Vietnam – the trip of a lifetime

Grace and I recently returned from Vietnam, where we spent our second honeymoon 13 months after our wedding day (our first honeymoon was spent camping amongst the giant Redwood trees of Northern California – a trip of a lifetime in its own right.)

Map of Viet NamThe trip was absolutely amazing, and life changing in ways that I have yet to comprehend. But to try to sort it out, I am on a quest to blog about our travels. My plan from the beginning was to journal every day, and when I returned,  follow-up with a blog post per day to share with the world. The sights, sounds, smells, and frenetic pace of traveling in a foreign country kept me from my journaling as much as I’d planned, though – I probably captured only about 40% of my real-time thoughts on paper. Worse, I haven’t had the energy – or head space – to immediately jump into the blogosphere to share it all with you. The best laid plans…

But the jet lag is finally starting to wane and my re-entry “freak out” is slowly subsiding, so I’m finding the time to sort through my 1800 photos and reflect on the trip.  I can’t promise a blog entry per day, but I’ll get it all on paper and share some choice photos with you in good time.

So look forward to several recaps on the places we visited, the sites we saw, the food we ate (expect a lot of these!), insight into the culture, and generally what it was like to be an American traveling through Vietnam.

But before I get to the details, I want to explain a bit about our trip itinerary, and why we chose Vietnam.

Why Vietnam?

Whenever we told someone we were heading to Vietnam (or now that we’re back – whenever we tell someone that we went to Vietnam) the question we always get is, “Why Vietnam?”  The short answer is, “I don’t know, it just popped into our consciousness.”

Grace and I love to travel and it’s part of our being – we met in Ecuador of all places – so we are always discussing where our next adventure should take place, and Vietnam simply came up. Asia was on top of our lists, but we wanted to get off the beaten path, so Thailand, Japan, China, etc. didn’t get us starry eyed. Vietnam, however, did. And it’s not a place where many Americans think of to holiday. The Vietnam War still weighs heavy on American’s minds, and many of those we told scoffed at us. My favorite response was, “You can’t go to Vietnam – they’re communist!” My second favorite response was, “Don’t do any hiking in Vietnam, you’ll get your leg blown off by land mines.”

I won’t deny that these comments, and the fears behind them, didn’t have me second guessing our decision at times. I was born after the war, but the impact it had on American culture was very much a part of my upbringing in thousands of different ways. And I’m quite certain that I’ve seen every Hollywood production concerning the Vietnam War (except maybe any John Wayne movies). But one of the characteristics I like best about myself is that I challenge myself to get every perspective on issues. So after being fed “our” side of the story through dogmatic revelations from western media, school, family, etc., I needed to go visit the culture first hand. So now you know why we chose Vietnam (but if you ask me in person, you’re more likely to get the quick “because we thought of it” response : )

Our Itinerary

Vietnam is a huge country, and with only two weeks, we couldn’t immerse ourselves in everything. Plus, Grace and I like to travel by-the-seat-of-our-pants. Our only set schedule was that we were to fly into Hanoi in the north on October 11th, and leave Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south on October 28th. But as you’ll see and read in the coming blog posts, we did SO much. One of my favorite stories is how we traveled: by plane (19 hours on Korean Air – which is absolutely the best airline in the world, where even in coach we were treated like royalty), by bus (not recommended… I’ll explain our hellish bus trip from Hoi An to Qui Nhon in a later post… it’s the kids’ favorite story, but it still gives me stomach cramps), by boat, by bike (!), by foot,  and by motorcycle (!!)

So please stow your luggage under the seat in front of you, return your folding trays and seat backs to the upright position, and fasten your seatbelts, as we depart for Vietnam.

And thank you for flying saypdx…

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