See You Again (no not Miley Cyrus)
If somebody asked me, after only 3 days in Vietnam (all spent in Hanoi), to describe the country in a few words…I would respond with a sound instead. That sound is honking. Sharp honking, quick honking. Honking buses that sound like they produce their own reverb. Motorbikes from behind you, motorbikes in front of you, to the side of you, all of which are honking.
If I’m making Hanoi sound bad, like Vientiane bad, it absolutely was not. I LOVED Hanoi, despite the constant intrusion of thought and conversation from honking in every direction. We spent 3 initial nights in Hanoi, which rocked, before heading to Sapa.
We had heard great things about Sapa. Our friends, Marci and Wyat we are talking about you, went as far as to name their dog Sapa after a trip to S.E. Asia. This isn’t the season for picture perfect northern Vietnam weather but it was a destination high on our list and we weren’t going to let a little weather trouble bring us down – I mean we are from Seattle. Duh.
We arrived midday to a foggy, cloud covered mountain town. We explored the town a bit, which is not overly impressive or charming, but cute nonetheless! We did find pho (of course), a bar with a pool table AND jenga, and a market that sold goldfish ($5/6 dollars but worth it). We booked trekking for the next day, $13 a person – scooooore!
**Remember earlier when I said that Vietnam is full of honking? Don’t forget that. That is relevant, I promise.**
We wake up the next morning, SO. READY. TO. TREK. We fuel ourselves with protein and carbs, pack our backpacks properly, and head to our meeting spot. We meet our lovely tour guide who is going to take us through the maze of rice terraces for a few hours before preparing a lunch for the masses at a small village outside of town.
We are 2 minutes in. 2 minutes down the road from the tour office, before I am hit (walking) with a motorbike (that is moving).
There was not even a honk.
In the country where honking is a universal language, the patron who knocked me out and over, did not honk. There was no fair warning.
I won’t bore you with the details. I was hit, my camera lens went flying, and a gnarly gash and bruise started to form within minutes. We were shuttled (via motorbike, gr8) to the local hospital, I was quickly ‘treated’, and we limped home – after refusing to let the young lad who hit me pay for my $15 medical bill.
We spent the day with a bag of ice, Netflix, our expensive bag(s) of goldfish, and cigarettes.
We successfully tried again the next day. The trek was full of sunny skies and clear views. The local guide, Lan, had wonderful English and much of her family/friends tagged along – only because they knew they could sell us their goods at the end of the day. Lan was 25, had been married for 6 years, had 3 kids, and had never in her life, not once, left the Sapa region. We learned things about local life, saw endless animals (water buffalo, boar, caterpillers, chickens, etc.), and ate a decent, yummy lunch before heading back to Hanoi on a night bus.
Even after being wronged by a motorbike, the people of the Sapa region still left a lasting impression. I don’t really know how else to describe this next bit, but I’ll just come out and say it…the people here tell you they’ll see you again. You might visit a restaurant, pay the bill, and before you leave, the waiter will say 'say you again!'. You might refuse to purchase an elephant stuffed animal from the 70-year-old market merchant and before walking away, she will politely smile and exclaim ‘see you again!’.
The reality is that you will most likely never see them again, but why not? See you again is much more promising than goodbye…and I really love that.
I am currently 8 days out from the accident. We have since been to Halong Bay (Carly’s got that story…), Ninh Binh, and have just arrived in Phong Nha. My left leg is still pretty bruised and my right leg is slowly but surely healing. The wounds will fade but the story lasts forever.