Vietnam & Cambodia travel blog

Morning rain

Our path

Mist in the morning



Terraced rice fields waiting to be planted


Happy hikers

View of the village




I bought an embroidered bag from this woman


An example of local embroidered clothing

On the way to the mountain lodge


At the lodge

Our room

It is the middle of the night - or morning if we were home - and we are both up writing. Trying to chronically our activities and catch up with our thoughts. Today we woke to rumbling thunder followed by a downpour. I enjoyed being close to the storm; hearing, smelling and feeling it in a way you can only when you are in nature. Fortunately, it subsided in time for our hike through the valley to a waterfall. In the beginning all was in mist. As it slowly cleared terraced mountains, farms, storage shacks, thin waterfalls the length of the mountains appeared. It was magical, a kingdom out of Tolkien. The walk was strenuous at times and wonderful. We frequently had to make way for the ubiquitous motor bike. Gio sang to himself; the language, tone and rhythm so different, sweet and haunting. I asked what his songs were about. Mostly traditional songs of pride and loss about wars and typhoons. What a sad history!

After lunch we transferred to Topas Mountain Lodge which is literally on the top of a mountain with spectacular views all around ( when the fog lifts). Whereas the River Lodge was rustic, casual and communal, the Mountain Lodge was classic and luxurious. We had our own little villa made of stone and polished wood. Every building had a balcony and a spectacular view. We used our afternoon and evening to read and start our blogs. There are always frustrating glitches to work out and I have a love hate relationship with them, but I love to share our adventures and I know I would forget so much if I didn't write it down.

I have decided this trip to try not to make any assumptions or draw any conclusions. We see such a minuscule slice of another way of life and culture. And the only narration we have is through the eyes of our guides and the limits of perspective and misunderstandings of language communication that offers. I try to imagine a visitor from far away making assumptions about life, politics, socizilation, education, socioeconomic and overall contentment within the US from a visit to 42nd street and a guided tour of New York City. My travel companion, besides Steven, is a memoir written in 1999 by Andrew X Phan, a Vietnamese American who escaped South Vietnam Nam with his family at the start of the war. He comes back 20 years later to bicycle from Saigon to Hanoi, visit relatives, important places of his childhood and to try to make sense of his disjointed life. Instead, He becomes more confused and saddened; aware of the limiting poverty of his countrymen, feeling more displaced in each culture. He presents a harsh, sometimes unflattering view of many Vietnamese brought to cheating, deception and violence as a means to survive and cope with a history of violence, subjugation and loss. There is so much I can never know or understand. I resist my tendencies to romanticize, compare, judge.

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