A Rainy Day – Perfect for Writing

(Today is all about writing – sorry, no photos for this post – look at the latest Siem Reap post if it’s photos you want – I don’t want the lengthy and laborious photo uploading process to upstage the writing that I’m on a roll with! Here you’ll find only words, words I’ve been writing and loving for the better part of this day!)

I’ve been blessed for these almost three months of traveling with near perfect weather (perfect if you call 100+ degrees at times perfect! – I mean perfect in terms of no cold and no rain to get in the way of my touring around). This was especially true and fantastic on the motorbike trip — no rain for the entire 7 days! I knew when I reached northern Vietnam that that record might be smashed but still it’s been pretty easy on me. Here in Ninh Binh, where I’ve been for several days, I’ve seen only cloud cover and one full day of rain which gave me a wonderful reason to stay inside for the day for a much-needed rest and recovery from the cold that was trying to take hold (my few remaining packets of emergen-c came in handy!). At least it isn’t cold.

Today looks like another full day of rain – I had thought about taking a tour that the hotel offers to visit the nearby Cuc Phuong National Park, but I was vacillating on it and decided to forego it – it was spendy and I am so out of my budget, that I thought I would visit some nearby places on my own and on the cheap. Then I asked for a moto with a driver to take me to those places this morning, but there were no English-speaking ones (which means perhaps a few words), so then I decided I would just rent the motorbike and drive myself. I said I wasn’t gonna attempt such a thing in Vietnam – it was fine in Lao and Cambodia once I got my motorbike legs on, but this sea-of-cycles country makes it an adrenaline rush just to cross the street!

But there I was this morning, changing my mind once again and heading out! Just as I was leaving though, the rain came – I ran across the street, bought a rain poncho, got the directions to yet another gorgeous countryside place to visit and I was off. Within minutes, on the main drag with trucks and bicycles and cyclos and motorbikes and wagons and water buffalo (I kid you not!)-drawn carts and cows, and every vehicle swerving in and out and all around me in chaotic frenzy; the rains came and came and came! Before long, it was pouring down hard rain and as I continued to ride, I thought, “what the hell am I doing out here, this isn’t any fun in the pouring rain?!”, so I turned the motorbike around and headed right back here. No disappointment, no wishing it were different – just pleased that I can spend the time writing and have some more quiet and restful time.

I’ve needed to just stop and stop I’ve done since arriving here. It started in Hue when I felt my cold coming on. I took a full day of rest there and have been in slow, low gear ever since. And I’m realizing in doing so just how much I’ve needed this. It’s another way that traveling is different from vacationing. Sometimes it’s challenging to sustain the forward motion of a long trip like this and I’m learning, always learning, that to do so means that sometimes I need to stop, rest and refuel. And one way for me to do that is to do nothing. Really. Absolutely nothing. (I love that Spanish proverb – “How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards.”)

It’s quite antithetical not only to our Western lives but to the traveling circuit, too, where travelers move at a pace that rivals the busy-ness of their Western ways they didn’t quite leave behind at home. My once-rule for not staying in a place less than two days has been expanded to four and even that’s felt too fast at times. But now I’ve needed to add to that not only moving more slowly but not necessarily “doing” something the entire time I’m in a place; like we do when we’re on vacation, wanting to be sure we take in all that a place has to offer. Vacation time is limited, so we’re determined to ‘use’ our time well – but I feel like I’ve got all the time in the world … even though that’s an illusion, too!

My life in Hawaii has slowed me down from the frenetic pace of a Bay Area lifestyle and it’s been a welcome relief. There are slow, languid days in Puna when I gladly stay home, lounging, reading, writing and just moving slowly through my days. That lifestyle suits me just fine and it’s helped me to incorporate that slowness into this trip in a way I haven’t done in my previous travels. But still, somehow I’ve needed almost getting a cold and rainy weather to let me know that it was time to really stop and rest. So I have and I am.

In the midst of this, I find myself feeling some longing for my beautiful and simple cabin home – this is unusual for me as I haven’t missed home much when I’ve traveled before. And truthfully, it’s not the greater Puna (that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron!) that I miss, but specifically the sweet cabin that I now call home and the sweet kitties that share it with me. Not missing it in the sense that I want to be there, only recognizing and valuing that there is a place that I’ve created that I call home that means something important to me. Yes, I like that.

