Thursday, May 25, 2017

HAN --> HUI

I am coming back to the States in less than two weeks! LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! How did this happen?

In some ways, I'm ready. I can't wait to be a comfortable temperature again, can't wait to throw toilet paper into the toilet again, can't wait to not be accosted by taxi/tuk-tuk/motorcycle/whatever drivers everywhere I go. But at the same time, I don't want the adventuring to end. 

I have real fears about my future. Sure, everybody does. But it's less about what I'll do with myself, and more about whether I'll ever be satisfied doing anything long term. One reason I enjoy traveling so much is that it involves constant distraction and constant change. It's impossible to be bored (and much harder to be anxious) when virtually everything is different from my regular life, when even the smallest tasks become a challenge, a puzzle to solve. 

I'm afraid that I'll never want to settle down in one place. Never want to hold a job for more than a few years. Not that I'm required to do those things simply because society tells me so. But I also don't want to live my life in a perpetually dissatisfied state. Most people are dissatisfied with little things, but I worry that I have a deeper, existential dissatisfaction to wrestle. Not sure what to do about that. 

Here's one thing I can do about it right now: not think about it, because I still have (less than) two weeks in Vietnam. 

The rest of my time in Hanoi was good. I finally figured out how to get a Grab driver to come close enough to my Airbnb to catch a ride. I visited Hua Lo Prison--the famous Hanoi Hilton--which appealed to my love for history. The propaganda there is out of this world. They literally have a section about how wonderfully they treated the American POWs--pictures of John McCain being treated by their doctors, the cozy sweaters they gave to the prisoners. Knowing the other side of the story, it was surreal. 

I went to a Harry Potter cafe called Always and drank a Butterbeer, because Harry Potter. It was surprisingly delicious--tasted like a buttery root beer float. I tried bun cha, a traditional Hanoi dish. On my last day in the city, a friendly fellow tourist paid for my ticket to the Fine Arts Museum. I did work on my book, but not as much as I wanted to. I'm trying to squeeze in some serious work days during my trip south. 

After Hanoi I took an overnight Halong Bay cruise, which is apparently just one of those Things You Must Do in Vietnam. I'd never been on a cruise before, and I learned something important about myself: I don't like cruises very much. Being on the boat was great, and Halong Bay is as gorgeous as everyone says it is--but what's with the group activities? Why no unstructured time? Aren't cruises supposed to be relaxing? 

To be fair, some of my ire may have been due to the fact that I finished reading Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You The Sun while on the boat, and it made my emotions go haywire and all I wanted to do was stare out at the ocean and scream. In a good way. Despite the cliche ending, it is one of the best books I've ever read. The language was mind-blowing. 

After the cruise they drove us back to Hanoi, where I immediately jumped on a sleeper train to Hue. I was all excited that I had paid for a first class ticket, that I'd be riding the train in relative luxury--only to discover that Vietnamese sleeper trains are not like Thai sleeper trains. The cabin was basically about the same comfort level as Thai second class. And there were cockroaches.


Normally I try to destroy traditional gender roles whenever possible, but in this case I let the two 19-year-old British boys in the bunks below me act like Manly Men and kill the big scary bugs. And their chivalry did not end there--they loaned this fair maiden one of their mosquito nets so I didn't have to worry about the roaches crawling inside my ears or mouth, at the very least. I did not sleep much. 

I've been in Hue for almost two full days now. Yesterday I reconnected with Mina, who I met in Siem Reap, and we walked around Hue's famous Imperial City. It was an interesting site, but the day was too hot. Just too hot. I had another one of my panic-esque frustration-at-the-heat attacks last night, where I nearly started crying because I was so uncomfortable. 

But I'm feeling better today--taking it easy. Eating food. Window shopping. Relaxing in cafes. My hostel's not my favorite, but there is a puppy, so that makes it better. Puppies make everything better. 

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