Why spend time and money visiting places for the second and third time? I’m sure that’s what many people are thinking and frankly I’ve asked myself that question a couple of times as well. But all it takes is thinking back on my experiences in Vietnam and Cambodia to understand why. It was my first trip in 2013 that I fell in love with the people of Cambodia and that love grew even stronger last year. There was also the visit last year to take supplies to the school children in the mountains of the northern part of Vietnam. All three of these experiences touched me deeply.
This trip started on February 1st traveling from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Seoul to Hanoi. When you add flight time and layover time…let’s just say it takes a long time to get there. Spending a few days in Hanoi allows time to acclimate to the time zone, meet some friends and chill a bit before the rest of the trip revs up. And yes, Hanoi is chaotic and not a city that corresponds at all with “chill.” But, the Essence Hotel has become home and the staff have become family and we’re treated exceptionally well at this little boutique hotel in Hanoi’s most historic location – the Old Quarter. We always reserve one of their suites to have a little extra room, including a tiny balcony.
I’ve found one of my favorite ways to enjoy Hanoi is from that little balcony. The best perch for watching people go about their daily life in this city of 7.5 million. Across the way…small rooftop gardens provide families with herbs and vegetables, enclosed areas for their chickens, as well as outdoor altars.
It’s a constant motion of activity. Cooking and washing clothes..the sounds of people chatting, children playing and roosters crowing…it’s amazing to sit and listen and watch it all.
It’s also a nice way to finish off the day by watching the sun set with a glass of wine or two.
This year I brought along my travel watercolor set…which happened to be the only time it was used during the entire three week trip! It was dark when we arrived for the last two visits, so I’d missed seeing all the little blue and orange/red rooftops, including all the rice fields from the air. Looking down as the plane approached the airport inspired this little piece:
I must say the time in Vietnam and Cambodia was totally different from last year. Last year there was lots of downtime to relax. This year was go, go, go all the time. Meeting and visiting with friends made from previous trips was so much fun. There’s just no better way to learn firsthand the culture of a country than being with local people. In addition, a lot of time was spent with locally managed NGO’s (non government organizations) that we support. I just can’t say enough about how these organizations have touched my heart and changed me in so many ways. But more on all of that in future entries, including a visit to Luang Prabang in Laos.
For now, it’s good to be home.
(p.s. As a reminder, I have turned off comments.)