I am totally blown away. Just 20 minutes ago, Minh and I were walking through a minority village in the mountains to the west of Hoi An. A small group of people, across a high wooden suspension bridge separated from the rest of Vietnam living a nomadic lifestyle in well-built wooden huts suspended off the ground. Now I am sitting in my hotel room, soft clean sheets, en suite bathroom, television, electric fan and tiled floor, safe and dry from the unforgiving rain outside. This trip has been many things, all in various quantities – entertaining, humbling, frustrating, enlightening, depressing, insightful, informative, cheerful and uplifting. It’s such a short time to be away, but with everywhere I go, I’m forever grateful.
We started off at 8am this morning from Hoi An, with a short walk down the road for breakfast. Bread, eggs, and the strange omelette-type mix which involves a lot of oil and spices in equal quantity. So far, Minh’s promise to pray for good weather was holding out well for us. Not a drop of it in sight. Seven hours later and I’m drenched to the bone, and wondering if the wrinkles in my hands will stay with me forever. Having loaded up the bike, waterproofed my luggage and ourselves (thanks to Minh’s spare waterproofs, and visor/helmet), we were on the bike and away.
It didn’t take too long to realise that we would be spending a large part of the day negotiating floods, although we did skip the overloaded looking ferry that was loading up motorbikes on what used to be the road. Our first stop was a small village where I was taught how to make rice pancakes. Obviously I excelled at this particular task without trouble, accustomed as I am now to an entire range of popular Viatnemese jobs. I’m a little bit concerned that I was the only person invited to eat said-pancake … Perhaps I didn’t do a good a job of it as I thought. Regardless, they were too polite to say anything.
We then rode around in the rain a lot more, which was actually more more interesting and fun that it might sound. Covered head to toe in waterproof gear and speeding through the wind and the countryside was a fantastic way to see the country, it seems impossible to me now that it wasn’t always on my itinerary. We stopped for food, coffee, and for a tour around My Son – an old ruined Cham site, earlier settlers in Vietnam, the kings of whom are believed to have been buried at the site as early as the fourth century. In The War, Viet Cong based themselves at the site and large parts of it were levelled by American B52’s. the parts remaining are still definitely worth a visit.
From there, we went up into the mountains where if you weren’t already calling it “heavy rain”, you were now selecting all the thundercloud images from the bottom of the drawer, and slapping them onto the map. Ali may remember similar weather when we took an open-top jeep ride around the mountains of Gran Canaria. I’m genuinely beginning to believe that I shouldn’t go above a certain altitude. However, as Minh says – “we are together, we will be fine”, and I trust him to know his own country. He has been doing this 10 years, and promises me his story over dinner. Whenever we happen upon some particularly heavy rain, flooding, or disintegrated road, Minh yells a whooooop which I’m slowly discovering roughly translates to “oh my god, we’re going to die”.
While writing this, the water has taken out the power in the hotel and as far as the eye can see. Ironic, as the same water is generating electricity for the entire country at the dam we passed earlier. I had been watching two geckos on the ceiling fighting a moth, taking small bites from its wing whenever it gets too near. I call one Stan and the smaller one, Sophia. This is Vietnam 🙂