Pono, Dear Pono

Which brings me to the still heartbreaking truth that Pono has not yet returned home. I am really heartsick about this. Yes, trying to be with what is so, but at so far a distance, it feels especially hard (not that it would be easy if I were home, but there’s a sense of helplessness from here that feels like it exacerbates my sadness). I even dreamt of him last night – I was somewhere with Makana, although it didn’t look like our cabin, and then in trotted Pono, looking just fine – healthy and nonchalant as only cats can be when I’m worried sick about what’s happened to them!

I’ve done everything I could from here – I’ve sent photos to the Humane Society and to a private place that takes in animals (Rainbow Friends Sanctuary); I’ve asked Bear to go to our old place in Kaimu to see if he went there looking for me (thanks, Bear!); I’ve asked Kristin (my sub letter) to contact all the neighbors and walk the land calling for him (thanks, Kristin!). I’ve sent him psychic messages and asked friends to do the same. I’ve even had the crazy notion of going home to look for him, but I realized that once I got there, there wouldn’t be much else I could do. I know the yoga is to be with it, be with it … but ….

I’m also trying very hard not to let feelings of guilt overwhelm me – you know, the “Oh what a terrible kitty mama I am, why do I even have cats if I leave them like this? – what was I thinking to take such a long trip? – did I choose the right person to look after them? – if I were home, this wouldn’t have happened – maybe he was hurt and lay somewhere in pain and misery – maybe he left because he felt that I abandoned him (oh, that’s a particularly dreadful one with which to berate myself!) – on and on and on and on. My tears are dropping as I type. It’s made for some awkwardness as I sit in the hotel lobby and write. But so be it. Oh, I am so sad about this.

I check my email incessantly waiting for the one from Kristin telling me that he’s come home, safe and sound. I just can’t accept that he’s gone. These dear kitties have been such wonderful companions to me. And I realized, in the midst of missing them, that this is the first time in my life that I’ve had kitties (any pets) on my own, without a partner or when I was younger, with my family. These are my kitties – not that I’m possessive of them or anything (yeah, right), but the bonding I’ve had with them is different somehow in ways I didn’t even know, than when I shared parenting of kitties with a partner or family members. I don’t even know what more to say about this except that it is so.

And now I’m worried about Makana, the special-needs kitty who I don’t think is getting as much attention from Kristin as I give her and who has lost not only me (she doesn’t know it’s temporary), but now her brother, too. She’s a fragile flower, that sweet girl, and I hope she can hold her own through this. Leaving them was truly the hardest part of taking this trip (quitting the job – a piece of cake!). Ugh, it’s hard not to spin into places I don’t want to go when I think of them – I’m trying, I’m trying.

Pono, wherever you are, I send you my hope that you are well and have not suffered in your disappearance. If you have left this life, I hope it was a peaceful and easy transition. I am terribly saddened if this is the truth, but I will try to learn and accept that there is a reason you had to go. And if you are still here somewhere, I hope you are healthy and having fun. (And if you are, damnit, come home!)

You have given so much to me – as my first-ever male kitty, you’ve taught me that my ideas about male kitties were wrong. You are so strong, your body is so muscular and tight, unlike your dear sister (sorry, Makana, but I’ve got to tell the truth!). You’re such an independent and wild spirit – an amazing climber – all the way to the top of the palm tress and then down. (Except for that one time you climbed the roof and couldn’t get down – I left you up there all night, sure you’d figure it out, but you didn’t. Finally, I rescued you with a ladder in the morning – I think you were pretty happy about that!). Such a skilled hunter you are, more skilled than I would like, especially with the birds; but you also like rats and geckos and coqui frogs, although those frogs are really your sister’s personal favorites. So proud you are, bringing home your catches, displaying them in your glory and in their bloody messes! And yet as wild and free as you are, you’re so sweet and loving – never much of a lap kitty, but you love to snuggle right next to me, even spooning me at times. Wherever I sit, there you are, right next to me, purring and melting into the splendor that being a kitty must be. You always sleep with me and as I’ve traveled, I’ve missed you and your sister in the bed most of all – always at my feet, while Makana is cuddled up next to me or cuddled up with you. And such a sprawler – a yoga kitty stretching as far and wide as your little body can go – you’ve amazed me with how long you can make yourself! You’ve given me so much joy in our 2+ years together – I only hope it’s not the end for you and for us.

