“TRAVELLING TOURISTS” in VIETNAM

 

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Our time in Vietnam started off on a wonderfully surreal note with meeting our great friends Mike and Kathleen in Ho Chi Minh. HUGE THANK YOU for making the trip to the other side of the world to come play with us. We would travel anywhere anytime with you two. It was a joy to experience Vietnam with you and looking forward to our next trip to explore the places we didn’t get to this this time around.

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It was “PHOtastic” to have M&K with us.

I quickly and easily fell in love with Vietnam. For the incredibly friendly people and the stunning geography. The cuisine was my absolute favorite this trip as well. Which plays a large role in the love of a country when you are eating out for every meal. They also make the best coffee. Even better when you add condensed milk or coconut ice cream.

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Coconut ice cream coffee. YUM

 

Below are only a few of the wonderful people we met while in Vietnam. All truly wanted to make our experience memorable. The Vietnamese are full of kindness with gracious hearts.

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Our guide Quyen for our Ha Long Bay boat cruise.
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One of our guides Mom. They invited us into their home at the end of a trip. She never stopped smiling.

There also remains a strong element of community and keeping it local. Fields of produce were everywhere. Families knee deep in mud planting rice or harvesting other crops. Even some of  the larger resorts have their own fields the size of a city block.

 

Communism certainly has its attributes. Now that Vietnam’s doors are open to foreign investment and travel, the marriage of communism and capitalism has created a pleasurable country to be in. I realize that this is only my perspective as an outsider and corruption remains a concern. One of our guides reported to me that she has a degree in education but would have to pay the school to teach. Hence, she is guiding. It is a means to an end for her as it is a great way to become fluent in English. Her dream is to teach high school English. She is determined to succeed.

Never the less, Vietnam appears to be doing a fairly good job from an outsiders look. Time will tell though, as the amount of effort and funds that is going into the infrastructure of roads, rail and buildings is truly mind blogging. Everywhere one looked there was a crane or cement factory smoke stack on the horizon. New highways and bridges and more to come. It is a booming country in many ways. Can they withstand the corruption that accompanies a capitalist society? If only they could maintain the best of both as they forge ahead?

Tourism is playing a large role in the boom, both with foreigners (especially Chinese), as well as the Vietnamese themselves. The large resorts that are being built in DeNang and Cat Ba are for those with money and not a lot of time. It is not the flash packers such as ourselves that will be sipping drinks beside the infinity pools. I just hope that they are considering sustainable tourism model? Doesn’t look as such as the beaches at Cat Ba have been blown to bits to make room for these massive resorts. Capitalism at its best.

The Vietnamese people are definitely résiliant and strong of will. They were colonized by the Chinese for over a thousand years. Then came the Portugese and the French. Lets not forget the Americans and their agent orange and napalm. Despite all the adversity they have had to over come, they maintain a sense of graciousness and unwavering strength.

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Small museum at Cannon Fort, Cat Ba. Established by the Japanese during WWII then used in subsequent battles by the Vietnamese.
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Shrines were everywhere with a multitude of different offerings. This one was on our boat and the pilot lit some insensé and said a prayer while we left the dock
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The Vietnamese are very patriotic as their flag was everywhere

Vietnam is full of colorful chaos that leaves you mesmerized intermingled with scenes of serenity to keep you calm. Most use “hondas”, the catch term for anything motorized on 2 wheels. The masses cannot afford a car and a pedal bike is too slow. In the cities walking was always an exercise in reflexes and wits, as they would drive those scooters even on sidewalks. I started saying a silent prayer every time we went out, on the advice of a guide. First say a prayer then walk slowly, never stopping and no sudden movements. It really does work. Kind of makes you feel like Moses parting the sea.

 

 

Then moments of beauty would bring stillness and calm.

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We were travelling “tourists” in Vietnam.

Debate to yet occur over a few glasses of wine.  Traveller or tourist? Is there a difference? If so, what makes one a traveller and the other a tourist?

So we triapsed around Vietnam as “travelling tourists” as time and weather was not on our side. There was so much to see, and the country is sooooo long. It was sooooo cold. So our trip consisted of boats, caves, trains, planes, beaches, jungles, mountains, hikes, hand line fishing and bicycles. With a lot of great food, wonderful company and a cucumber face mask thrown in.

