I have been away from “home” for six months now. But considering the fact that I don’t have a home at the moment (in the literal sense) just makes me feel more ‘at home’ in the world.
I seriously can’t believe I’ve been traveling alone for this much time, but I’ve rarely been or felt “alone.” I’ve met so many different and interesting people—other travelers, locals, tour guides, and had so many different and wonderful experiences. Just like in “real life,” I still have to remember to take time to “stop and smell the roses.” Even on this amazing journey, it’s still easy to get caught up in the everyday, mundane things and little issues—”it’s too hot, my suitcase won’t close, there are bugs in my room, blah, blah, blah.” But then there are the sweet moments of bliss that snap me back into my reality where I just close my eyes and grin.
Yesterday, my second Intrepid Travel Tour arrived in the small riverside town of Chau Doc, Vietnam, perched right on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Tomorrow we will boat down the river and across the border into Cambodia (remember when we called it Kampuchea? The Khmers still do) and straight up the river into the capital, Phnom Penh.
Our final evening in ‘Nam, nine of us got on the backs of some local guys’ motorcycles and got a city tour for a couple of hours as the sun went down on the dusty tiny town. It was great to not be ‘pedaling’ for a change and have the wind in my hair cooling me off as the air here is heavy and hot.
We zoomed up the hilltops to a mountain overlook above the town, and, all the while, kids were calling out ‘hello’ while I got to practice my few Vietnamese words for the very last time (at least for now).
- Xin Chao: Hello
- Chao Em: Hello (to younger kids or girls)
- Chao Anh: Hello (to men)
- Chao Chee: Hello (to elder women)
- Cam Un: Thank You
- Han Gup Lai: See you Later
- Mot, Hai, Ba, YO!: One, two, three, Cheers!
At the top we had cold beers and chilled out in some hammocks strung out under a thatched roof while the red hazy sun slipped into the smog and below the horizon. This was one of those moments. It was nearly impossible not to notice how good I have it right now.
We hopped back on our motorbikes and whizzed back to town. I made my driver laugh and sing along with me as I butchered my newly learned rendition of the local anthem: “Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh…”
All the way I was laughing and grinning while I thought back on all the great times I had in this sometimes chaotic, sometimes peaceful yin and yang of a country. Han gup lai, Vietnam. (See you again…)