26 May 2010

City Verve

I got lost in the Bin Thang marketplace today. It's an explosion of trinkets, t-shirts, bags, fabrics, perfume, scarves, souvenir boxes, buddha figurines, candy, posters, shoes, purses, bracelets, paintings, plates, dresses, robes, and anything else you might want to buy cheap and haggle cheaper. I've never seen more stuff packed into one place before.

I met a friend: Lei Lei. She told me Tiger Beer t-shirts and wrote Vietnamese phrases in my journal. She kept passing me in the market and tapping my shoulder, saying "ello friend!"

The crowded marketplace is much like the crowded city streets of Ho Chi Mihn. It's a frantic environment- excessive signage, spiratic bursts of color, flashing lights, thousands of motos zooming by, crammed shops, street vendors yelling wildly into crowds and steam sizzling off food carts from every direction.

I met another friend, but I never did get his name, or much conversation out of him at all. He saw me walking, or attempting to walk, across the crowded street and came quickly to my aid. He left his moto alongside the brick wall of an alley and then darted into the street in front of me. He raised his arms up and held up his hands as if to stop traffic on both sides, never losing his steady pace. The zipping motos didn't ever stop for him, but they did manage to veer around him, and I followed closely behind to safety on the other side. When we got there he shook my hand with both of his, flashed me a toothy grin, and turned around with his arms up to cross back. Then he disappeared into the verve. 

24 May 2010

Good Morning, Vietnam

I miss the sensation of getting rocked to sleep by waves –and waking up in a place I’ve never been. From the inside of the large cruiser, the waves were usually so mild, and combined with the sound of gentle splashes against the side of my small porthole window as it filled with scenes of water and then starry sky, they soothed me to slumber that I didn’t know possible. On those nights when I could only see water and sky around me, the ship felt small. And then it would pull into port and rest aside vessels of similar caliber, and it felt a little more significant. And then the ship drifted from the ocean and squeezed into a river with walls of lush vegetation immediately surrounding it. Folks along at the riverside with rolled up pants looked wide-eyed at the immense transportation slowly passing by. And then the ship felt massive. I was more than aware of its presence that first morning in Vietnam. In the next week I would become painfully aware of my own presence as well.

20 May 2010


Like most spontaneous traveling, my time in Malaysia was a sundry mix of experiences, so eclectic that it's been difficult to organize them into succinct posts. The journal pages are not only scattered, but scribbly due to documenting during moving traffic and transportation. So, I'll just go with it. Here are my last few takeaways from the land of the flag with the sun and the moon...

I learned to use chopsticks for the first time at that food court, right after my discovery of Tiger Beer. Despite my love for Asian food growing up, I'd never been able to master those little bamboo widdles that always made grains of rice seem so daunting. With the help of a patient friend and a determined "when in Rome" attitude, I conquered them that day.

Into incense? Imagine these babies outside of your house.

Family-style meals make for some interesting dinner companions, who sometimes even invite themselves to your table.

And finally, before the ship docked, en route to Vietnam, I wrote these words:

At the end of each port, I always seem to have the same conversation with a local I've befriended: "I love this place. I don't want to leave."