Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
Everything in Vietnam is very inexpensive, especially compared to Lesotho. It does however take some getting used to coming away from an ATM with several million dollars in your hand. Correction - that should read “several million dong”. After being there for a week or so, I could hand out bills of 100,000 without batting an eyelash, realizing that it equates to a mere five dollars
The purpose of my visit to Vietnam was basically to experience some R & R, while chilling with my good friends Laura and Deb, and I couldn’t have asked for a better environment. As an English teacher in Vietnam, Laura had found accommodation with a Vietnamese family who lived just a twelve minute walk from the beautiful China Beach. Deb and I were warmly welcomed not only by Laura, but also by Phuoc, Nam and their two-year-old daughter. Sharing lunch with the family each day was always something to look forward to. The authentic Vietnamese cuisine was definitely delicious, although sometimes included delicacies such as intestines or fish heads that were better eaten with eyes closed.
Da Nang has not as yet experienced the tourist onslaught, leaving us to bask in our own bit of heaven on an uninhabited beach. A few years from now will undoubtedly tell a different story, as dozens of luxury resorts are currently in the process of construction. We spent at least one day per week in the ancient architectural town of nearby Hoi An. Sitting at a balcony restaurant, we thoroughly enjoyed scrumptious pastries with latté, while watching the local boat traffic pass by on the river below. Some days we explored the dozens of fabric shops where tailors were poised with measuring tape and scissors, prepared to create our very own designs
A relaxing train journey took us further north to the picturesque, historic city of Hué. The almost unbearably hot and humid climate was definitely not conducive to lengthy walking tours, so we opted instead to hire three men. More precisely, three men on motorbikes with whom we spent an entire day driving through the countryside to take in the beauty of the area - palaces, temples, ancient tombs, covered bridges, an incense village, and everything in between. “Easy Riders” was the name of the motorbike business - and what an apt description! Appropriately ending an exhilarating day, we took in the slower-paced river culture through a quiet cruise along the Perfume River.
So how could five weeks pass so quickly?
I unfortunately never became adept at peeling a pomelo (although eating them was certainly not a problem), or at pronouncing the difficult sounds of the Vietnamese language. I did however manage to relax, to stop saying “I should” (thanks Deb), and to enjoy every new opportunity that arose. I will miss walking to the local bakery for baguettes just out of the oven, wandering through the nearby market alive with the sights, sounds and smells of an active trade, eating freshly caught seafood right on the beach, feeling truly alive while exploring Monkey Mountain by motorbike, and being truly spoiled by a wonderful Vietnamese family.
Laura will continue teaching in Vietnam while Deb heads north to explore China and I return to Lesotho. When will we meet again, and where? Sri Lanka? Guatemala? Indonesia? Zambia? With our lifestyles, the only sure thing is that we WILL meet again. But for now, goodbye good friends and goodbye Vietnam.