VN Jan 21, 2013s

Where does it begin? Rise early in Hue, fog lines the roofs, grab a steaming bowl of soup for an American buck, a cup of coffee then hop our eager rears on the backs of rented motorbikes and off we go down Highway 1 in search of the beach.

4 hours of meandering, bombing through beautiful, backwoods neighborhoods, past translucent green paddies where lumbering, glistening water buffalo wallowed away from the heat. Vast, vibrantly colored cemeteries line hillsides and roadsides, dozens of schools where hundreds of students strolled, biked, played, mere feet from where these wheels would zip by.

After about 4 hours of winding roads, canopies of palms and endless farms, we reached the bridge that led us to the beach. That sweet, salty tributary of the South China Sea, the water was balmy but more than warm enough for us to strip down and dive in.

The random house where we stopped for food (banh xeo) greeted us with a heaping plate of fresh greens, peanut sauce and delicious delicacies only found in the inconspicuous reaches of town. The family was glorious and generous, absolutely wonderful people.

About 25 kilometers from town Uncle took a dip on the motorbike after avoiding a truck and other obstacles, gashed up his knee and elbow, I had to ride his crooked wheeled scooter home.

After fouled spark plugs, running out of gas, cock-eyed handlebars, being lost virtually the entire time, it was a pretty incredible time.

VN Jan 20, 2013

Assigned to a seat listening to Australians snicker at the fact that Americans are frighteningly ethnocentric and me trying to make up for 300 million of us.

Arrived in Hue after a rollicking and seemingly endless 14 hour train ride.

It’s 80 degrees here and a wonderful change of pace from Hanoi’s bustling, narrow-street crowds of traffic and vendors. Hue is quiet and elegant, clean and stunningly beautiful. The food is (believe it or not) tastier and less expensive. The river is named “Perfume” and the women here exhibit a certain style and grace that transcends description.

Woo hoo.

VN Jan 19, 2013

The bus ride back to Hanoi from Ha Long will be slow and sleepy.

The boat ride was beautiful but meandering and when you’ve seen one rock formation you’ve likely seen them all so we’re all chomping to get on to the next adventure. All the while floating in a traffic jam with dozens of other boats thinking the same thing.

Brutal small bus ride back to Hanoi, ineptly chose a seat above the rear wheel well so my knees were pinned to my chest from noon to 4 pm.

When we finally got out of the bus my legs wobbled themselves to a cab to the train station and from Ga Hanoi we trundled onto a train embarking on a 14 hour ride across the countryside.

VN Jan 18 2013

4 hr bus ride to Ha Long Bay. Snug and uneasy, the ride was long. Stopped at tourist center rest stop and had a greazy, gristly cheeseburger.

Walked the lit and paved cave at Ha Long, canoed the rock forms in the bay and floated seamless and aimlessly through a thousand rocks that silently jut to the wide sky.

Ate lotsa food and saw lotsa rocks.

Double bed and single bed apparently equals to 3 to a cabin, the vodka was low proof but that was a good thing, karaoking was absurd and the Aussies and Kiwis were always playing cards. Fished off the bow in the middle of the night and bundled up while watching the dark fog roll across the water.

61 and Raining

The whiskey in the stewardess’ cart is Chivas 12 and as I think about this trip to Vietnam, I can’t help but feel a relaxed familiarity that this return voyage represents. Bringing friends and family for their maiden visit, I’m their rudimentary field guide, their enthusiastic interpreter, I am the ultimate tourist on the greatest month one could ever finally conjure.

Lips and Elbows

Seattle to Incheon

It’s an 11 hour deflated butt fest, limbs numb and head dull with the jet engine drone, the close quartered elbows and travel breath make this magnificent vessel no better than a train car loaded with cows and other chattering livestock. Airbus 330, you are a sprawling, wide-winged, beautifully lit technological monster. A push-button, on-demand, fancy pant airplane whose lavatory’s may be loaded with complimentary lotions and accoutrements, but no matter how nice this airplane is, that amount of hours crammed into a fuselage with hundreds of other ragged, weary lips and rear ends make traveling a great lesson in community. And the tolerance for the questionable hygiene that results from such voyages.

Mmm. Gratis moisturizer.