So So Grateful
Trip Start Jan 13, 2009
70Trip End May 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
Old Town Hotel - Queen Star Hotel
Tonight at 9 pm I am heading, on the night train, to the mountain town of Sapa. The journey takes about 9 hours so I will arrive in the early morning tomorrow. Sapa is a centre for Hilltribes and I booked a tour so it should be very easy - everything organized. The train, the bus to the town, the Hotel.....ah, the easy life.
Just kidding because surprising enough, all of the bus and transportation planning and finding accomodation has been so ridiculously easy it is hard to translate to those of you who have not been in Vietnam or Cambodia or Thailand. There are literally 50 or 60 'travel agents'' on my tiny street alone - all wanting your business, making a very small commission on anything they sell. Although Hanoi is different that way, as many travel agents here as there were tailors in Hoi An, it has been easy everywhere to find someone wanting to sell you a bus ticket, or give advice on the journey forward. No wonder few budget travellers come to Canada. We could learn a lot from this model.
So Sapa. I am going for 3 days, 4 nights - 2 of those nights on the train there and back, then as soon as I am back in Hanoi, I am heading off to Halong Bay for a 3 day cruise, then back to Hanoi for one night and then flying out to Laos on March 8.
First, I can't believe it is already March, and second this is the first time this trip I have had to actually make a plan. All around me, other travellers with limited time frames, are furiously planning each day so they can fit in the slices they have chosen to see in the time they have. That is the normal way and involves a fair bit of planning and time management and stress that connections work and budget allows. I am reminded, hourly, of the luxurious position I am in, being able to meander through this trip, on my own time, staying where I want and only planning the night ahead. So lucky and so envied by most. It is only the retired long-stay travellers that can share in my feelings, and everyone of them I have met, rejoice in their good luck as well. We are a consciously grateful group of oldsters here. The youngsters dream of having what we have (time and money), and are open about sharing that, and we dream of having the vitality they have and the wonder of doing it the first time. It is all good.
This trip planning and date setting has felt very constraining yet I am conscious that I have to get to Laos and decided to stop being so cheap and for once, take the easy way and fly. It is only $150 so not budget breaking and there really was no reasonable way to get there from here overland without chancing some difficult challenges. Again, for some reason, I hate to take the easy way????? Hmmm.
Maybe it will be the only easy thing in Laos. Janice is coming on the 22? to Thailand so I will have to get back over there some time around then. She is very flexible and understands this place so she will not be expecting me to be at the airport to meet her. If I am - great, if not, I will find her in some dive shop on the South China Sea or the Gulf of Thailand. Again - all good. Life is pretty damn easy - I am thinking you are getting that theme??????
So I will check back in a few days, with updates from my trek - maybe I will finally get to wear the stupid shoes that have taken up one third of my total space......ahhh...let it go........deep breath in, deep breath out.......
For those of you whose life is not so easy right now, I really hope these notes from the road do not seem, I don't know, salt-in-the-woundish (can't articulate what I mean). I know some of you are facing uncertainty of job security, some are recovering from health set backs and some are just not so happy. I really feel for you and hope for the best for all of you. I have had some unhappy times and I am hoping the message can be one of hope for what is around the corner, not for me gloating (is that a word?), in my good fortune. I do live with the mantra that we CHOOSE happiness. It doesn't just happen and it is often there in the smallest of details.
Enough of that already!!!! I am off to breakfast, then pack and take my stuff to the agency for storage and wander this beautiful city, wonder who I will meet next, then board a night train to a little bit of remoteness left in the world. How cool is all of this?