It is a misty afternoon in the city of Vinh. It was a long day of travel crossing the boarder from Lak Xoa, Laos to Vietnam, but no issues were encountered and I made it to the city unscathed and in relative comfort compared to the cramped conditions of the public buses in Laos. Arriving in my first Vietnamese city alone and tired I pointed myself in a direction and started to walk. The weight of my pack, although it is relatively small, felt like an elephant and I was eager to find a place to unload, wash-up and find some fine cuisine. A few days of swimming and bathing in a lagoon with the addition of many hours of traveling dusty sun baked roads had added a thin film of rugged roughness to my appearance that is uncommon in the demeanor of the neatly dressed and well manicured Vietnamese people that I have encountered thus far.
My first approach to a hotel was in hesitation as the building looked to be crumbling and the room price was far too high. Drearily I trekked on through the throngs of bikes and scooters. Walking many more blocks and believing I was near the train station I spotted a clean hotel with reasonable prices. Viewing the room, I unloaded my pack and without hesitation agreed to stay the night. After a hot shower, feeling refreshed, I set out on the busy streets in search of a good meal. Passing many hawkers toting unidentifiable shredded meats and unfamiliar dishes that sent my appetite running I finally came across a restaurant crowded with locals. Finding a seat inside I started to browse the menu all of which was written in Vietnamese. After a few minutes of bewilderment and hard staring at the unfamiliar characters, hoping if I just looked long enough that it would all make perfect sense, the waitress waded through the bones and debris of past meals scattered about the floor to hand me a limited version of the menu written in English. Uncertain still about the dishes I made a meal of steamed rice, broiled green leaves and two fried eggs. With hunger suppressed I ventured on to find the train station.
Standing in front of a poster board of times and trains at the station, with the same bewildered expression on my face as in the restaurant, a local man who spoke some English approached me and provided some instruction on reading the board. With a time and train written on paper I made my way to the counter and handed them the sheet. In response, some confused looks and a reply I did not comprehend. Eventually, after a few drawings and some vigorous hand movements, my attempt at sign language, a ticket was booked for the sleeper train the following evening to Hanoi. Success by virtue of kindness and patience! Fatigued, I took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed on the bed with the television tuned to Asian teen music videos. The same teen angst exists the world over. I drifted off to sleep and found comfort there in dreams filled with friends and colourful cartoon birds; a perfect retreat from a long days journey.
P.S. Facebook is blocked in Vietnam so for the next few weeks we will be unable to upload photos there or receive your messages. If you would like to send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you!