I think we both looked forward to meeting up with Lisa, my girlfriend from Denver, who fit us in to the beginning of her month-long vacation in Vietnam. We needed a fresh breath of air, some new ideas, and some nurturing from a well-rested and enthusiastic traveler and friend. We got just that. She and another friend, Penny, had made us a care package with all kinds of things from back home such as bacon-chocolate, good toothpaste, ginger candies, and sparkly fingernail polish. We spent days soaking in the sun and getting $5 massages on the beach, played sand volleyball pick-up games, did yoga and Lisa's bootcamp (ouch...couldn't walk for 3 days!). We spent an evening walking the market, which ended in a smorgasboard of all kinds of unrecognisable seafood that came from the prettiest shells we could find. (Note: pretty doesn't equal tasty). We felt a bit guilty after eating at the market, realizing that this area is so obviously overfished. The three of us rented motor scooters and rode down a squirrely gravel road to a gorgeous wide white-sand beach where we played in the water like kids. We spent a day scuba diving, which, although was a fun endeavor in-and-of itself, was pretty disappointing from a quality standpoint. The water was murky, and we saw very little in the way of creatures. Unless floating plastic bags count. Still, we got some good Lisa time. More yoga, deep conversations and beach massages. We met Bogue, a fun and intense dude from back home in Colorado, who was vacationing with his mid-western family. See ya back in CO!
Needless to say, the southern sun and Lisa's sunny disposition made us very happy.
Around this time I started having some "female problems" that warranted a trip back to a bigger city for a check-up. We left Lisa and Phu Quoc hoping to catch up again, but unfortunately I had to stay in Ho Chi Minh (HCM) for a few more days and we never got to say our real goodbyes to Lise. The medical care was AMAZING. More efficient, and as professional as anything at home. Things were fine after the doctor visit, so we spent a few days walking around HCM (Saigon, as many of the Vietnamese prefer). We met a friend of Brett's and his wife, Chris and Lucy Graham, for a great traditional Vietnamese dinner. We had a suit custom made for Brett. We found a hot little Vietnamese rock singer who played short 30-minute sets every night at an outdoor venue, singing "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and other chick rock songs. Mui Ne was our last stop on the Asian tour. It is a small coastal town filled with Russian tourists and high winds, making it a mecca for kite-surfing. We thought about learning to kite surf, but the water was choppy and the wind was relentless...and we only had two days. Not enough to do more than get dragged around the beach doing face plants in the sand with a kite while learning how to control the sail. So we went out for a surf lesson instead, which was also mediocre at best. And one of our bike helmets got stolen. I think Mui Ne was the perfect reminder that we were ready to get to Australia. Our sheets were dirty, the bus was 2 hours late, the hotel staff were rude to us, and we were tired of playing tourist with the locals who just wanted our money. When you are indundated with sensory overload, beggars, liars, pollution, crowds, dust, fear, it becomes more and more difficult to be objective, to separate the individual from the group/mass mentality, and not to feel a stirring of dislike for Vietnam, Asia, Mankind. What kind of curse is it that human beings share such characteristics as love, and yet somehow have divisive characteristics such as racism, clashing habits and values, and misunderstandings born of language and culture differences? I know that the "tourist track" puts one in a position to be at the mercy of others and the conditions of the road. This is only compounded by having little personal space, no freedom of transport according to one's own will, a limited budget and few creature comforts. Did I mention I have not seen a hairdryer for 8 months, my only shoes are smelly trail runners and cheap flip-flops, and my make-up consists of chapstick? I'm no diva, but what I would give right now to slip on some nice jeans, a cute top and some strappy sandles. We both say we know we will look back on much of our time in Asia with fondness and gratuity. But for now, we are pretty burned out.
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. -FDR