Okay, so it has been a month since my last entry.
I do apologize. Sometimes the incentive (coupled with how good or bad internet access is in a particular place) makes it difficult to write.
Pamela and I entered Vietnam on the 16th of January....
Jan 17 - The border crossing process took a gruelling four hours due to lack of ANYTHING resembling a "system" and was made worse due to lack of air conditioning. The waiting room was basically an open air barn. BUT we made it through and caught a very luxurious air conditioned bus from the border to Siagon (Ho Chi Minh City).
Vietnam is much more developed than Cambodia and even Thailand. Saigon is crazy; bustling like Bangkok, but with wider streets and less pollution. It also helps that they use a western alphabet. I mean, there's no way in the world I'm going to pronounce anything in Vietnamese correctly, but at least the characters are identifiable when looking for street names, etc.
You know it's crazy... this area of the world is so beautiful, and the people so welcoming and loving... but GEEZ, it's all horror story after horror story after horror story. All of the sightseeing consists of terrible stories of bombings, torture, etc. It's almost getting to be too much. I had to flee Cambodia after seeing the Tuel Sleng museum (Pol Pot's makeshift prison). The tours here in Saigon include a trip to the War Crimes Museum. I don't want to see it, but I feel that it is something I HAVE to see because it's all about what the Americans did to the South Vietnamese during the war, including some of the massacres and, of course, agent orange. Yuck.
Jan 25 - I am currently in Nha Trang, Vietnam. I've spent the last two weeks in the Saigon area crawling through underground tunnels in the jungle with the Viet Cong and floating down the Mekong River in true Apocalypse Now style. In the Da Lat area, I climbed steep cliffs to see beautiful waterfalls and spent time with the minority peoples of Chicken Village (who get their name from the very large concrete statue of a chicken at the village entrance). Now currently in the Nha Trang area, I've been chilling out on the beach, snorkling, swimming, and (oddly enough) playing Jenga.
Pamela and I are getting ready to head north into Hoi An (another ten hour bus ride) where I think the main attractions are the quality tailors. It will be interesting to see if I can escape without having custom clothes made. :)
I am actually beginning to enjoy the long bus rides. It's been giving me time to step inside my own head and come to grips with a lot of what keeps me awake at night. Needless to say, there is no reason I should be awake at night worrying.... "what am I going to do when I get back?" "how much is car insurance going to cost?" and (my favorite) "will the water company EVER stop billing me?" Thanks to all the long bus rides, I now have all the answers.... even if some of them are in the form of more questions. :)
My birthday is coming up and it is really weird to think that I'll be turning 31. I must say that if 31 holds even half of the surprises that 30 held, I'm in for an exciting year. I'll be celebrating my birthday in China (I think) and it directly coincides with the Chinese New Year.... so there should be major parties. I can't think of a better way to celebrate. I've been told that the older generations often hand out money to young people as a New Year's blessing. I must say, I'm glad I don't look my age. :)
Feb 7 - Chuc Mum Nam Moi means HAPPY NEW YEAR!
My birthday (tomorrow) corresponds with the biggest party of the year in all of Southeast Asia. It is offically New Year's Eve tomorrow and all the hassles we have had getting bus tickets, booking tours, and finding hotels will soon be over. It's been a jungle out here.... it's like Christmas.... all the local Vietnamese have been travelling to see family for the past week so the buses and trains are booked, and the streets are packed with cars and motorbikes carrying small orange trees (that's comparable to a Christmas tree... every family has one) that I assume everyone gets to eat from on Feb. 9.
Pamela and I are still in Vietnam. We made it to Hanoi a few days ago. We met two really wonderful guys from Switzerland and we decided to all take a mini vacation from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay for three days. Ha Long Bay is known as the land of 1,000 islands. The islands mainly consist of small rock formations.... and I swear I really think there are 1,000 of them! I am currently on Cat Ba Island (the main island). It is gorgeous here and (minus the three hour mountain trek I did with a hangover) I am having an absolutely fabulous time. We spent last night on the big, wooden, pirate-looking boat playing guitar and drinking beer under the stars. The boat was docked in a small alcove area surrounded by "islands". It was beautiful. Today we spent on Cat Ba..... we saw caves, took a long trek and will settle down for dinner in a few hours.
Tomorrow will be spent enjoying the four hour boat ride back to the mainland among all the rock formations and then on a bus back to Hanoi for the big New Year's Party. I have to say, that I could not think of a better, more fabulous way to spend my birthday. Beautiful atmosphere, great food, amazing scenery, good company (we are teaching the Swiss Germans, Urs and Adrian, how to play guitar... they are teaching us German!), and a love for life that goes deeper than it ever has before.
Pam and I will be heading to China on the 10th of February.... once all the parties die down. It's not a moment too soon as my Visa for Vietnam expires on the 11th.
Posted by Erin
on February 7, 2005 06:54 PM
Category: 14 Vietnam