After a 3-week, 3-city production schedule full of up to 20 hour days, Vijaya and I departed Thailand on the wings of Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi. Curled like a jumbo shrimp over my tray table, I finally collapsed and gave in to the sweet release of vacation time. Since we were already in Southeast Asia for work, we extended our trip to include two more countries and a hole lotta nothing.
Equipped with little more information than I had four years prior, we went from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay via mini-bus with dangling conductors. Rice fields flanked the road for three hours until we were dropped by the side of the road. I quickly introduced Vijaya to her first motorbike experience with a couple strangers roadside, and we proceeded to the hotel room I had on my first trip in 2007.
Two days on a Ha Long Bay junk boat provided the same cave and floating village thrills with some added kayaking ones in the better-conserved waters. We anticipated and avoided the inevitable schemes of logistics by strongly enforcing arrival times in Hanoi, using hand-drawn maps of our route and the airport to imply we'd like dropped off on the side of the highway. In our last hour in country, we were stalked by motorbikes, involved in a cabbie war, pulled over by the cops, and delivered to our terminal within 20 minutes of departure. We slid into home base with sighs of relief and amazement.
It's been a long time since I landed in a new place and felt a strong connection. Luang Prabang was easy from the start, as we piled into a cheap bus from the airport to the most peaceful "populated" street I've ever witnessed. It felt like we entered the land without hassles. Especially juxtaposed with Vietnam, we were existing in a place with one face and no veneer.
The next four days were simple. Eager eyes found justification for the morning mist with the discovery of street stall black tar coffee. Eating by the Mekong river at lunch was anti-climactic and highly therapeutic. We rented bikes to meditate on the small grid of streets until every corner felt our tire marks. Homemade mulberry paper products and paintings began demanding delicate attention in our luggage.
We found an outlet from our work in abrasive chaos and simple pleasures. It was a week that gave me the perspective necessary to return to America and shift toward the next career step. Energy is undulating and incredible.