A Few More Vietnamese and General Travel Impressions

It looks like Vietnam will be the country I spend the longest time in – it’s already been almost a month and will likely be at least a few more weeks. Partly that’s because it’s so big and partly it’s because there’s so many places here I wanted to see. And I’m moving more slowly. I love that I have the time to not feel rushed in any way – the flow feels just perfect!

Before I forget, I want to write about parts of life here in Vietnam that have already become so normal for me – it’s not likely these things will be so when I’m at home, and I want to record them for posterity!

Bathrooms:

This is true in all of Southeast Asia and I even remember experiencing it for the first time in my beloved Manarola. All bathrooms are fully tiled – the floors and walls, although not the ceilings. No big difference there, but perhaps because of this, there are no separate shower enclosures. So, when you take a shower, everything – I mean everything – gets wet. I’ve actually heard travelers complain about this – how silly, it’s just how it’s done, get over yourself (at which time, my mantra kicks in “…if you want things to be the way they are at home, stay there!” – words I sometimes have to eat!). But it does take a little getting used to and I’ve wasted a few rolls of toilet paper learning about it! I’ve had one bathroom (in chilly Dalat) that actually had a shower curtain separating the shower from the toilet, but only a curtain, no enclosure. How luxurious!

Silence is Golden

I thought Italy was ‘bad’, but these people love to yell. And yell they do. In those painfully high, shrill voices. They don’t appear to be mad, they’re just screaming to get someone’s attention. No one seems to think anything is inappropriate about it, no matter how close by someone else may be. Perhaps it’s because of the constant din of all-around noise that they have to yell to be heard. The noise is exactly that in this country – it never stops. The most present and in-your-face is the horn honking. The bigger the vehicle, the louder the horn. The sound is often blastingly piercing – if I’ve had a little ear damage before I got here, it’s certainly worse. And because of the massive size of the population everywhere, it’s hard to find a small village, so towns and cities are sprawling urban megalopolises filled with honking vehicles from every direction.

Add to the honking, blasting music from ever-present karaoke bars (Vietnamese love their karaoke!), along with the blaring sounds of TV emanating from people’s houses and the megaphones attached to motos of people selling this, that or the other thing, including propaganda. There is nothing peaceful about Vietnam, at least as far as noise is concerned. It has made me even more appreciative of silence when and wherever I can find it. Like I did today for some precious minutes.

As I was writing for some hours, I saw that the sun came out, so I put my writing away for a while and ventured back out on the motorbike to Tam Coc, a nearby collection of craggy, mammoth limestone pillars jutting out all over the place – a river runs through it and so I went there and hired a boat to take a cruise through. Rice paddies dot the landscape – it’s picture-postcard Vietnam. Gorgeous.

One of the workers paddling in the boat was a young woman who was a chatterbox like no other. She simply did not stop talking for a moment, not only at a fever pitch, but at the speed a hummingbird might talk, if they could. The guy in the back who was oaring hardly said a word to her, but at a mile-a-minute, she kept chattering away. Here I was in a gorgeous natural setting, no engine or street noise, no horns finally, and yet the shrill sound of her voice just wouldn’t quit. I tried to tune her out, but to no avail. Choking her was out of the question, but I thought about it! Finally, as gently as I could, I asked her if for just five minutes, she could stop talking, just so that we could enjoy the peaceful quiet of the nature – I don’t know how much of that she understood, but she seemed to get the message. For most of the rest of the trip she just paddled away, the swishing of the bamboo-handled paddle meeting the cool, chocolate-milk colored water the only sound I could hear. Aahhhh, finally, silence. I savored every blessed second.

No top sheets, only blankets

The sleep sack that I brought with me has easily earned the valuable space and weight it takes up in my pack – seems the Vietnamese are unclear on the concept of top sheets. They have bottom sheets, which are actually just flat sheets tucked in and invariably un-tucked by the time I wake up. But they don’t provide top sheets – only blankets. Now you know they’re not washing those blankets in between every guest – dream on for anyone who thinks otherwise! Some of those blankets haven’t seen a washing in quite awhile, it seems to me, so that sleep sack has been a blessing! I’ve had this one for many, many years – they’re expensive and the one I’ve had I paid something like $70 for, money well spent. When in Hoi An, I found some more – made there and costing only $7 each – yep, you guessed it, I bought two of them – they’re on their way to Donna’s and perhaps they’ll get there by Christmas at which time I can give them to myself as a Christmas present!

