For some days after seeing the boys I was a bit of a wreck. Physically, because it had been a non-stop whirlwind tour of Ha Lon and, perhaps more peculiarly, my head was all over the place as well. I say just my head but it was those things that normal people call emotions that was doing it. There had been a lot of reminiscing over our past lives together, uni, rugby, talk of what the rest of the group were up too and plans for the upcoming British summer. Naturally this made me slightly homesick, an altogether alien feeling. This homesickness coincided with an email informing me that an internship in London I had been rejected for last year was recruiting for this year’s batch and the clogs in my head were running over time romanticising the thought of having an English summer in London at a job I would actually care about. It’s weird for me to admit these kind of thoughts as I do like to portray myself as someone with no desire to return home but it seems I do miss a few things, primarily the family, friends, spurs and actually getting what I ordered at restaurants.
I kept myself to myself for the couple of days I was in Hanoi after the guys left. Heather had a few small slight issues which needed sorting and I needed to prepare for the impending trip to the northern highlands whereby the mountain roads would be steeped in frost and cloud, at least so I was told. My anticipation for such a drastic change in weather resulted in another, and hopefully my last monetary splurge, on a north face jacket/fleece combo and a pair of Levi jeans. Now the authenticity of said items comes into question but if they’re fake then they’re rather good fakes indeed and I was happy for what I paid after a little jovial haggle. This was about 2 weeks ago now and ive actually only worn the whole combo about twice which means they probably wernt the wisest investment. Not too much of a big deal but they’re taking up heaps of space in my bag which stresses the hell out of me.
Again, I’m writing this in retrospect and I remember the fact that I also felt physically bad was due to the first bought of stomach problems that I have had on this trip. The retail therapy hadn’t perked me up and when I left Hanoi I felt savage. The first few hours of dusty busy road was pretty bad and the desire to run away back to London intensified. However, Vietnam had other ideas and soon the road began to open up and took a turn for the pretty exceedingly quickly.
I was heading for a small village located in a quarts valley directly west of Hanoi named Lac. Its beauty and pleasantry were equalled in its peculiarity. It turned out the place was a type of mock village designed and built to give tourists a feel of what it would be like to live in the farming area. Guesthouses were equalled in number to gift shops and locals were unrivalled in number to French tourist buses.
I do love a good Vietnamese guesthouse. Graceful in design, the people are always super lovely and the food is often very nice, especially when you get some special vegetarian stuff. The rooms you stay in are pretty cool aswell. In theNorth the trend seems to be everyone in one larger dorm type room above the main house sleeping on straw mats or thin bedding. This combined with the fact that they’re normally working farms or other such facilities means the day starts early so whatever night’s sleep you get will be cut short regardless. One of my many traveller downfalls is that I’m a massively fussy sleeper so the next morning after having very little sleep and still feeling dodgy from the Delhi belly hangover (everybody feel sorry for the poor travelling man). Lethargically, I set off to push further North.
The same pattern followed from the day before. For the first hour I felt sick, unreasonably angry with the bike and lack of road food, tired and lonely. However, Vietnam again had other ideas on how I should be feeling and reminded me how experientially lucky I am, not just to be experiencing this amazing country but just in general everyday life. The most amazing and euphoric two days of driving ensued. I’ve learnt numerous things from my time in Vietnam but the reinforcement to just appreciate the here and now is something I’m especially conscious of. At the end of the day any problems I think I might have probably aren’t substantial or relevant to anybody. If I believed in a God I would probably thank him right now. I’ve never stopped so often to take pictures of the mesmerising landscapes…
I arrived in Sapa buzzing from the green mountainous scenery and having driven through another huge cloud next to cliff faces where I couldn’t see the edge, not the best experience for a man who doesn’t appreciate heights to the fullest. Sapa marked my return to the tourist trail and the crappy weather meant that I thankfully had some fellow travellers to converse with as soon as I arrived in the guesthouse. Sapa was fun. I stayed in small village in a protected area called Ta Van which was dense in tea plantations, girls dressed in brightly coloured dresses and tourist savvy local entrepauneurs trying to flog their home-grown wares to the enthralled travellers.
One such ancient looking lady pushed some bracelets in my face as I ambled through the small lanes of the village. “Sorry poppet no jewellery for me” I said in cohorts with a display of my bare hands and wrists. I clearly had bumped into the head saleswoman of jewellery in Sapa as she astonishingly replied “not for you, for your girlfriend!” Taken slightly back not only by her high levels of English in an area where it is pretty uncommon, but also by her huge assumption that I had a girlfriend whom for I would like to buy metal trinkets for. “Ha!” I exclaimed, “jokes on you lady,I haven’t had an official girlfriend since I was 16 and even that ended badly!” The lovely old lady knew she was defeated and I left her with a face of almost confusion, confident in the knowledge that I won that bout.
It later dawned on me that im actually 25 now and that the last ‘official’ girlfriend was 9 years ago now, and yeah, it didn’t end well….
P&L Yall ❤
P.S. Shout out to my Grandma who I’m told has been getting print outs of my blogging and having a good old read. Hope you’re well! Sorry I haven’t been in contact much, the Pilcher men are seemingly incapable of co ordinating a good time to get around the phone. Also, postcards don’t seem to be a thing in Vietnam so ill be sure to take a lot of pictures for you!