Trip Start Nov 30, 2004
Trip End Feb 04, 2005

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Flag of Vietnam  , Ha Nội,
Monday, January 10, 2005


Of all the countries I'm visiting, Vietnam was the one I was looking forward to the most.  I eat regularly at a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle.  Many of my friends at the hotel where I work are Vietnamese.  I'm intrigued by the country's recent history.  However, after arriving in Hanoi, I booked the first ticket back to Laos.

Travel is obviously one of my passions.  I'm glad that my friends benefit from my experiences too.  One way of describing it is like a fish out of water.  It's a familiar movie plot, like Crocodile Dundee.  My trip from Laos to Vietnam was more like a B-level horror movie that started bad and only got worse.  It was miserable.  By the time I arrived in Hanoi I was really angry and worn out.  I was never in any danger, so please don't worry.

Sometimes when I share pictures or emails I think it's easy for people to romanticize that the whole trip is full of highlights.  To be clear, it's not.  There's a flip side to travel.  In my case, it bumps me up against my weaknesses, or opportunities for growth.  I try to be savvy yet still get taken advantage of.  I try to be respectful yet still get laughed at.  I hesitate to include this email.  But it's part of the experience so I'm including it.

Here's the short version.  Leaving Luang Prabang, I made a reservation on a mini-bus.  It's safe, fast, affordable and fairly scenic.  Somehow, I ended up on a full-size, public bus instead.  Since I was only 20 minutes early, I ended up sitting on a plastic stool in the aisle for eight hours.  My body was still really sore from a massage/sauna I received two days earlier.  In Vientiane, I changed buses, this time getting a seat.  The bus was filled with local kids smoking and playing loud music for an overnight trip.  The bus broke down at 3AM in a pass.  It was so cold you could still see your breath at 11AM when we got going again.  No A/C or toilets on either bus.  All I have are summer clothes.  The bus pulls into Hanoi at 2AM.  Only one taxi at the bus station trying to rip me off and my hotel reservation is gone.  I get to another hotel and find my backpack had been pilfered - my backup camera and alarm clock are gone.  Wake up in the morning and the toilet doesn't work nor does the TV.

I work really hard to avoid mistakes like this.  Some people can let this roll off their back.  Not me.  The trip to Vietnam was a long, slow burn.  What's the lesson for me?  Probably many.  Whatever the case, it was time to get off this roller coaster and start fresh.  With a half day before my trip back, I decided to at least walk around Hanoi a little bit.  After clearing my emotional state, I figured out it was the trip that was so dreadful.  So I stayed another day and decided to give Vietnam a chance after all.  Eventually I accepted that this is just one of the costs of travel.  Time for some R&R in Halong Bay.

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