Monday, April 27, 2009

Vietnam - Part Four

People ask me how I can travel by myself and I never understood what the big deal was. I've only recently realized that it's easy for me to travel alone because I almost always make friends while I'm out and about, (I get this from my mother.) While traveling in Normandy, I met two American guys and two Frenchmen in a restaurant. We talked for several hours and then headed out to a local bar. In Rome, I spent a memorable night with three guys from the hostel. We had dinner and then hit a wine bar in the Piazza Navone. In Venice, I spent a whole day sightseeing with a Canadian girl I had met at breakfast in the hostel. And in Vietnam I was never without someone to talk to.

The very first day, within two hours of striking out, a woman asked me if the big building next to us was the Reunification Palace. I told her it was. And within five minutes we had lunch plans. She was from the Philippines and her sister was going to be studying in America next year. I didn't end up meeting her and I felt really bad about standing her up but I ended up going back to my hotel for an early afternoon nap because I wasn't feeling well.

The next day I left on my bike tour and just when I was starting to feel a little lonely Alan and Wendy from the UK showed up at the home stay in the room next to mine. We ended up having dinner and then breakfast the next morning together. We kept seeing each other along the tour and chatted whenever our territorial guides let us. It was really nice to have someone to share stories with about the trip with and most of our conversation centered on travel. Where we had been. Where we were going. I was very jealous of their upcoming trip to the Sahara and I wished we could have spent a little more time together. We tried really hard to have dinner together again the last night but the guides wouldn't hear of it. Weird, right? My guide wanted to take me to a local place and their guide was too nervous to veer off the approved itinerary. We said goodbye the next morning when they headed off to Cambodia and I went back to Ho Chi Minh.

Back in Saigon my last day I booked a tour to see the Cao Dai temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels. By the time the day was over I had chatted extensively with a guy from Germany. (He even bought me a coke at one point.) And I ended the day having coffee and then dinner with two German girls, Jules and Nicky, who were also on the tour.

Dinner with my new German friends, Jules and Nicky.

Even on the way home, I managed to find a friend. An older Vietnamese man started talking to me in the check-in line. He was visiting his 93 year old mother. It was only his second visit to Vietnam since he left in the seventies. He told me all about how he had gone from a fighter pilot in the South Vietnamese Army to a janitor in America. He eventually got his masters in Engineering from Purdue and had only just recently retired from Lucent Technologies. We didn't sit near each other on the plane but he found me the next morning when we landed in Seoul and bought me breakfast and gave me some traditional Vietnamese sweets before we said goodbye and parted ways.

So there you go. That's how I can travel by myself. Because I never seem to end up by myself. I don't know how it happens. Sometimes I start the conversation. Sometimes it's the other person. Sometimes it's just a friendly chat but a lot of the time it turns into something more like a dinner or going to get coffee or a drink. I've never kept in touch with any of these people but it's still nice to share the experience of traveling with another traveler or two. Someone who understands exactly what it's like to be in a foreign country and what it is to see and do the things you are doing. How about you? Have you met anyone interesting while on vacation? I can't seem to help but to meet people on mine.

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