I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write really anything about Vietnam. It’s been a busy month, I guess you could say, and even with the downtime I end up having I’m occupied in other ways than before! Travelling is much different with a boyfriend, a true partner, a 24/7 companion. But here I am now – a country late – catching up!
Meeting Dan at the airport was surreal. We both had played that moment in our minds over and over again, for months. And finally, it was time! I was so nervous, and I know that he was too. We had only been dating 4 months in real life before our long distance of equal time commenced! Sure, we’ve grown closer over the months, but that was from such a distance! I got to the airport 2.5 hours before his flight came… I didn’t want to be late! I took the local bus and wasn’t sure how long exactly it would take, and I really just didn’t want to risk missing him some how. I brought things along to occupy me during the wait, but I was basically just going crazy with excitement that I couldn’t concentrate on any of it! Eventually those 2.5 hours became just mere minutes, and my level of craze hit a new level: I was basically bouncing off the walls! We agreed that he would connect with wifi when he landed so that I knew he had arrived, but as I was watching the arrival screen and knew he had arrived, there was nothing from him. There came a point where I made myself stop staring at the baggage claim area in hopes of seeing him and just do something else until I got a text from him. So I opened up my phone and was scrolling through my Instragram when all of a sudden I’m embraced from behind. I WAS SO MAD AT HIM FOR TRICKING ME LIKE THAT!!!! Turns out he couldn’t connect to the wifi so he couldn’t message me.
It was so weird at first to see him. Like a stranger, but yet so familiar. I was so happy, so excited, so in shock and awe. But it was so weird because he had just been words and pictures on the screen of my phone for so long! Dan, in flesh? What?! So surreal. So wonderful.
Our days in Hanoi were pretty lazy. But I think that’s to be expected after so long not seeing each other. We were content to just walk by the lake, stop in at a café and get a coffee. Of course the excitement of Asia around us had us captivated too, but I think we would both agree that we took the forefront.
Our second day we did venture further and get up to some more exciting things. After our morning coffee, we took a walk to the train tracks not too far from our hotel. These tracks were a really cool thing to see; they are between houses. Like, literally three feet away from their front doors. Three feet away from where they cook their dinners, wash their clothes, spend time with their loved ones. Three feet away from their lives. In fact, we passed a part of the tracks that were being used to dry some meat! Luckily while we were walking along, there were no trains. There wouldn’t have been much room for us! (Yes, that’s how close to the houses these tracks were!)
That afternoon we also went to visit the old prison museum – a pretty surreal communist representation of the suffrage of Vietnamese political prisoners during the time of French colonization. This led to some debates between Dan and I and the role of communism. (I’m sure you can guess who sided with what!) It was really creepy to be in there at times. The cells were so tiny, so dirty, so dark. There were explanations of what each section of the prison was for (political prisoners, women and children, those waiting for the death sentence, etc.) and there were even manikins in shackles, representing how prisoners were kept. It was shocking, especially with the information they included about how these were people who were fighting for their country. Fighting for the wellbeing of their society, their people! I would agree that perhaps the communist propaganda was a bit intense, but I think it was important to understand what these people were suffering for, and how important they knew it was.
That evening we wanted to find a path by the river to walk along and with no clear instructions, we just headed in that direction. We passed up and over this big highway, and all of a sudden we were in an entirely different Hanoi: zero tourists, zero English, teeny roads and tiny paths between buildings, and tons of people and vehicles flooding the streets. It was so cool. Real, authentic, legitimate Vietnam. We made our way eventually (after many wrong tries) to the water, but it was definitely not the kind of river you walk along in enjoyment. The shore was long and dirty, with tons of garbage strewn about and fishing boats stuck in the mud. There wasn’t even any sort of a path nearby! So instead we just watched the kids play nearby and their dads work to saw some logs to make boats. One little girl was eager to practice her English with us, and although she must have only been about 12, she told us all about her boyfriend and the bracelet he gave her for Valentines Day. She loved it so much, but it was too big and “couldn’t be fixed!” I asked her if I could give it a try, and low and behold: a bracelet that fit! I was happy that I could make her happy.
In this area was also came across a HUGE soccer field… Dan was in heaven! He was invited in to play some games with some men that were there just kicking the ball around, and we spent a good amount of time here with them. Dan joining in the games with the men that spoke no English, and me on the side lines taking pictures and observing my love, doing the thing he loves most, in the place I love most.
The next day we headed to our next destination: Mai Chau. We had no clear information on how to get there, except the overpriced quotes from the travel agents we asked at. There was some info in the internet, but it contradicted other info we had found. We decided just to go to the bus station early in the afternoon and hope for the best. And somehow, it worked! We got there and there were no signs in English and we didn’t recognize any of the destinations listed on the board. We walked around trying to find what we needed, when a man came running up to use shouting “Mai Chau?! MAI CHAU?!” Dan looked at me like, can this be real?! We followed him running through the parking lot to this tiny bus that was already pretty full, tossed our bags on, and within minutes we were on our way. It was hilarious. And it was hilarious to watch Danny in amazement at how the heck at all just worked out. I kept saying to him,
“Welcome to Asia! This is just the magic that resides here.”