Well, as you remember from the last blog, I was trying to cross the street in Vietnam, and I’m happy to report, I DID IT!… but with help. An elderly woman must have been watching me (probably laughing her butt off). She took me by the arm and motioned for me to close my eyes. Next thing I knew, we stepped “blindly” into traffic and crossed. BAM DONE! No guts, no glory! My heart was beating out of my shirt, but I was alive and well on the other side of the street. I did practice with her 5 or 6 more times … now I’m going “pro”.
Hanoi, what an interesting place. Culture shock 100%, but I decided to see Hanoi on the way back. My mission today was to find a way to get into those HILL TRIBES. After 4 hours of really poor English communication and price haggling, I was ready to head out with two guys. One the “guide” (I think) and the other, “the driver” (I hope). I tried to explain that I wanted to do and try everything along the way. Guess I got my message across, because it wasn’t 25 miles later, I was out of the jeep ,knee deep in mud, with my pants legs rolled up, planting rice in the fields with the Hmong culture.
I watched how the women worked, then tried it myself. I would put a stalk of rice in the slimy mud, and they would follow right behind me pulling it out, shaking their head “no”. So I would try it again. Over and over, I would plant the rice, they would pull it out. Ang, (my guide) said that I was doing it wrong. No kidding? Jeeeeez, how many ways are there to put a blade of grass in the ground? Well, Culture Task #1- failed! I do regret not having the guys take a photo of me because I had mud everywhere.
Next stop: lunch. But first, I needed to find a hose so I could take a shower. The guys turned it on me like they were putting out the Chicago fire when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern. It knocked me across the field, but I wasn’t muddy any more, just stunned, waterlogged and dazed! While drying out, we decided on food. Silly me, I thought we’d go to a little Vietnam restaurant in the mountains for some traditional food. Well, I was half right. We were now in the mountains, and it was traditional… but a bit primitive. I had to pick out my chicken, kill it, pluck the feathers and cook it for lunch. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that for the next month or so, this was going to be our daily routine. Suddenly, Burger King and McDonalds were looking better and better -I hope I can get used to this without throwing up.
Still, I knew that I was having a once in a lifetime trip that not many other’s would do. I guess a better way to put it, not many were CRAZY enough to do. This was only going to get rougher as we went farther north from Hanoi. The heat and humidity could only be described as “hotter than hell” and I was in a constant dripping wet stage on the verge of passing out…daily! (My clothes were constantly wet, day and night, from their summer weather). For the next two days, things remained pretty much the same: drop dead beautiful scenery, shacks as homes, The HMONG, and rice fields.
Then it all changed, the rain started and it came down in buckets. Now I’m no stranger to hard rains… (living in Florida), but this seemed a bit ridiculous. Roads were starting to wash out, (well, what “THEY” call roads), and seeing out the car window was unthinkable. Even the two guys that I was travelling with were starting to get nervous. I tried to keep calm and not ask to many questions, but finally I said, “is this typical rain for this time of the year”? Ang finally answered “no, we have typhoon”. (Excuse me, did he just tell me we were in a huge storm better known as a Florida hurricane, otherwise known as a Vietnam typhoon?) Umm, he did indeed. So, “what are we going to do?”, I asked. He told me that there was a village where we would ride out the storm not too far from where we were. The only problem; there was a lake between us and the village. We would have to build a raft and cross the lake with the raft. A raft?!!! (Out of what, my backpack)? I soon discovered that we would construct this next mode of transportation out of hemp and bamboo.
Stay tuned for my next blog to see what happens.