Viet Weak

Ever since I remember traveling, I know I’ve enjoyed it.
Ever since I remember enjoying travel, I have romanticized about it.
Ever since I’ve romanticized about travel, I’ve tried making it a consistent in my life.
And ever since I’ve been able to travel often, I’ve started to learn a little more about myself.

Quickly gaining popularity, for all the right reasons, is a country with perseverance like no other. Vietnam is home to a large number of motorbikes, so much so that crossing a street felt like an adventure sport to me. One of the last to fight a war for independence among 195 countries of the world, it is a land of farmers, workers, intellectuals, youth and soldiers.
I had the fortune of visiting this admirable country for a week and here is what I found out!

Here’s how the itinerary looked:
2 days in Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh (the commercial capital)
1.5 days in DaNang (a beauty by the coast)
1.5 days in Hoi An (lantern town)
2 days on Phu Quoc Islands (blue waters like I’ve never seen before)
(I know I skipped some of the must-go-to provinces and places, but there’s only so much I could see in such little time!)

Did you know, Vietnam is the only country that fought a super power for two whole decades without once folding?
Yep! Apart from the preliminary research that one can do from sitting at home, it is amazing how the country proudly showcases its history, struggles and achievements across museums and preserved strategic locations. The country and its people are nothing short of warm and hospitable. Serving bowls of the world’s healthiest food, they are brewery lovers through and through. As a communist country, there is no official religion but there is always a Church, a Pagoda or a Shrine, in whose beauty you can wallow.
With a blend of Communist and Non-Communist beliefs, the country proudly houses underground bunks and pathways (Cu Chi Tunnels) that were developed to convert their limitations into strategic strength during war. With Mekong river in the South and Red river to the North, Vietnam has very fertile lands and houses a large number of flora and fauna.

~that’s where I stop with the over whelming fact file~

Lets Talk About The Experience!!

Every time someone has asked me “How was your trip?”, “How did you find the country?”, “Tell me all about your week long getaway to Vietnam!”, etc… I’ve been consistent with some of these:
“I truly under estimated the country for its beauty and everything else that it has to offer.”, “I’m so glad that I got a sneak peak into it before it became an overly crowded tourist destination.”, “I’m in absolute awe with how someone (referring to the entire population) with such great strength and prowess can continue to remain so grounded and simple.”
Well, its true! The flowers look a little extra bright, the fruits and vegetable are a little extra juicy, the people are a little extra nice and the country is a little extra amazing.

The day I was to leave from DaNang and get to Hoi An, I wanted to visit the Marble Mountain, en route. The only issue was that I couldn’t drag my luggage along with me for four hours up a hill, into the caves and under the sun. So I decided to ditch it all in the truck of my taxi apart from a backpack that held my passport, some cash and a bottle of water, and paid him off for the ride thus far. I was a little skeptical and knew I was being extra crazy!
Now fast forward to: 4 hours, a drenched t-shirt, a few scars, dusty knees and elbows, parched throat, drained mobile battery and a gallery full of pictures later… My phone is hanging by the thread for life and it begins to ring!
Its my taxi driver calling to ask me if he should come to pick me up from the coffee house that we had decided upon. He needed 30 minutes to get there and that’s as much I’d need to get down once I started to wrap up. With our wrist watches pre-matched, we met at the point agreed upon and there he was smiling at my sun baked cheeks and my speed of drinking fresh coconut water!
(Some precautions/ safety tips, if you may)

Living with a local in Ho Chi Minh city, I was briefed about the country in general as I was about to step out for my first ever solo travel in the forth coming days. And this is how it went:

  • Always stay hydrated
  • Do not second guess the street food, if the spot is crowded you should try it
  • Avoid carrying your belongings in your land as snatching is a possibility (thank God for pockets :P)
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help, just smile and ask patiently
  • Its a trusting Country but you should do so responsibly and wisely
  • Women dominate the country in almost all fields and are well respected
  • People here are always willing to have a good chat and get to know about you, that’s just who they are
  • There is free Wifi almost everywhere!
  • Make sure you bargain; everything without a printed MRP is subject to price reduction based on your bargaining skills

This here is the summary to what I think about Vietnam, in an overview format.
I’m looking forward to sharing some more specific experiences, soon!
I hope you now know why I’m feeling Weak For Viet!!

The Storm

That’s what the storm is all about!

And once the storm is over,

you won’t remember how you made it through,

whether the storm is really over.

But one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm,

you won’t be the same person who walked in.

That’s what the storm is all about.

– Murakami

Ba-Dastoor

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.
Return to the Lord at peace with Him,
and He at peace with you.’

There was the light blue sky, white marble domes with emerald and ruby pietradura floral art, guarded by a sandstone red prayer hall on the west and its mirror image for a guest house on its east side. The palette in front of me, as I sat on the Victorian bench in the heart of the lush green gardens, could not have been better.

In a borrowed kurta from baba’s suitcase and a pair of breezy pants, my sleepy eyes looked around with the excitement of a child when I first walked through the arch and glimpsed at the beauty in white. Said to have been constructed as a symbol of love by a man for his beloved over a period of two decades, this marble structure had me falling in love slowly but surely.

While I waited for nature to play out its theatrics, I tried to remember my first visit to the mausoleum-that has been a whooping part of the country’s identity. I wasn’t sure what we had done the first time; there were no strong associations or incidents to create a foundation upon. But there was a lingering feeling of déjà vu once our guide started unraveling the details about its history and symmetry of scales.

All I did was sit down and stay still.

I had to sit down and stay still while everyone around me kept moving in an over whelming frenzy.

I sat down and stayed still when everyone around me was high on anticipation of what was next.

I sat down and stayed still while the silhouette went through the shade card and eventually shifted form.

At first I saw the sky as a deep blue curtain floating against some sprinkled chalk dust and a fading moon; and the winds whispered to me

Then there were emerging patterns of cotton clouds and flying beings against a canvas splattered with gold; while the leaves rustled against the hardened path.

This gold ever so beautifully enveloped into a glowing sun left on a comfortable sheet of light blue; with the morning birds bursting into an acapella.

The scene unfolded from being a glittery performer to a somber lady of pastels.

In an urge to make a lasting association this time over, my mind pulled me back to something I had overlooked in my childlike haste of what lay ahead-

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.

Return to the Lord at peace with Him,

and He at peace with you.’

-the inscriptions on the entrance arch had translated.

On the way, most buildings were coloured dust and red with benches under trees that stood witness to the tales of love and romance over the ages. The air was stained with the crisp stench of hand rolled tobacco and the mildly brewing tealeaves. With cobbled streets and modest houses, the streets around the Taj felt like an architectural conspiracy.

Like most of my early morning squanders on vacations, even this involved baba obliging to my relentless pleas to go to the marvel and breath it in its glory along with the chirping songs at ungodly hours. There was suddenly an unknown comfort in this strange city, like I had become a part of its story as the story had become a part of me

*Ba-Dastoor is an urdu word, meaning unaltered