It appears that I am growing increasingly good at dropping off the grid. It has been three and a half months since I last wrote. It’s funny, really. When you’re traveling, each moment with new friends seems so temporary, every moment feels so fleeting. And so you immerse yourself. You wrap yourself in experience and friendship, forgetting that the world outside exists. It’s a beautiful thing, really, to be quite so present in your own life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nonetheless, writing is something I have missed dearly (I always do) and it is good to get back into it.
The stories of the past few months in Australia will come in due course. For now, we continue on the most beautiful adventure of my life thus far, picking up where we left off in none other than Hoi An.
After our one night in Da Nang, we complete our double drive of the Hai Van Pass, now in the daylight. It truly is beautiful, and we take frequent breaks to take in the views. It’s one of those days where our conversations consist for a large part of “holy shit” or “duuuuude.” It’s one of those days where I feel on top of the world. One of those days where I look at the two guys I’m with and recall how surreal it actually is that we so recently came together as strangers. Ha, how surreal it is to go on an adventure like this together.
After the Hai Van Pass we drive on to Hoi An, a city of history and floating lanterns.
On our first night in the city we visit the night market and partake in my favorite activity in Southeast Asia: sitting on tiny plastic stools, drinking beer and eating too much. Believe me, I have big love for this. We decide to go out and as the beer continues to flow at the bar, the evening blurs into one of those happy nights full of laughter.
Eventually, we decide that we have had enough beers for the night. It’s time to go home. That’s when the quaint, charming Hoi An reveals a significantly darker side.
We leave the bar and begin our walk home when we have an altercation with a local man on a motorbike. It’s a long story and in truth the details matter very little, but the result was a shouting match in the street, finished off with us being threatened with a machete. Standing in the dim glow of streetlights in Vietnam, a man shouting at us, wielding a machete and promising our impending death, I began to wonder what the hell I was actually doing here.
Machetes; they’ll make you reconsider your life choices.
He ends our conversation with “tomorrow, you die.” My brain is buzzing and the only speech I am capable of are commands. “Lets go,” “left here,” “hurry up.” You get the picture.
We scurry home and I am tired. It is, however, a tired that goes far beyond a simple desire to lay down my head. It’s one that is some time in the making. Incessant bargaining at markets, figuring out five minutes after you’ve paid for something that you’ve actually paid triple the price, being scammed in Hue, these are all things that have tired me out. Vietnam has been the most unique engagement with a country that I have experienced on this trip. I have had truly magnificent experiences here. What is perhaps most interesting, however, is that I have also had some of my toughest experiences here. This evening, with a man swinging a machete at us in the dead of night, was one of them.
The next day passes by slowly. Between the hangover and reliving the evening’s events, it is a lazy one. We eventually get out of bed and go out for food and, you guessed it, beers. We get matching tattoos. A motorbike wheel on each of our wrists. The timing may strike some as odd, but at the end of the day, ups and downs, highs and lows, this trip is so worth remembering. This time is a wildly special one.
Clay leaves the next day, and I am grateful for the fact that I am half asleep when he does. Parting ways suuuuuuucks. This somehow takes the sting out of it. Paul and I move out of our homestay. He has two more days before he too will move on. I decide to stay in Hoi An a little longer. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, really, just intuition speaking. I am in no rush, and I feel that I would like a few days to relax, regroup and then strike out on my own. Time to ride solo for a while.
Paul moves to a hostel outside of town and I head even further out, to a private room close to the beach. Perhaps it is the island girl in me, but I have been feeling the call of the ocean. It’s not something I can explain, but I simply know that being close to the water will help me feel better in the coming days.
We spend the next few days exploring and eating our way through Hoi An. Every time Paul gestures with his hands when he talks, I spot his tattoo and I glance down at my own. Every time we ride off to another destination and I see the beckoning cat figurine we attached to the front of his motorbike, I am happy.
As is typical of happy times, the days go by far too quickly. Soon enough we are saying our goodbyes, and there’s really no downplaying it; I am gutted. We keep our goodbye as short as possible. We say it has been a pleasure, we promise to keep in touch. We say that we will probably meet again in Vietnam.
One last quick hug and as I drive off in the dark, I catch myself hoping against all hope that we are right.