|As we begin our third
month on the road, we've already lost track of how many beds we've slept
in. On the other hand, we finished off our first tube of toothpaste
about ten days ago and are comfortably into our second. We've emptied
a couple of bottles of prescription drugs too, opening up all kinds of
room in our packs.
Happily, we've had no adverse reaction to our malaria medications. Wait a minute! Where'd those huge bats come from?? What's that roaring noise?? Yikes!! (just kidding).
November 17 -- We're still heading south through Vietnam, and after a soggy but charming week in Hoi An, a soggy and challenging bus ride to Nha Trang, and a delightful time in Dalat, the honeymoon capital of Vietnam, we've almost made it to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). We're trying to keep a leisurely pace and seem to have a hard time planning beyond the next four or five days, but for the most part, that seems to be okay.
Keeping a handle on what day it is, however, can be a challenge, particularly when we're due to go to the bank.
In our travels through several countries now, we have discovered a couple of phrases that are so widely used they seem to have transcended the English language and become universal in nature. The first one of these is "No problem!", pretty self-explanatory.
The other one is "Same same, but different!" This is what they say when your air conditioned bus turns out to be one where you can actually open then windows. Also, when you've spent 20 minutes trying to get into your e-mail at the Internet cafe and ask if the lines might be faster at another time of day, they'll smile and say, "Same same, but different!" This is often a standard response when you ask about tomorrow's weather. Who knows which way the wind blows.
One afternoon in Hué we were having fruit shakes in the Mandarin Café when our friend Elke, from Germany, wandered in and said hi. We had met her a week earlier when we went trekking together on Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay. We arranged to get together for dinner that night. The previous night we'd been sitting in a restaurant near our hotel when Sarah and Nico, a couple from England, came in and joined us. We'd met them a couple weeks earlier on the flight from Laos to Vietnam, shared a taxi into Hanoi, and spent a couple days with them exploring the city before we headed off in separate directions.
Even in a strange land you run into familiar faces, and it's always a nice surprise. On our first day in Vientiane, we ran into Emily and Marta, who saw us on the street and ran over with big hugs. We had all come into Laos together on the Mekong River slow boat to Luang Prabang. It was a fleeting moment, as they were about to head back to Thailand, abandoning an earlier plan to travel through Indonesia. What a treat though! When you're on the road it's always nice to run into friends you've known for more than 24 hours.
Far and away the most popular t-shirt in this country shouts out:
"Goooood morning, Vietnam!!" in a variety of bright and cheerful colours.
Unfortunately none of them came in my size. The Tiger Beer t-shirts
looked pretty cool too, but same problem. Our packs were already
pretty full, so this was probably a good thing, but for some people, eight
months on the road is a long time to refrain from shopping.
|These two enterprising young sailors
from one of the floating villages in Halong Bay
came looking for passengers for a little excursion through one of the area's
|Everybody gets up early at the
Chicken Village near Dalat, so these K'ho
hilltribe school children saw me coming. We always seem to generate
an enthusiastic response at every rural village we visit.
|No snake oil salesmen here, but
at the market in Hoi An we found an ample supply of snake wine,
good for all kinds of ailments. I kept wondering how they got those
cobra heads inside the bottles.
|Most of the palaces and other buildings within
the old Imperial City in Hué were reduced
to rubble during fighting between the North Vietnamese and the Americans
in 1968. Much of the old Forbidden Purple City in this World Heritage
Site is quiet and overgrown.
Some buildings have been reconstructed, including this little pavilion which was rebuilt with the financial assistance of the Canadian government.