Off the road
My bags aren't entirely packed yet but my alarm is set. Tomorrow morning at 6 am Vietnam time (7am Chinese time) I am on the road again - back to China.
True, this is contrary to what I had been planning so far and yet nothing appears to be more logic than this to me now: Vietnam is great, no doubt about it and Laos most certainly is as beautiful as everybody says it is. Indeed I needed but a few minutes to realise that I could hardly ever feel as familiarised as I felt in China which is not only but greatly due to the fact tha I do not speak Vietnamese and that I do not even intend to learn it. This is inspite of the numerous Vietnamese trying to convince me that I should learn some phrases - but I have not bought a Vietnamese grammar book and not even a dictionnary although that was quite tempting. Whereas in China nobody would ever have expected me to speak, let alone to write, the Vietnamese seem to take much pleasure in chatting with non Vietnamese speakers in Vietnamese and they quickly have got a pen and some paper ready to hand to write the still uncomprehensive sentences down. Needless to say that for the majority of travellers, especially for those actually learning Vietnamese, this tactic works quite well. Yet for me, the written Vietnamese was even more incomprehensive than was the spoken where I always found some words that sounded somewhat Chinese. And my theft actually convinced me that there are some similarities between these languages - but this might have been the reason for her taking my money. . .
To make it clear: as much as I appreciate the kindness and heartily welcolming Vietnamese there is about nothing that could make my heart rejoice more than a Chinese caracter that I can understand while the written Vietnamese - apart from noodle soup, hotel and rice - still is a mysterious to me. It is not only about communication but to a great extent in the way that I do not wish to travel as a tourist. As soon as I get to tourist areas it itches all over - and the mosquitos are not to blame for that! Sure, I could practice my English and foremost my patience by telling the friendly Vietnamese over and over again that I do not want a ride on their motorbike, that I do not need a trip to Ho Chi Minh or whatever place, that I do not need shoes, a hotel or whatever. And of course, it is not their fault even though I would love to blame someone after my today's trip through the minority villages of Sapa (just imagine yourselves you are heaving lunch, sitting on the toilet or being in some other place of privacy and suddenly a bunch of foreigners, armed with their cameras, walk in to say "HELLO" and take snapshots or feed your kids with candies as if they were a cute little zoo animal. Actually, I did not even want to get there, but when I saw by accident what was happening there, I did not know who to blame first? The museum visitors, the minorities, the Vietnamese governement or myself? Fair enough, that is a topic to be elaborate at another point). But the really interesting experiences I made once I got off the road where there was not much left but the well trained kids shouting "HELLO" after you already passed them (I am almost certain that their daily school lessons - that is, if they have daily lessons- includes a variaty of HELLO tunes and above all the mandatory reminder that a foreigner must be greeted even if you are not in the mood).
This being spoken I resume hence that the most precious moments include the following:
the outstanding honest smile of every single Vietnamese
the wonderful refreshing Vietnamese food (and this I say after haven been sick and inspite of some Western versions of this same)
the breath taking countrysides (I guess I did get over the fairly bad road conditions over here - mostly due to the overwhelming tour from Hanoi to Sapa - wonderful, terrific, beautiful nature!)
the patient attempts of teaching me Vietnamese or at least letting me read over and over again (particularly my personal theft has been great in persuasing me that I am - without being aware of it - a Vietnamese first grader, willing to read sentences that I do not understand over and over again)
Vietnamese fruit cocktails (do not any explanations on that, right?)
a surprising invitation for lunch by an extraordinary vivid Vietnamese family including boat trip to the temple in the middle of the lake surrounded by mountains which produces a wonderful accustic to any singer
and not to forget the wonderful nights I spent at Chris house, an inspiring American spoiling me with delicious food, wonderful music and interesting thoughts.
The roaring thunder reminds me that I should go to bed now, dreaming and hoping that it won't rain tomorrow morning when going 1.650m downhill. My breaks are checked and working well, but still. ..