Rice Wine & Broken Backpacks

7:03 AM

I am writing from Gili Trawangan, an island off of Bali, Indonesia. Every muscle on my body is sore, my feet are blistered and beaten from a hit by a motorcycle. I'm peeling from an awful sunblock mishap in Hoi An. My clothes smell of moldy towels, and my backpack is hanging on by a (literal) thread from a serious ride through the airport conveyor belt. 

But I look around, and I am surrounded by people with similar peeled skin, and bandages on their wounds, who don't realize how bad I smell because we all carry the same scent with us. 

The Asia backpacking route is a road of endless stories, genuine connections, moments of shared experiences and traveling advice. We marvel at each other's accents and delight in finding that as massive as this world is, that it is equally as small. It's a collaboration of people who find common ground of a hunger to see the world. People who come, ready to lose everything they have in exchange for sacred moments like this

It's a good road to be on. Here's what I've been up to lately. 

Cu Chi Tunnels: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 

These tunnels were used during the Vietnam war by the Cu Chi people to hide from and attack American soldiers. Rachel & I went down one that barely fit us (cue the claustrophobic induced rapid breathing). Crawling through these tunnels, with bats inches from us, was an adrenaline rush I won't soon forget. 

Danang, Vietnam 

We spent a night in Danang, home to the fire breathing dragon bridge. We hopped on a cruise of all locals to experience the magic, but I found the people watching to be the best part of it all. 

Hoi An, Vietnam 

Hoi An is a charming little beach town, full of tailors ready to make you the outfit of your dreams. We rented bikes and motorbikes, perused their charming streets and tried Vietnamese scallops. 

Hanoi, Vietnam 

We were greeted in the city by my favorite hostel yet, Hanoi Backpackers, a rowdy mix of westerners and Vietnamese staff who were warm and inviting. We were treated by a Washington native to a 6 course Vietnamese meal.

Halong Bay, Vietnam 

We did a 3 day cruise through Ha Long Bay where we explored grottos & experienced a Vietnamese torrential downpour from the comfort of our junket boat. We walked on the boat with 17 strangers but after three days of boat jumping, rock climbing, kayaking, and midnight dance parties, we left with new friends, and they left with some American line dance moves. 

Sapa, Vietnam 

Sapa is home to hills upon hills of lush rice fields. We trekked for 21 km through mud and waterfalls alongside local tribe ladies. Before the trip, we watched as the ladies picked us out of the crowd as if we were prime rib at a meat market. I was hesitant to have them walk beside me at first, but quickly became thankful for their death grip as they led me through the raging rivers that had formed as a result of the downpour. At night we stayed at a local home stay where they prepared us the most delicious Vietnamese spring rolls (and offered us maybe a little too much rice wine). Our traveling group consisted of American, German and Swiss Trekkers, and even with our soaked ponchos, you couldn't have found a happier group. 

(Before the trip, I promised myself I would NEVER wear a poncho, I only lasted two minutes in the rain before I decide to embrace it) 

I believe that some things in life, you aren't able to capture. There is no way I could describe the tranquility of hundreds of brush covered islands in Ha Long Bay. And I spent so much time trying to encapsulate the magnificence of the rice fields of Sapa, only to find myself giving up and giving the scenery the reverence it deserved. I think it's the same with mountains, and sunsets; if I could fully capture them, I would lose the intimacy of the moment. 

I've put away the poncho and I'm crossing my fingers for some good scuba diving in the Gilli Islands. Here's hoping that Bali specializes in replacement backpacks (or a really hefty sewing kit) & that I can steer clear of motorbikes. 

You Might Also Like