Homeward bound and gagged

Hanoi to Russia to Home 1.5

The day to leave had come. Bag was packed. Bike remained unsold. Mike was in bed (like any sane person would be at 6am) Bed checked and double checked for hidden items. Checked out. Egg Bahn Mi in my face. Coffee in hand. Taxi waiting.

The weather echoed my mood; Heavy overhead with persistent drizzle. If only I didn’t have to leave… the “real world” we had been talking about, in flying comma, beckoned and there could be no ignoring it now. I mean, I could ignore it, and I would be fine, but I would be seriously shooting my career in the foot. I like my job and I enjoy my career but in this moment I felt like nothing more than throwing the towel in and disappearing into the east asian distance. Just thinking about the possibility made me pause getting in the taxi.

I have had THE BEST MONTH OF MY LIFE. There is no competition. This has been everything I could have hoped for and more. I came to Vietnam deliberately having done minimal research on the country. I knew nothing really about it’s history or people or attractions. Having no expectations I was able to take everything as it came and just enjoy it. It was a real luxury that I will carry forward into new trips. I feel so lucky to have met so many wonderful people. Both backpackers and locals have all be magnificent and wonderfully welcoming.

The taxi whisked us through the light (by vietnamese standards) traffic towards the airport. Scott & Catherine© and Rosanna had agreed to share the taxi with me. They had become good friends over the last 3 days since Castaway. It is said amongst backpackers that you will “meet the best friends of your life that you’ll never remember” and while this may be true for some, I hope this blog has immortalised the best of them for me.

Blast off and after 10 cramped hours later we arrived in the same place it seemed. All airports pretty much look the same; shiny floors, plenty of glass and white walls, a smattering of faux characterful eateries interspersed with ludicrously expensive shops. I wandered around pretending to care about all this opulence.

The drastic contrast between “real life” and the real life I came into contact with in vietnam was staggering. A month is not really that long a time but it was enough for me to really experience something new – and I loved it. Helped along the way by my thoroughly untrustworthy but wonderful motorbike, I would not have had these experiences without it. Motorbikes have a way of breaking the barrier between people. I think it’s got something to do with the comfortable evolution from natural horse to mechanical horse that our caveman descended brains recognise. A big tin box is just another faceless object but the vulnerability of a motorcyclist is recognised by everyone. It also gave us a kinship with the vietnamese because we decided to travel as they do everyday. I truly believe this was one of the main reasons we were received so welcomingly. It got us off the beaten track and into the real vietnam. Everytime this happened we were rewarded for our physical discomfort with memorable and touching experiences.

Back in the sterile sarcophagus of a terminal, lines of cattle waited in turn to be packed back into tin tubes and shot onwards. After a comfortable night in the “Capsul Hotel” it was my turn to board. I had slept like a log and felt good, trying to get my body back in time. I met up with Bertie in line who did not look anywhere near as fresh as I felt. I had recommended him the hotel after we had shared dinner together but he had opted for the floor. We had randomly met in the TGI Fridays waiting for a table and, as two lone travellers, had a burger and a pint together to pass a few of the 10 hours till our flight.

Most of my blogs have been a day per post but I’m not sure where one day starts and another ends for this one. The sleep had helped my jetlag but by the time 7pm had come around i was struggling to stay awake. Blake and Becca have offered me a place to stay for a while, Blake even came and got me from london. What good friends I have.

Mike carried on traveling without me. I am very jealous of his journey. It highlighted to me just how far you can go and how much you can experience on a fairly modest budget. Eventually he sold my motorbike to a garage for a third of what I bought it for – oh well. The GeoCache has been saved for another day, Mike will plant it somewhere in asia, I have his word.

I got a message from him today. Turns out I left just as Buddhist new year arrived, celebrated by 4 days of mass water fights. Ah well, I have already decided to return another day. There is plenty more of Vietnam and east asia to experience.