Vietnam! It's been lovely. I didn't really know what to expect outside of epic food. Everyone had something to suggest, recommend, you must....still we did not make any plans outside of flying in and out of Bangkok. I knew a friend who had visited Hanoi and had a homestay contact there. Outside of that, it was an open schedule.
Initially, I wanted to be ambitious and tour a large part of the country. Hue, Paradise Cave, China Beach, Ho Chi Minh, the Mekong Delta before heading to either Cambodia and Laos. After considering how we would get around these places, we minimized our ambitions and focused on what truly was important to us. Food. Spending the 28th in a food mecca and seeing whatever else was possible. I was determined to make it to Laos and Cambodia. Cambodia was a no brainer with Siem Reap inviting us to tour. And, Laos would be lovely. Plus four stamps this trip in my passport which I wanted to achieve. We had three weeks to see whatever we wanted.
The issue then became about how to get around the countries. Save money but not time by trying bus, boat or train. The latter two are safe and suggested. Every chapter in the guidebook includes these forms of transportation with clear instructions on how to get around. I thought I could manage one long bus trip. Maybe nine hours.
Truly, I have little desire to travel by bus, boat or train. It's time consuming. I wasn't concerned about not paying for a hotel in favor of a 27 hour bus trip. Figure that bus trip is cramped, long and without a shower--no thanks. Thankfully, Shari is likeminded and we opted to fly between destinations. We did take a bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Supposedly a three and a half hour trip which turned into four and a half hours. We hit this village, both directions, where traffic was insane and there was no one to direct it. I have never in my life experienced traffic like Hanoi. There are bikes, scooters, cars, people, and trucks all fighting to exist together. They do. You just go and have confidence that you won't get hit. It's challenging when you arrive. We did get used to it to some degree.
Our flight to the central country was pleasant. After arriving and touring Hoi An, we extended our stay by an additional night. Fantastic food, great massage and a safe location all enticed us. We have done seven massages in 8 days. It's been fantastic. I hope to arrange another massage this evening.
Last night, we were walking around Old Town and bar hopping. We finally sat down to write out post cards. I had many many to write (still do). Yet, I did write a huge chunk of them. Later, we were checking out other restaurants and stumbled upon an outdoor café. Our server was friendly, enough, and attentive. I asked him if he could recommend a banh mi place and he returned with part of his sandwich. This was the start of a beautiful friendship.
An hour later, he asked us if we were interested in taking a tour with him tomorrow. He suggested Marble Mountains or My Son. He would pick us up at 9 and we would accompany him, on scooter, to the temples. He promised us a banh mi and coffee to start. How could we pass this opportunity up? Best decision ever. We walked around My Son before stopping to check out a cemetery where his grandmother was buried. A little morbid perhaps but fitting for us and our trip. We watched him light a bundle of incense to place on her grave. They also had flowers, a platter for offerings and tomorrow, they will add a photo and her information. They wait a year before attending to this process.
Lunch was seafood driven in a spot where we were the only tourists. Men sat around, drinking coffee and b.s.ing. We had a few beers and talked about life in Vietnam and life in the States. Best tour ever.
Tonight, we will return to a café so that I can eat more smoked eggplant. There are a few spots with wine and I might write a few more postcards. From here, we have ten days to tour more of southeast Asia. Laos, then Cambodia before returning to Bangkok. I should have been updating this and writing my observations of life here. It's been wonderful and a lot to see still.