When you enter Laos, you breathe a sigh of relief because it is so relaxed. Then you get into Vietnam, and that feeling of anxiety returns with a vengeance. Every time I crossed the street I swear I broke into a cold sweat. The Vietnamese use honking as a defense mechanism, or as it would seem to me for no apparent reason except to warn you they were driving by you. This made for an incessant loud stream of horns.
The Vietnamese do everything really fast which is a sharp contrast to the Thai who do everything “Slowly, Slowly”. Katie and I did a tour of Halong Bay, and they literally are shoving you into the buses, and shaking their head at you if you are a minute late. It took a bit of time for me to adjust to the busyness of Hanoi city.
I do have to say though, that I LOVE the Vietnamese coffee, and the sandwiches. No one makes coffee like the Vietnamese.
The shopping is supposed to be the cheapest too. I was surprised to find knock off Converse for only about $10 CDN in all the trendy colors, boot and leather options. Travelling must really be changing me because I actually didn’t indulge in much except the country patches to sew on my bag, and postcards for family and friends.
Enter one of my new friends, Roel from Rotterdaam. Katie and I hung out with the Dutch people from Holland for a solid four evenings. Every time we said goodbye, we would stay an extra day, or run into them in unusual places. It was a great group connection.
We all even went to see a water puppet show which originated in Vietnam about 1000 years ago. It was a fancy evening set to a live traditional band, and music.
Next we took the bus to Halong Bay where we boarded a boat to tour the unusual lime stone formations. The views are stunning, especially during sunset. Unfortunately I took some amazing photos but they mistakenly got erased because I was impatient and didn’t want to wait for them to download thinking I could do it later …. ah well live and learn!
This was the amazing Vietnamese family on our tour. It was super cute: the two daughters and son touring Vietnam with their mother. Hopefully my dad and sister will come out and meet me in China – it was such a great dynamic!
My next post will be about volunteering in Cambodia. Late January, when I first began my travels, I met Jon a fellow from the U.K. who had just come back from a small town called Takeo.
This orphanage is run by Neville, a guy from the U.K. Originally it was run by a Cambodian family who had told Neville he could volunteer for a couple months there. After 2 months of fundraising, Neville had questioned the family on where all the donations were going because they certainly weren’t going to the kids. After a bit of a fight, the family took off and left Neville with 52 kids, no money and 10 months of rent outstanding.
It’s been 2 years since Neville has taken over and he has made it a beautifully run organization with a steady flow of volunteers from all over the world.
I was inspired by Jon who is so passionate about his work there that he had tears in his eyes as he described the impact to me. He had built a tree house and a playground for these kids and he told me that usually orphans are stigmatized in school. But kids from regular families would start to come over and play at the orphanage offering more integration with the rest of the kids.
Most of the kids there are there because they have no parents, or their parents are too poor to support them.
Needless to say, I was determined to come here. Stay tuned for the next posting which I will use to describe my experience at the New Futures Organization (NFO).