Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
This post is the first in a series of shorter posts where I write about more general experiences, not necessarily falling into a single day’s diary. Thanks Dad for the suggestion, and certainly mention something in the comments if you’re curious - I might address it!
When I first started planning this trip, one of my concerns - and one of the most common concerns of my peers - was the language difference. Vietnamese is incredibly tough to learn, and it was not realistic for me to gain any appreciable foothold on it before my trip. And so, I plundered on, with the thought of Google Translate and hand gestures providing me with some reassurance. I knew that communication would be tough, but I wanted that difficulty to add a unique edge to the trip.
Of course, in the larger, more tourist-driven cities like Dong Hoi, Da Nang, and Hoi An, communication is no problem. Local employees are used to catering to Westerners, and usually have a good grasp of English. But in rural areas, other than “hello”, there is no English. It’s certainly helpful that I’m not a picky eater. I usually just point at what someone else is eating - hasn’t failed yet. Google Translate often comes in handy at the pharmacy to get across my cold symptoms. In general, communicating hasn’t been as hard as I anticipated. Pointing, gesturing, and hoping has not yet failed to yield food, drink, or a bed.
But it’s the aloneness that I didn’t expect quite as much. This was mitigated in the first week travelling with Lyle. But since he’s behind me, I don’t have a companion to speak in English too. I’m not complaining, of course - this is all part of the experience and the challenge. Being in some of these bigger cities and meeting up with Facebook mutual friend expats has been nice. But I expect tomorrow’s plunge back into rural Vietnam to be isolating. I’ll be leaving the tourist beat, heading back into Old Vietnam - I’m incredibly excited about that for other reasons. But I’ll also be leaving behind the comforts of English. Here’s to eating whatever is offered, sleeping wherever I find lodging, and seeking comfort in the uncomfortable.