Vietnamese Architecture

I’m no architect, but I do know what I like in the form of building artistry; and I’m sorry to say that the Vietnamese don’t have much that appeals to me. Because their space is limited, they have the opposite of the typical sprawling American ranch home kind of building. Rather than horizontal ranch style like we do, they do it vertically! Yes, very narrow, vertically rectangular buildings with stories upon stories and they’re generally ugly cement block-style numbers. They like their colors, so at least some of them are bright orange or green, but that doesn’t really help much. They’re tacky – they’re just not pretty.

Cell Phones

Like I experienced on my last trip to Guatemala in 2009 and so very different than when I was out for my last big trip in 1999 & 2000, cell phones have taken over the world. No matter how poor, no matter how few other material possessions people have, everyone, I mean everyone has a cell phone, sometimes even two or three (why multiple ones, I can’t quite figure out).

And to go along with all those phones are cell phone stores at every other storefront, it seems; and billboards and advertising for all those cell phone carriers. Add to that cell phone towers as common as all the motorbikes and the trash that is everywhere. They dot the landscape more than any other sight. I don’t think they suffer much in the way of dropped calls around here, but geez, the effect on their health is certainly worrisome.

How the Internet has changed the world and certainly the world of traveling

I thought (and wrote as much at times) that there would be days and weeks, even maybe, that I would be out of internet contact. That has been far away from the truth. No matter where I’ve gone, there are internet cafés and there has been internet service in every single hotel in which I’ve stayed. Even restaurants in the tourist areas provide free wi-fi service.

This has been a great convenience, of course, for which I’ve been really appreciative; and I like that it’s something I don’t have to pay for anymore. Staying in touch with home and being able to blog, upload pictures, skype, and keep up at least a little on what’s happening in the world is something I enjoy. But … there’s something unfortunate, too, I think, about always being connected. It’s the same issue with cell phones at home – people are now always available and always in touch, if not with friends and family, then with the office, always the office. (Thankfully not true in Puna with so many places with no cell coverage and so many people with no offices!)

In the past when I traveled, I got a thrill out of knowing I was off in some far off place untouched and unconnected with the goings-on of the outside world. No one knew where I was and I got a kick out of that, too. No longer. I even thought, I recall, only a day before my computer screen cracked, that I was missing the sense of being way out there, away from connection with anyone and anything except for the very small place I was in.

Yeah, yeah, of course I can just keep the computer and the cell phone turned off … but I’m surprised to find that when it’s available, it’s on and I use it. Perhaps I’ll give myself a vacation from it and see how that feels. Maybe I already got that taste when I didn’t have my computer for several days and I felt that sense of disconnection – then, I didn’t like it one bit! Oh, the challenges of this technologically-‘advanced’ life!

The other huge way that the internet has affected traveling is with one single website – Trip Advisor. It seems everyone is using it. I’ve started, as well, and with mostly great results. It may just make travel guides obsolete (which I have barely, for the first time ever, used on this trip), since their information about hotels and prices is normally out of date by the time they’re published anyway. The primary way TA has changed travel is that when people use it, they call hotels in advance and book ahead. So for the very fine hotels (by fine I don’t mean fancy, I mean great for travelers), it’s no longer possible to just show up without a reservation, the way I have always done. If there’s a great place to stay with wonderful ambience, reasonable prices and the amenities that appeal to the long-term traveler, you can bet it’s on TA, so showing up and asking for a room is pretty much out of the question.

So my ways of winging it from the past are mostly over. Once I’m in a place, I have to start thinking about the next place I’m headed, think about when I will arrive, and get in contact with them (via email for me, since I have no phone out here) and hope that they’ve got a room available. A room, by the way, which most often comes with a hefty single supplement/surcharge, meaning that I’m generally paying about 80% of what a double costs. It has cramped my style just a little bit, since I’ve enjoyed the spontaneity of leaving and arriving at my whim, but it’s not a big deal, only something else I’ve noticed.

They call me “Mama”

I guess I really am older than the last time I was out here, or at least I look that way to the locals. Perhaps this is related to romance not being so readily available – who knows. But yes, it’s true, I’m 54 now, not 43 like the last time and in that more-than-a decade, I’ve gone from whatever my status was then to being referred to by many locals now as “mama” – I’m not sure I like that, not one bit, and even though I still feel plenty energetic and youthful, they see me as older. Harumph!

