I nearly didn’t make it to Vietnam. Can you believe it? After winning the trip earlier in the year, it seemed unlikely that I’d get there. All sorts of obstacles and challenges arose to prevent me. And I didn’t even get my visa until the day I left for the airport.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle, was my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone. Sure, I could blame hassles with getting all the right certificates to renew my passport. I could blame difficulties with finding suitable child care and pet care. I could blame lack of funds. But in the end, it was fear that caused me to drag my feet.
But despite being a scaredy cat, last Thursday, I got on a plane with my best friend, and was launched into the air, with my feet hanging, my heart shrinking, thrust higher and higher, until my comfort zone was a tiny speck far beneath me. There was no going back. Life was flinging me into the unknown.
On arrival, Friday evening, I started taking the alternative to malaria tablets – gin and tonic. Lovely. Our tour guide, Cuong, affectionately known as, King Kong, was an angel and I felt really comfortable with the other people in the group.
Next morning, I couldn’t face visiting the war related stuff, so instead of going with the rest of the tour, I decided to explore Saigon on my own.
At first, I remained on one side of the pavement; I figured I could circle the block without being forced into the chaotic swamp of motorbikes. I took photos of dogs, some pink lilies, trees, the blur of bikes, the high tops of French style buildings and banners of Vietnamese writing.
Eventually, a man approched, his name was Tang, and he offered to give me the cyclo tour of ho Chi Mihn city for 250,000 dong. Which was about 10 dollars. I told him I preferred to walk and find a nice cafe. He very kindly helped me across the road to took me to a nearby place which sold strong, sweet coffee. I bought him a coffee too and he taught me a few Vietnamese words.
Perhaps it was the surge of joy from the caffeine, or the sudden realisation that I was free in a strange city, but suddenly, I felt brave. I decided to cross a road. I waited until a local stepped off the pavement and then I sidled up close. They didn’t seem to mind me at their shoulder, a little white shadow, closer than their coat, and I got safely to the other side with them.
Brave now, I challenged myself to go where my heart pulled me. I crossed large, busy roads and small laneways. I looked both ways. I relaxed. I walked further and further away from the hotel, until I was blissfully lost.
Vietnam melted away my fears. Little by little, I discovered the brave woman I used to be, before I became a cautious, sensible parent. None of my fears manifested. The food was delicious. The people were so incredibly warm and friendly. The architecture was stunning. Even the coffee was good.
Each day bought new delights. My senses were treated to so many new sights and sounds and smells. The Vietnamese language is musical. The colours vivid and my photos really don’t do justice to the energetic vibe and colour of the place.
We all flew to Da Nang and visited the beautiful Marble Mountains – breathtaking temples and views. We had lunch at China beach. In Hoi An we stayed in a hotel that was so lovely I never wanted to leave. Gin and tonic by the pool? Magic.
One of the highlights of the tour was sailing on the boat in Ha Long bay. We stayed overnight on the boat and watched a red sun descend into the still waters.
Although I didn’t see a single mozzie while I was in Veitnam, I remained diligent about taking my anti-malaria remedy of G& T. And there’s nothing like sitting on the top deck, sipping a drink and practicing my very poorly pronounced Vietnamese.
We had eight wonderful days over there and it seemed that before I could wear everything I packed, it was time to come back home again.
Thank you to Susie, my best-est ever best friend for sharing the fun.
Thank you to mum and Gunnel for looking after my angel and Tiger. Thanks dad for providing spending money. Thanks to Peter and Margaret for spoiling Holly.
A huge BIG thank you to Oxfam for the surprise prize. And a massive big bouquet of thanks to Cuong and Peregrine Tours for keeping this scaredy cat mum safe and sound and giving me the trip of a life time.