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New Years Eve Hanoi (chaos)

I’d never do it again but New Years Eve in Hanoi was the biggest party I’ve ever witnessed. Thousands of people, crowds pressing up against you on every street, and horrible American pop mucus at every bar. That being said, it was epic in terms of scale and party attitude. Georgia and I made the rounds and did some good people watching.

G and I tried Nitrus balloons after hookah and laughed so hard.

Ta Hien РBar Alley.   G and I took shots of vodka with hookah and sprite to wash the taste away!

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Hallelujah for hot sauce & pho

Had some of the best pho ūüćú sitting on toddler stools at a street corner stall watching the world zip by on scooters. 

And hallelujah for the spice! Not only did they have the hot red peppers but they had a very spicy hot sauce. Not sriracha but hot hot hot. The first good spicy sauce of the trip. ūüôŹūüôĆ

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Bikes & Pagodas

Ninh Binh, Vietnam

We scootered from Chezbeo Homestay with our gear to The Long Hotel in the small town outside the national park.

The hotel is a cool Victorian style building with lots of balustrades.

Here’s the view from the hotel roof

We rented 4 bikes and set off through town towards who knew what.   We ended up at a pagoda and a cave that I managed to go in a little ways.

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Trekking, Climbing, SUPing, and Kayaking in Vietnam

The last three days have been epic. They’ve also been a whirlwind of activity. After lounging at the resort (sort of… as much as our family can “lounge” scooters anyone?) for two days we went on our only planned tour of the trip with Asia Outdoors (awesome company).
We started with a trek through the jungle with a guide whose family had lived on the land for the last few generations and who had fled to the forest/jungle during the war.

IMG_2706.JPGThe trek was not for the faint of heart. There was no trail and it was straight up and straight down over viciously sharp limestone rocks and through enormous bamboo forests.

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There were also ants that would send us to the hospital if they peed in our eyes (ha!)

We received some vigorous massages when we returned at a random hotel we found. Every joint was cracked at least five times. Phew.

We slept on the top of a boat that night and met Winnie an awesome Asia Outdoors guide from Cat Ba Island.

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In the morning they took us (via boat) to a small beach surrounded by cliffs we were going to climb.

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It was my first time climbing outdoors and I loved it. I’m hooked. I hear there is a great climbing community in the city of Chiang Mai ūüôā

After we climbed all over the cliffs we grabbed lunch on the boat and headed out for some Stand up Paddleboarding around the bay. ( no photos currently but soon!) It was incredible and very mystical.

We were then transported (via boat and tuk-tuk) to an eco lodge deep in the national park where we slept in bungalows at the edge of a time town.

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Selfie in the water taxi that dropped us off in the national park

 

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Bungalows in the Park

A rooster woke us up at 5am.

Then it was Christmas Day and kayaking was in order.

 

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Attempt at family christmas kayak selfie….G where you at?

The holiday lunch was great as well. We drank rice wine and light beers while singing cheers in every language spoken at the long table filled with other travelers. So fun.

 

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Cat Ba Island Halong Bay, Vietnam.

 

I made it through a 2 hour bus ride from my college, a 7.5 hour delay at the airport, 6 hours on a plane, 1.5 hours in a taxi home, another taxi ride to the airport 4 hours later, an 11 hour flight to Tokyo, 1 hour layover and the best sushi ever, a 6 hour flight from Tokyo to Ho Chi Minh, a taxi from the airport, a taxi the next morning to the airport, a 2 hour flight to Hai Phong, a taxi ride, a ferry ride, an open-air tuk-tuk ride to be sitting on the beach of Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

DAMN. Worth it.

 

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Planes, Trains and Tuk-Tuks: Sometimes Beginning with the End in Mind is a Helpful Habit.

Just a thought….

Covey’s “7 Habits of Successful People”is an insightful piece describing benefits of being actively aware of one’s response given the current state of emotions and the circumstances. There are a lot of take-aways from the book, especially for travelers. The¬†habit I have repeatedly comer back to¬†during the last 72 hours of being on buses, trains, airplanes, taxis, tuk-tuks, and ferries is “Beginning with the End in Mind.”

The transportation part of traveling in a country where I don’t know the language, haven’t the slightest clue how much I just paid¬†the taxi driver (large tip or is he laughing his ass off at dumb westerners?), and aren’t at all certain I will actually live through the chaotic traffic¬†can be an anxiety fueled¬†affair. It’s never easy, but I’ve learned the best things come and bash me across the face demanding my full effort, curiosity, and passion.

So, if the destination is, in my case, Cat Ba Island in Vietnam’s Halong Bay, then 72 hours of in transit is a necessary evil. That’s not to¬†say that I didn’t¬†enjoy the process of traveling and connect with others sharing the same experience. (I enjoyed the moment of being stuck in the middle of a roundabout in Vietnam, scooters buzzing all around, and the only signals are the blaring horns of every vehicle. The entire time, though, I was thinking that we could definitely get into a car or scooters accident any second.)

No. I am talking about the times on the plane or bus when the meditation and patience¬†I’d been practicing¬†left me with nothing but anxiety and frustration. When¬†there is¬†no way of moving my legs because the woman in the seat in front of me and I¬†have to be a good traveler and keep my backpack between my legs at all times. It is distress time.

At these moments recently I’ve praised Covey’s genius. He reminds me¬†that the habit of reorienting myself¬†towards the immediate¬†goal, in this case ending up on the beach in Vietnam, is such a bloody¬†useful tool to direct energy away from the stress of my¬†cramped legs and uncertain future at the traffic stop. Recognizing that, most of the¬†time, I¬†cannot change the state of my¬†current¬†transportation is not only fun but, also, incredibly liberating. If I¬†begin my¬†travels with that knowledge then I¬†am freeing myself¬†from the stress the very moment I¬†step onto the bus. Ahhhhh.

Covey’s insights provided me with a method of recognizing that, sometimes, it is okay when we are traveling to see transportation as a means to an end. This is not to say don’t live in the moment of being, for example, in an open-air tuk-tuk riding along the jagged coast of a Vietnamese island looking out at the karst formations looming in the mist of Halong Bay. However, when I’m locked in a metal tube for more than a few hours, it’s nice to know that I’ll be sitting on a beach in Vietnam at the end of the flight. Very soothing.