9 days in Vietnam

by mirunaandra

I had a reading week – and by reading week I actually had a holiday…that I decided to spend in Vietnam with my two besties here in Hong Kong. I’ve wanted to see Vietnam for so long and I was really excited for the trip.

We started off in Hanoi, which is one of the most bustling and buzziest cities I’ve ever seen. I was surprised to notice the very lively street life, the honking of the cars and motorbikes, the people eating street food…There weren’t that many things to do or see and two days there were more than enough to get a grasp of Hanoi’s life and culture. I guess Hanoi will always remain in my mind as a theater – the life’s theater: a show filled with people, colours, foods, and liveliness.

We continued our trip with a three days tour around Halong Bay – an UNESCO heritage and the 7th world wonder. It was impressive to see this magnificent scenery. I was a bit disappointed that we could not enjoy a clear blue sky and colorful sunsets – but apparently during autumn the sky is always a bit foggy. We saw one of the most beautiful caves I’ve ever seen and went kayaking for the first time – at which I totally sucked, but that’s a completely different story. We spent the first night on a boat and made new friends – I guess the biggest advantage of travelling with a small group is that you will always meet people along the way.

The next day we ended at the Monkey Island and guess what? we actually got to see monkeys. I think I was incredibly fascinated about them – and I was so surprised to see how much they resemble humans. They were kissing and holding one another like humans do – and to be honest, I’ve never expected myself to witness such a thing. But I guess, sometimes I just get lucky to see these things I would have never dreamt of seeing. I actually had this inner reflection that sometimes I am a very unlucky person. And things in my life never turn out the way I want them to turn out. I messed up so many things before coming here and I kept blaming myself for not being better and smarter.  But I guess sometimes you just have to make the best out of which is given to you. Because only now I realised how lucky I actually am. And I coming back to terms with myself and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

When our trip along Halong Bay ended, we were supposed to take a bus to Sa Pa, so we ended up spending 6 hours in one of the dodgiest and crappiest bus stations one could ever imagine. It was literally in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing else to do..unless…we noticed that the lady at the ticket counter was watching the TV. So, in order to entertain ourselves, we decided to be creative and turned the seats to face the TV screen and…we had our own private cinema, watching Pearl Harbour. Did we cry? Of course we did! Imagine: three girls getting all the attention in a bus station in Vietnam, crying because of a movie…that was once in a lifetime experience, wasn’t it?

Anyway, after being really stressed that our bus will never show up and that we will end up spending the night whoever knows where, the bus came. It was one of the sleeping buses, that I have never tried before – as you can see, Vietnam was all about doing things for the first time. I was surprised about how comfy the bus was and I could actually sleep quite a lot, or I guess I was just too tired to care that I was on a bus. When we got to Lao Cai at 6.30am I was still sleeping and the driver had to wake me up. I can be very moody when people wake me up for my sleep and I started asking the guy very annoyed why do we have to get off. Of course he didn’t have the patience to deal with my ‘I’m such a daddy’s girl’ attitude, and he said we all have to get off immediately to take another bus to Sa Pa. People warned us that the road from Lao Cai to Sa Pa will be quite dangerous – and I’ve been before on snaky roads, so I was not scared. And to be honest, the road wasn’t even that bad.

We were all tired but during the day we did some sightseeing – went to see the Love Waterfall and Ta Phin village. The next day we had a local guide and we did a 14km trekking tour. The stories about the communities living there were totally impressive – they have such a simple, but still out of the ordinary life there. The girls get married at the age of 14 and have babies at 16. Some of them don’t even go to school. And most of them learn English from the tourists. They only eat white rice and some sort of cabbage. They are forced to wear some long-sleeved clothes even in summer’s high temperatures. They walk kilometres everyday. They wake up at 4am to prepare the meals for the whole family. They work on the rice fields with their hands. Everything is so different..but I was surprised to hear our guide saying that now things are changing because of so many tourists – but she doesn’t mind change; change is always good.

I was surprised, because I feel these kind of places shouldn’t be altered by consumerism and people’s spending power. This place seemed like from a different world: the nature was so beautiful and people were also incredibly different. They don’t have much in terms of wealth, but they are happy with their simple lives. And I guess this is one of the awe-inspiring lessons Vietnam taught me: you can be happy even with little. However, I could see everything is getting very touristic and the ladies there are nice to tourists just to make the buy something from them. And this is something that left a bitter taste in my mouth, unfortunately.

To go back, we had to take a train to Hanoi, which was a horrible experience. We first had to take a car to the train station and this time the road looked incredibly scary – or at least this time I was wide awake to notice that there are no protective panels on the sides, that the driver was engaging in dangerous overtaking of other cars, and that people drive like crazy in Vietnam. The train was extremely old and keep moving from one side to the other on the rails. We couldn’t get much sleep and by the time we got to the airport (after another extremely dangerous car ride) we just needed a place to sit and wait for our flight. The airport was old; there was nothing to do really and by the time we got back to Hong Kong we were so happy to be back.

After 9 days in Vietnam and sleeping in 6 different places ( including a boat, a bus and a train), I must say that this was a great journey. And I loved Vietnam and its people, and the people we met along the way, and the food and the beautiful landscapes. But I guess Hong Kong is becoming more and more like home every time we come back from another traveling adventure. And I keep realising how much I am liking this place and how this city is slowly but surely capturing a bit of my heart. And there are two months left until I will have to come back to Europe…but I just do not want it to end. Someone, freeze the time for me now and let me enjoy it more here.