It’s good to be back – for the past three weeks, I have been traveling Vietnam. It was one of my first solo trips (of course, it didn’t stay that way for long… it’s just one of those countries where you meet people even if you don’t want to!) and it was one of the most exhilarating adventures that I have ever taken.
If I could describe this trip in one word, it would be spontaneous. Which it was, ever since I decided in the middle of the night to randomly book a flight to Vietnam a few months ago, for the absurdly low cost of $30. I had no plan, no itinerary… and quite frankly, no idea what I was getting myself into. It was one of those gut-instinct decisions that was an equal mix of excitement and anxiety. But I’ve come to learn that these almost always end up becoming the best decisions.
I started my Vietnam journey in Ho Chi Minh, or as the locals still proudly call it, Saigon. It was a hectic start to the journey – the first thing that I noticed that was somewhat different from Thailand was that there are absolutely no pedestrian rules. You cross whenever you feel like crossing… and pray that you don’t get hit. Nerve-wracking, but towards the end, it became pretty straightforward. I can already tell the reverse culture shock upon returning to America is going to hit me like a brick.
Over the course of the next three weeks, I slowly made my way up north to Hanoi via a series of sleeper buses, which is an interesting but surprisingly (more) comfortable experience (than I had previously anticipated). According to travelers’ forums, sleeper buses are more dangerous than you would originally think, due to the poor conditions of both the bus and the driver, but hey, I made it out alive to tell the tale, so I guess it all worked out in the end.
Along the way, I met some incredible people and had the fortune of experiencing some incredible moments. The highlight of the trip had to have been when I went to Phong Nha, which is a region somewhere in the center-north of Vietnam. I met up with a good friend of mine from the exchange program, who was also in Vietnam at that time, and together with some friends we made at our hostel, we embarked on a motorbike loop around the national park. It was absolutely breathtaking, and it is something that I want to do again when I go back to Vietnam, which is going to happen at some point in my future. Because the country is just too beautiful and too complex and too addictive to end my story here.
In hindsight, I am absolutely grateful to my three-month younger self for taking the plunge and buying the tickets, and consequently enriching my life with memories and more banh mi than I care to remember. And I am absolutely grateful to Vietnam for teaching me that the best things in life are the ones that you don’t plan for, and the best moments are the ones that are the most fleeting. The people I met and the good times we shared will forever be in my mind.