Somewhat related, in the past, no matter where I traveled, whenever it’s been alone, always and everywhere, I’ve been asked about my husband and children. The looks of sheer shock, sometimes horror and often pity that would ensue when I said I had neither were omnipresent. This time, I’ve taken a different tack (tack – is that the right word?) – now I sometimes say that I do have children – a boy and a girl, one is 20 and one is 22 (never consistent about which one is which!) and both are in college. No, no grandchildren yet. My husband? Oh, terrible story – he died. I get their sympathy then, which I sometimes feel guilty about accepting. But at least it clears the subject from the deck and they can somehow more easily fit me in to their contextual understanding of the world.

In the past, I wanted them to see that it was possible, even normal, for a woman not to be married, not to have children. But I have less to prove now. And now I also realize that when they ask, especially women, they are simply looking for common ground on which to relate to me. And for so many women, common ground is all about connection, relationship – and here in Southeast Asia, that place is the family. So they smile at me now, happy for me that I was lucky to have one girl and one boy and equally sad for me that my husband died. I can’t think too much about not being honest – it feels like I’m doing it with the intention to make contact easier and more fluid with people with whom language and the depth of conversation is so very limited.

Pedicure

I long ago ran out of nail polish remover (most of those small packets I brought with me were old and dried up) and I haven’t found a place to replenish my supply. There aren’t real supermarkets out here and even the small shops that sell toiletries are very limited.

So I’ve been looking to have a pedicure, my toes in desperate need of a once over and color change. In the tourist areas, the pedicures on offer were too expensive. In Hue I thought I would do it, until I saw the conditions under which they were offered, the dirty-ness of the ‘salon’ and the inability to communicate what I wanted. Even there, I thought $5 was too much. Then I arrived in Ninh Binh, the town that sees many tourists pass through, but which has very little in the way of tourist infrastructure (side note: and the total lack of decent restaurants – some place had to be the one with the worst or most lacking in food options, particularly of the vegetarian persuasion, and Ninh Binh wins that prize!).

Even though they’re not set up for tourists here, there are scads of salons – Vietnamese women are glamour pusses – from their fancy clothes, to their high heels, to their salons. I walked by one yesterday and saw a woman getting a pedicure. I turned right around, walked right in, pointed to my toes and became the center of attention in no time. Ohsure, they could give me a pedicure – for all of 95¢ – sit down, sit down, their pointing demanded. So I did – next to the woman having her toes done. Don’t even begin to picture those fancy salons with the leather massage chairs and the basins with warm, bubbling water. Get that image out of your head right now. I was seated on a torn, sticky dark brown vinyl couch that had seen better days. The floor was covered in hair – seems they don’t clean up after each cut, but wait until the end of the day to sweep – maybe something about all that hair showing how much work they did!

There was a plastic basin filled with water on the floor between me and the other customer. The woman pointed at the basin for me to put my feet in it – no, the water wasn’t warm – I don’t think it had even been changed since the prior woman had her feet in it (yeah, so much for the unsanitary conditions in Hue – seems they followed me here!). I giggled, remembering there were no open wounds on my feet and plunged them in. (My mother, who might have been horrified at my post on sexuality, would be even more troubled reading this one – glad you’re in a place where such things don’t matter anymore, Sara!)

Then I took a look at the pedicure instruments they were using – all thrown together in a dirty plastic container, not a bottle of alcohol in sight. I thought about asking her to clean them – but before she started working on me, she did wipe them off on the towel on her lap. Don’t even ask about the cleanliness of it! I figured it was good enough – what could happen? I decided not to look in that box anymore.

We had some great laughs together – the woman next to me noticed, I guess, that I didn’t have a bra on and she began trying to playfully pat my breasts and uproarishly giggling each time she did so, the rest of them chiming in for a chorus of laughter! There was a young woman getting her hair cut – she was part of it, too. I began taking pictures of them and then they all wanted their pictures taken. For 95¢, it was the most fun I’ve ever had getting a pedicure, even though there was no massage chair, no warm water, no foot massage and no scrubbing away of the dead skin – just my toenails polished, which is really all I wanted. The rest of it was the treat – the sweet, innocent company of women, gathering together in the places that we women do, and being playful and open in the simple ways that we connect across language and culture. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much to say about a pedicure!

Bella Luna!

