Vietnam & Cambodia travel blog

I can call it day two even though this is Friday morning here because we have a printed itinerary and I have notes! The problems blogging while traveling like this – moving every other day, visiting daily life of a sort and sites of local value with local guides – are two: we are seeing and experiencing so much most of our time and energy goes into that and in our free time we're eating meals or talking or sleeping or finding the usual ways to relax (books, showers, sitting in peace on an outside bench), and (2) the great thing about traveling to me is that feeling of being in-between and on-the-way but not tied down to the usual places we inhabit, mentally and physically. Writing a blog, while we enjoy communicating and preserving our memories, pulls at that rootlessness – though we always remain rooted anyway in our upbringing and obligations – and demands from me a more literal, narrative, more observing and judging and less experiencing and wondering brain. I can do both – and at times work or home demands I do both regardless of the blog – but the blog takes a lower priority. I'd love more time to just think and write but then, what part of this adventure would I eliminate?

Probably some of the constant walking behind a guide who always has more to show us. Both Ha in Hanoi and Gioi (pronounced Zhhoey in Vietnamese or Joey in English) in the villages of Lao Cai province have a lot of pride in their country and cultures, and have been warm and knowledgeable and good company. But at times I'd love to just sit and see. And at times we've done that, but there is just so much here.

Nam Cang Riverside Lodge, our first stop outside Hanoi (I got the name confused in my first attempt at this blog – which we had to abandon because they limit each entry to only 1000 characters – and we've met a lot of characters...) is run by a local Red Dzao family, who built the lodge on prime riverside land they own. It's not a fancy place but well-built and comfortable. You approach it over a very shaky but strong well-maintained wood and metal bridge – imagine a series of thirty or forty playground swings chained together over a rocky riverbed – and while I never got used to it, I crossed it maybe 10 ten times back and forth. There's a couple of chairs in front, some sheds and cottages for work and staff housing. And you enter into a large common room where meals are served and books and games sit on shelves. Off the common room are a number of bedrooms and shared bathrooms, and stairs to a second level holding slightly larger bedrooms, shared baths, and a covered balcony overlooking the river. Our second day, it was a perfect place to look out at a heavy morning rain. A very calming downpour – the very melody of a steady heavy rain is like a heartbeat to my infant soul. Pardon the metaphoric hyperbole. The rain did not interfere with our second hike, but more on that later.

I'm writing this is retrospect, several days of it, so I have some judgments relative to our whole week here so far. First and paramount, the food was simple, fresh, meticulously prepared, and tasted great. I am, lord knows, a picky eater and I had more than enough each meal to not only satisfy but to restore me. Stir-fried vegetables, fresh fruit, sweetened lemon juice, good tea, some chicken, Hanoi brand beer (a good lager, sort of like a Heineken), that's what I remember. We sat either at a long table, with benches on opposite sides, or at a smaller square table. Other guests sat along the long table, a Dutch couple we didn't speak with much and a friendly British couple from the Lake District, bright and on their first outside-the-family-resort vacation with some adventurous tinge. Unlike Morocco, we haven't really had much time with other visitors, mainly with our guides and drivers.

And just now I've come to realize that rather than trying to catch up and narrate each day as it came to us, which is feeling like a chore, albeit a happy social chore, let me just look back and sort through my impressions and what's been tossing around the cycles of my mind. Next post, later tonight. To help, I am taking tonight off from touring, leaving Robin to take the food tour and night tour of downtown Hue, to think and write.

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