Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Long Journey

Victor Chia is majoring in Business at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His utmost interest lies in Asian culture and civilization which he considers the last unexplored frontier apart from the African continent. Below is his writing about Vietnam.

I see places in colors. Depressive and uplifting colors accompany my experiences and encounters. The colors change, together with the people whom I have the pleasure or displeasure of meeting. We left a place of Yellow, with its blazing sun and amazing stretches of beaches. Armies of touts, endless banter and chatter faded away like whispers.Vietnam, the Caucasian traveler’s bane, was our last stop before heading straight intoLaos.

Instead of choosing normal taxi, we hopped on a bus in the city ofVinhon the eastern coast ofVietnam, unaware that the bus was meant for transporting goods to trade across the border. We had no Vietnamese Dong left after paying for our tickets, no money for even a baguette. Hungry and anxious, we waited for the bus to arrive. When it finally did, we were packed in like sardines. My legs were pulled up to my chin, with no space to stretch. All I could see were arms and legs of faceless passengers. The back of the bus was converted into a storage compartment, with mats wrapped over the goods for us to sit on. My back was facing an open window and I was running the risk of falling out if I fell asleep. I couldn’t stretch my legs without kicking someone else in the face. I distinctly remember the smell of burnt cigarettes, dirty fingernails, oily hair and the stench of a perspiration soaked t-shirt.

In spite of my discomfort, I had ample time to think and observe my surroundings. It was authentically an experience, away from our fellow backpackers, away from the ‘Falangs’ and the fact that I was cramped up with four dozen strangers in close quarters. I never felt more alive. The Yellow slowly broke away into a lush deep Green.Laosis now in sight. The dizzying heights of the cliffs and karsts came into view as we climbed higher and higher up the snaking mountain roads. The view was truly breathtaking. I was lost in its greenery and misty mountain tops. I caught glimpses of villages settled beside rivers as our bus raced through the dusty road. There were typical Laotian scenes of women washing their clothes in the river while children bathing and splashing water at one another. The children were shy, running away from our bus. It might have been my unshaven face staring curiously out of the window. We were racing through valleys, chasing down the infinite stretch of the mountain range. Rice fields lined the foot of the cliffs and herds of cows grazed, stopping only to point that dull watchful gaze at us. All these I watched from my little window.

What was so extraordinary was the cold breeze from that little window, sweet euphoria, which made the pain go away. I wondered if the villagers actually see the beauty in which they live and breathe. The exuberance of greenery, which I envy, is long gone from the concrete jungle where I come from. I hunger for the simplicity of life. There rose an irrepressible urge to start smiling, which might have seemed strange to my fellow passengers. I was lost, deep in my thoughts, as I witnessed the sunset and finally the darkness of the night. The setting of the sun was simply beyond words. It was brief but anything other would not have been appropriate. We were finally thrown out of the bus, miles away from Vientiane. Finding accommodation and transport was a top priority but that is a story for another day.

Thu nhỏ
Travel consultancy