I’ve spent this entire evening, as well as the better part of this morning and most of this early afternoon writing. Time hasn’t existed and it’s been totally blissful, relaxing and so very satisfying. I just got up from the table and chair where I’ve taken up residence to take a short walk and get some fresh air outside – only to find a big, fat bright moon greeting me! WOW – Bella Luna at its finest! Keelty and I have a lovely tradition of talking to each other (or when that’s not possible, at least sending each other our outcry, “Bellllll-la Luuuuuuna! So I just went out and did it here in Ninh Binh, Vietnam! There was a woman outside who joined in with me in ooohing and aaahing at the beautiful sight – with no words, only the sign language of basic human expression, she made a big circle with her hands in the sky, smiling and delighting in sharing it with me.

I’ve always loved the presence of the moon, and especially when I’m traveling. More than other celestial bodies, there’s something particularly comforting to me in looking up at the moon when I’m in a foreign place and knowing that no matter where I am, no matter where we are, we’re all looking up at the very same moon. Yes, I love that.

Home and Work Space

Here’s something that continues to surprise me. No matter the business, no matter the enterprise, whatever the storefront, it’s not only the workplace, it’s also and always the home. This goes for gas stations, machine shops, small neighborhood markets, auto and motorbike mechanic shops – everything. The newest one to add to the list I saw tonight next door to the hotel – a dental clinc! Yep, there in one corner is the clinic – across from it is a row of chairs, ostensibly the patient waiting area. And in the back of the one big room, is the home, with dining area, kitchen and living room all in one. Sometimes the living area is separated with a curtain, but often it’s just right out there next to the work area. I guess it makes for a pretty easy commute, but so different than how we live at home, valuing our homes being separate from our work places.

Along with this, there aren’t any residential areas, per se. The auto mechanic is right next to the restaurant which is right next to the clothes store which is right next to the welding shop. All the living, all the working, everything of life is all in one place. No need to hide away any of that not very pretty stuff. So very different than how we segregate our lives in the West. Think of it, how different the very communities in which we live would look if everything was all in one place.

How to Bus Tables in Restaurants

I get a big kick out of this one! I don’t know how the fancy places are in the big cities – they’re probably different. But for all the local restaurants – and there are plenty of them everywhere (Vietnamese people eat out constantly – it’s cheap and easy!) – as people eat, they throw the garbage and refuse of their meals on the floor! When the wait staff clears off the table, they too just brush everything onto the floor. When I commented on this in one restaurant with my motorbike guide, he said it was so much better than having all the ‘garbage’ on the table – this way the table is clear for just the food and drink – interesting perspective!

This was a bit of a shock the first time I walked into a restaurant and saw the mess all over the floor, but now it’s become commonplace to me. I’ve even started taking part in it myself – and such a kick I get out of doing it! Last night there were chicken bones underneath the table I was eating at (not mine – I’m off the birds!) – and there are napkins and food scraps everywhere!

How might this go over in some of your favorite restaurants?! Is this one of those “don’t try this at home”?!

I guess it makes clean up pretty easy – at the end of the night, they just pick up all the chairs and sweep the place down! Oh, and about those chairs – every single restaurant, café, eatery of any sort – they all have either plastic stools or chairs, generally red, often broken or cracked and the size that we reserve for children! I’ve taken to doubling them up when I gingerly sit down, sure that they’ll give way otherwise. They’re barely wide enough for my ample hips and I do so look forward to an adult-sized seat at some point in a future dining experience!

My List

I’ve still got my ‘List of Things to Write About’ – I’ve made a good dent in it today, but there are still lengthy topics and entries waiting to be written. All the more reason to continue to stay unplugged from the traveling circuit and take this kind of time to reflect and share my impressions.

But soon I’ll be leaving Ninh Binh, headed to Cat Ba Island, an island in the middle of Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful places in all of Vietnam. Most tourists head straight for staying on a boat on the bay. In my attempt to stay off that track, I’m headed to the island and I’ll get my view of the bay from the ferry ride, along with a likely kayak trip once I’m on the island. I’ve got a hotel lined up with a reservation already (see above!) and I’m looking forward to being on the water, even if it is too cold to immerse myself in. But that will wait for Wednesday – I’ve still got another full day and night here in NB and then a full travel day of bus, bike, ferry and then another bus to get to my hotel. It’s all in a day of travel, Vietnamese style.

Tomorrow I’ll head back out on the motorbike and explore yet some more nearby beautiful nature areas and hopefully small villages. I’ll be dreaming of and hoping for sun (as well as Pono’s safe return).

Now I lay me down to sleep …

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