Politics, Tombs, & Boats

Ha Long Bay Boat
Rocks and Boats in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

My best friend from uni, who left Vietnam over twenty years ago, made his first return last month to spend time with me and become reacquainted with his old home. For 23 days he and I enjoyed socializing with my friends and sightseeing in Hanoi, Can Tho, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Ha Long Bay. I’ve managed to process and upload a number of photos taken with my hand-held camera and will soon do the same with photos taken by my phone’s camera.

Pictures and writing may indicate otherwise, but I’m a terribly lazy traveler. I move slowly and the idea of bouncing from city to city in tour mode is to say the least appalling. Nevertheless, my best mate and I had to make the most of our short time together in Vietnam and I’m happy with the amount of fun we were able to have while negotiating my work schedule against his visit.

I’ve been in Vietnam for more than a little while. I don’t want to say I take the place for granted but I definitely do not notice things the way that I used to when I first arrived. The traffic, Vietnamese quirks, tipping etiquette, both passive-aggressiveness and pushiness, encrypted speech, and social hierarchy are all very humdrum to me now. Having a friend from outside bring all of that uncertainty and confusion back into view was, for lack of a better word, cool.

Sometimes I miss it, the first high in Vietnam. I’ll never be able to get it back but having visitors lets me at least touch it again through glass.

In February another friend from home will visit; in mid-March my grandmother will make her second trip to Vietnam; and in late March yet another friend will make the trip to Hanoi. I’m looking forward to taking more photographs.

Vịnh Hạ Long

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and something that every visitor to northern Vietnam must experience. The sad truth about the place is that while it’s beautiful and memorable, the tourism industry there is incredibly in need of reformation. Price gouging occurs more often here than in other places in Vietnam, and boats are not always safe. If your level of calm is high and you’re able to handle these negatives, a trip to Ha Long Bay is necessary; otherwise, find somewhere else to visit. I took these photos during a trip with my best friend and roommate from college.

Lăng Tự Đức

Emperor Tự Đức was the 4th Emperor of the famous Nguyễn Dynasty. His tomb is located near Hue and it has become—along with other tombs in the area—one of the premier travel destinations in Vietnam. It’s best to arrive very early at all tombs in Hue, as hoards of tourists and guests take away from the serenity of it all during midday hours.

Lăng Khải Định

Emperor Khải Định was the 12th Emperor of the famous Nguyễn Dynasty. His tomb is located near Hue and it has become—along with other tombs in the area—one of the premier travel destinations in Vietnam. It’s best to arrive very early at all tombs in Hue, as hoards of tourists and guests take away from the serenity of it all during midday hours.

Twenty Eleven

2010 came and went, and some important events happened along the way. I…

  • lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at my wonderful grandmother’s condo (January 18th–February 24th)
  • received my first tattoo, an initials and date of death tribute to my father (February 23rd)
  • attended a Volunteers in Asia (VIA) Spring Orientation in Sausalito, California (April 9th–April 11th)
  • ate dim sum, watched Wicked at the Orpheum, attended a Corinne Bailey Rae concert, and was overwhelmed by taiko drummers during my first trip ever to San Francisco, California (April 12th–April 17th)
  • returned to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for two months in preparation for a year with VIA and a goodbye to Saigon as home (June 22nd)
  • became 144-hour TESOL certified (August 31st)
  • said farewell to Saigon and made Hanoi my permanent home in Vietnam (August 31st)
  • guest lectured at Hanoi University for a semester (September–December)
  • reached my 1-year anniversary working with Graph Paper Press (September 13th)
  • attended a VIA mid-year conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (November 28th–December 4th)
  • committed to a 1-year extension on my guesthouse lease in The Old Quarter (December)

I’d rather not reflect on feelings or other non-action based items from the last year. That’s not what Twenty Ten was about; it was instead about never stopping and always moving. It was also about respecting how little time we all have to get stuff done in our lives before we expire.