 

Country of joy and curiosity

Smiles of genuine friendliness

Welcome hugs that speak of gratitude

Friendships that blossom, with adventure and laughter

Cuisines that are celebrations of taste

Fields to markets, keeping it local

Bicycles and scooters, balanced with silent prayers

Families knee deep in fields of mud, working together

A nation built on community and faith

Investing and building

Exploding with dreams of the future

It was a sad day saying goodbye to Mike and Kathleen. Not one of us were ready to say goodbye to one another or Vietnam. I do want to venture back to Vietnam in the near future. Before the charm and essense is lost to the incredible growth that is occurring there. I want to travel slower and embrace more of the beauty that encompasses Vietnam and her people.

For now I must say farewell to the life of travel as we are at the end of our trip. A last trip to Bangkok before travelling home. It all feels like a dream. A wonderful, exotic and beautiful dream.

Don’t pinch me, cause I don’t want to wake up.

LOVE IN SALZBURG

 

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Salzburg was even more romantic than I remembered. It is easy to imagine a young woman being swept off her feet in such an enchanting place. The cobbled streets are narrow and have many hidden enticing alleys to explore and discover. Couples are mingling and sipping wine outside the numerous small shops. The fortress provides a spectacular back drop against the baroque architecture. Salzburg’s “Old City” is a World Heritage Site as this vibrant city should be cherished.

It is here 27 years ago that I met my husband. In the International Youth Hotel on New Years Eve while dancing on the tables. After a few dates of sharing apple struddle and skating under the stars, I was invited to join him and his best buddy, Doug. To continue travelling through Europe in their VW van. Gas was very expensive then, due to the Iraqi War, so to this day Gene says it was because they needed gas money. May be true, but gas is now cheaper and I am still here.

Much has changed in the past 27 years.

After exploring Europe’s back roads for another 3 months, the van broke down in Portugal and it was time to return home. I went back to my small prairie town and within a week I had bought a one way ticket to the west coast. Never to look back.
We travelled more, went to school. Graduated and formed careers that provide us with the means to live a life of comfort and adventure. Both around the world and in the mountains of our beloved island. Bought a house in a community we love. We married in our backyard 11 years into the relationship. We now have 2 wonderful boys that inspire us to stay young and remain curious.

 

Love has been glorious.

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But not all the time.

There are the amazing views as you stand on the mountains’ summits together, but there is also the deep dark valleys and canyons where it is easy to get lost.

The moments when you are so in love you feel like your heart will burst. Then the dark days where you wonder what the hell happened? As with any adventure, there is struggle and strive. It is all too easy to focus on the hardship and get lost in the cold dark valley. To be fogged in having forgotten your compass. Sometimes it may even be necessary to get lost in order to appreciate the beauty that can be seen above.

Either way, it is vital to find your heart’s map and climb out. Sometimes you may need to be the leader, climbing out first and providing the anchors for your partner. Or you may be the one holding onto the end of the rope. Letting your partner lead the way. Dig deep, persevere and look for the strength that can be found in your spirit. Hold faith in yourself and that of your lover. Show compassion. Find that place in your heart that promotes love and growth.

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In my career as a nurse I often care for elders. Many being married for 50 years plus. I always ask, “what is the secret to a lasting marriage?” I have been given many an answer.

“Have common hobbies.”
“Never go to bed angry”.
“Go to bed angry.”
“Laugh often.”
“Always allow for a second chance.”
“Hold hands everyday.”
“Go on separate vacations.”
“Beer and buddies.”
“Be honest.”
“Friendships that support.”
“Talk.”
“Kiss and hug often.”

There is no one answer. A couple must find their own glue that will bind them together to support a lasting marriage.

Things that matter take effort.

First ask YOURSELF what your own needs are? What can I do MYSELF to fill up my own cup? Take care of your own inner spirit. Don’t expect that someone else will or can do this for you.

Then ask your lover what their dreams are? Truly listen and support them in the ways that they ask of you.

Manage expectations. Be realistic.

Remember no one is perfect. Including yourself.

Together, make a nector list. The accomplishments and life experiences that have made you both who you are independently and as a unit.

Then make a bucket list. Determine how and when you will achieve these dreams.

Check in often. Communicate.

Never stop believing in yourself or your partner.

Life is not always easy, and a lasting marriage is not either. Nothing is constant, and nor should individuals be. If one never changed, life would be much too mundane and boring. Staying curious and striving to better one self should be a life long goal. This includes encouraging your partner to be the very best person they can be. To show compassion, understanding and forgiveness. To promote change. To listen and support the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with.

Keep hiking and climbing. Break through the clouds. For there is always another summit to climb where you can stand together. To soak up the glory that can be found there.

To look back at what has been with admiration. Hold those memories close and find strength in them.

To look forward with joy and wonder. To dream. Holding hands.

Forever cherishing one anothers’ hearts.

Just maybe we will be back to Salzburg in 2041. To celebrate 50 years of love.

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