I suppose, before I go any further, I should introduce a few people who are running the show.
First up is Erik. I figure he’s mid-30s. He’s the Uniworld supervisor overseeing the customers’ safety and satisfaction while on this trip. He’s been living with his Vietnamese girlfriend in Ho Chi Minh city, in a Vietnamese area (other than an expatriate enclave) for about 7 months. Seems like a good guy. Pretty easy-going which works well for him because itinerary changes are a fact of life, no matter how well you’re prepared you think you may be.
Next is Liem, our guide. There are actually 2 guides on this trip, Liem and Phong, given that it’s a big group at 46. Liem looks after the group I’m in. I think he’s early-20s. Vietnamese born and bred. Can flip back-and-forth between Vietnamese and English without any hesitation. I’m constantly impressed with that. I have enough problems with just English. He guides us on excursions and is our go-to-guy for whatever we need.
His last day as a guide for our group is today (Dec. 27). We enter Cambodia shortly and will pick up Cambodian guides there.
The trip has been going very smoothly though I imagine there’s a lot of chaos behind the scenes that we never see.
I find it difficult to give you, gentle reader, words powerful enough to give you a true sense of Vietnam. If I say it’s noisy and chaotic, well, so are retail stores on boxing day.
The comparison just doesn’t wash.
And since uploading pictures is troublesome at best, I find it almost impossible in creating a sense of Vietnamese reality.
Let me give you an example.
This morning the group was on an excursion into a Vietnamese town. Part of the excursion included seeing a temple. Outside the temple were two plaster elephants guarding the entrance.
Leaving the temple complex (it’s a whole series of rooms and shrines) I saw an elderly woman slide her hands down the head of the elephant and then do the same motion on her head, as if she were trying to tame unmanageable hair. She did this four or five times.
I’ve no idea what she was attempting to do. It’s something totally foreign.
Walking back to the sampan after the shore excursion, we would wave and say hello to people we’d see. They are very friendly.
One impossibly old toothless woman came up to me, said hello and gently took my hand and arm, jabbering quietly. No idea what she was saying, but she was smiling the whole time.
Now, at the exact same time, there’s a woman to my left brushing flies off of fish she’s selling, motorbikes are honking and zipping around, some little kids maybe 5 to 7 years old running are barefoot running back and forth on the rocky floors at the temple entrance and there are maybe 8 to 10 different incenses burning, plus burning garbage… You probably get the picture.
Those things are so out of our normal experience that I simply don’t have the vocabulary to express it all.
Uploading pictures is simply not possible at the moment. I’ll try again tomorrow once we’re in Cambodia.