I’m wiping the tears from my cheeks as I’m writing this. Didn’t think I’d actually cry, but sitting here in seat 38K (by the window, at least I’ve got that going for me) it’s hitting me. Hard. I’m jetting off to the other side of the planet for two months. Without my overprotective dad and sisters. Without a travel buddy to calm my fear of flying nerves. I seriously considered asking the stewardess for special assistance throughout the flight and transits. Judging from the look on her face when she saw me crying I stopped myself though. Feeling scared and excited and tired and scared all at the same time. Scared. Shitless.
GOOOOOODMORNING VIETNAM. Well, I arrived safely (duh). It wasn’t that bad after the first hour of panick and desperation. Yay! After going through the visa desk and immigration, I grabbed my backpack from the conveyor belt. After 5 minutes of hassling with the flightbag I slung my backpack around me and stumbled through the exit. Apparently I had no clue on how to adjust and strap my backpack so I was pretty much lobsided. Basically, I looked like a total ass. About Hanoi… I was pretty culture shocked. If it wasn’t for Sonny being there, I’d have probably lost my mind somewhere in the first 24 hours. Although the food is amazeballs and the Vietnamese culture is impressive, the neverending stream of traffic without any rules whatsoever, the hordes of people and garbage fumes on the streets at night are not really my thing.
It’s been two days now and just as I was getting used to Hanoi’s chaos, we’re en route to to the beautiful and serene Ha Long Bay. At least that’s how I pictured it until our tourguide Hoimonsan aka Peter warned us about the Chinese invasion in Ha Long Bay. I’m writing this from a bus with Son in the seat in front of me and a lot of other excitey whitey tourists around me. Music on, 26 degrees and a smile on my face as I take in the stunning view of banana trees and Vietnamese riding on scooters with conical hats and facemasks on. Vietnam, you funny.
As you’ve probably seen on the pictures, Ha Long Bay was STUNNING. We slept on a boat the first night and spent the second night on Cat Ba island. We didn’t wanna go on a party boat, so we were on a smaller boat with couples only. Who automatically assumed that we’re a couple too. Gross. Anyhow, we went kayaking during sunset (Son did most of the work since I was peddling like a noob), walked around with my little monkey friends on Monkey Island (no Kelly I didn’t pet them, get rabies or die), did some squid fishing on the boat and walked up a mountain for a view at 8AM. I died a little afterwards. You’d be surprised how hot it is so early in the morning. Other than that, it was amazing. Son and I fell asleep in his hammock on the deck of the boat under the stars which was probably the best part of the tour. A sea of stars in the sky, music playing and good company. Amazeballs. The Asian infiltration was definitely present at Ha Long Bay, but it was only noticeable when we went on group activities like the cave visits and mountain climbs. It’s funny to see them with their mouth caps on pretending the world outside China is gross when they’re the ones not washing their hands after wiping their ass and eating with those dirty tiny hands straight after. Weirdo’s.
We went back to Hanoi last night where we were supposed to take a night bus to Sapa which was booked for us by our hotel. When we arrived back at the hotel after a 4 hour bus ride from Ha Long Bay, I figured it might be a good idea to check out the bus operator… It resulted in us throwing away our non-refundable roundway tickets. The company had a shitload of horrible reviews on Tripadvisor (130 out of 140 to be exact) which said that the bus drivers drink sometimes, let locals in who don’t have a ticket and have a tendency to kick tourists that do have tickets out of the bus. What the actual F. Considering the fact that we’d be driving on cliffs for half the ride, we didn’t wanna risk it. Well, I didn’t wanna risk it. So we booked a new bus that leaves now, the next morning. The hotel we slept at before Ha Long Bay was fully booked so we went to a hostel and slept in a dorm room for the first time with 10 others. The noise of drunk people coming in and out in the middle of the night took some getting used to, but other than that it was doable. Can’t really expect much for $5 a night, right? And besides, it’s Sonny’s bearlike snores that kept me up mostly.
So. One week in. What have I learned so far? Backpacking isn’t as intimidating as I thought. Always check reviews for tours and transport that you wanna book. Socialize and talk to others around you, not only because they can give you tips and advice but also because you learn the most random and interesting facts about other countries (Winnipeg’s mayor is a 30-something guy that applauds the legalization of marijuana and is a total hipster who’s job consists of taking selfies with the townies). Go to sleep 10 minutes before Son goes to sleep. And most importantly, try to accept the chaos and unknown around you so you can start appreciating the little things that are happening in the midst of it. I sound like a total Buddhist now, but don’t worry. Cautious (pussy) Kris is still alive and well.