims; nobody expects to get burnt it just happens. One simple mistake of forgetting to lather your pale and fleshy body in factor 50 and the next thing you know: you’re Nha Trang’s latest burn victim. I relived the pounding, dorm room shagging that would keep you up all hours at night and leave you desperate for the sweet release of slumber.”
“We suffered terrible losses, like when Lara lost her phone and her mum had to send her £200 to get a new one. Or when Chiara lost her passport and had to spend the whole day at the embassy to get a new one.” “I remembered the day I met Whisperer. He’d toured Nam more than any other traveller I’d ever met. Six feet four, with dreadlocks filthy and knotted, sporting clothes that no self-respecting scarecrow would ever wear. The stories he told me, he has seen it all, Nam, India, Cambodia, Laos. Back home he was a stoner and a dropout but in The Sunflower Hostel Hoi An he was a legend. I’ve heard stories that even though his parents want him to grow up and get a job he has found peace selling acid and teaching yoga to gap year students. Whisperer had acquired what they call the 1000 yard stare; it’s when you’ve spent over 5 years constantly stoned and your eyes become listlessly glazed over: red, sullen and sombre. I can’t even begin to imagine the sights those eyes have seen.”
For the many who went straight to university rather than taking a gap year or those who hit up South America instead, it is all too easy to overlook the lasting effects of Vietnam. The Whip compassion and sensitivity when talking to others about your experiences in South East Asia – not only may you cause a Vietnam flashback but worse still, you’ll come across like a boring, posh twat.