The air was thick when I stepped off the airplane – a combination of excitement and humidity. It was my first time visiting a foreign country besides Korea. Foreign in the sense that I have not lived there and foreign in the sense that it is a communist nation. Ever since my cool high school world civ teacher (shout out Mr. Holloway!) described the horrors and hell of the Vietnam war, I have itched to visit. Although I didn’t check out the Ho Chi Min trail (yet!) I consider myself fortunate to see the Old Quarter in Hanoi, the rice patties of Sapa, and the beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay. Oh, and did I mention that this was my first ever paid vacation!
A vibrant city of cheap beer, thousands of motorcycles, and yummy street food. I will come back someday!
As we descended into the valley, I felt an innocent sense of glee and joy. I always forget that I like nature, especially when equipped with bug spray and proper sun protection.There was a fresh breeze and I was feeling good.
Straight ahead there was another group. An older couple, perhaps German, and their tour guide were also making the most of the beautiful day. The man wearing his camera around his neck, armed and ready for adventure. “What a charming couple,” I thought to myself (I think that about everyone who isn’t American). His wife was tactfully climbing down the slippery soil. Her balance tinkered. Her overcompensation and a giant backpack is, what I think, what led to her demise. She grabbed a blade of grass — hopeless — and plummeted 6 feet (~ 2 meters) into a rice patty.
It was something you’d expect to see in a movie. As the man realized his wife was quite hurt, he threw down his backpack, and oh so delicately placed his Canon. That moment life slowed down for me, as I’m sure it did for them. I imagined that this was their first vacation in twenty-five years. There had been recent fighting. Sending off their only son to get his masters of psychology has proved to be a financial burden. A colleague of the now-injured woman mentioned how wonderful Vietnam is. In an effort to revive her sexless marriage, she booked flights without consent. She books a two-day trek through Sapa to relive the time when they first got married and mountaineered the Alps. Alas, the first day of the trek, the first half hour, she ate shit into a rice patty. It was a stark reminder that she is older, more fragile now. Her husband probably finds her less attractive. As she fell ass first into a rice patty, he fell out of love. Their marriage will never recuperate.
Our lil’ group (my tour guide, friend, and I) hovered for few moments staring in concern. She probably broke her foot. We moved on.
My adorable 4’9″ tour guide who spoke perfect English, pulled over to make me a walking stick. And by making me a walking stick, I mean she picked up a large piece of bamboo and gave it to me. This gave me more stability and confidence that I would not eat shit into a rice patty. Also, it will make my pics majestic af.
Halong and Bai Tu Long Bay
Over 2,000 limestone islands make up this natural wonder. It wasn’t until I was on a boat that I discovered Halong Bay is an extensive network of bitchin’ awesomeness. The fact that this landscape couldn’t all fit into one panoramic surprised me.
The islands used to be the ocean floor. After millions of years of evolution, these islands formed from volcanic activity. Now, these are not made of volcanic rock, but the information I got was from a shifty tour guide. Plus he did not necessarily speak fluent English. The soft limestone makes these islands susceptible to erosion. A recipe of the current and landslides make caves, of which there are thousands.
With a humid and tropical climate, these islands are a host to a beautiful ecological system. With beaches of sand made of coral, sea eagles soaring, and monkeys swimming (!!!) island to island, it’s no wonder people travel from all over the world to see this. There’s no denying that the tourism industry as had a major impact. It’s tragic. We, as a species, need to stop being such douche canoes. We’re not only ruining the planet but some of the best vacation spots.
I ate. A lot.