Tag Archives: Vietnam

Face Your Abyss

Life doesn’t stop when you travel; your light and your dark follow you as you move, and as much as you might try to purge yourself of all evidence of a former self, if you don’t confront your dark places honestly, you will simply be running away from you.

So travel. Face your abyss. You might discover beautiful things in the darkness.

Photographs from the Phong Nha and Thiên Đường Caves near Dong Hoi, Vietnam. 

Dong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking Boots Dong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking BootsDong Hoi Caves, These Walking Boots

You Like-a Boom-Boom?

Clutching a ticket for the night train headed south, I stood outside the hostel in the dim evening light and said goodbye to the friends I had made in Hanoi.

Adam worked at the hostel, and had just arrived on the back of a Vietnamese man’s motorbike. They shook hands like friends, so I asked Adam if he’d arrange for this man to drive me to the train station. I hopped on to the back of his motorbike and waved a final adieu as we tucked into the tangled traffic.

“You and Adam make-a boom-boom?” he asked me over bubbling the noise of the engine.

“Excuse me?”

“You and Adam make-a boom-boom?” this time with pelvic thrusting.

Ah, he was asking if I had had sex with Adam. A standard kind of enquiry. What?!

“No, we’re just friends,” I answered, trying to hide my indignation, pretending I wasn’t completely taken aback by his brazen vulgarity. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I thought.

“You like-a boom boom?”

What do I say? “Um, that’s a very personal question,” by now, starting to giggle a little bit.

“I like-a boom-boom,” pelvic thrusting again. Oh my gosh!

I’m not sure if I was trying to divert the conversation, or spark some sense of responsibility in the man’s mind; I asked, “Do you have a wife?”

“Yes, but make-a boom-boom many women,” now reaching back and stroking my leg! Shit, wrong question! But at least we had some silence for a little while after that. And then…

“You like a leekie-poosie?” At first I wasn’t sure what I had heard.

“What?!”

“Leekie-poosie.” He turned his head and demonstrated enthusiastically, flapping his tongue about in front of his face like a chameleon with Tourettes, somehow managing to punctuate this terrifying display with a self-congratulatory grin.

“How far is it to the train station?” I asked, timidly.

The Heart of Hanoi

I couldn’t wait to leave Singapore; its sterile streets and overbearing rules had depressed me, and I was in search of a different kind of adventure.

Before I knew it, I was standing on the side of the road beside the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, waiting for a gap in the thick flood of traffic so that I could cross – and slowly, like water climbing to a boil, it dawned on me that I had found the sweet disorder that I had been craving. I had landed myself in its centre. I was going to have to enter this amoebic mass of vehicles, to become part of it, and then to emerge from it a new person.

Hanoi traffic, These Walking BootsHanoi street scene, These Walking Boots

Hanoi is a vascular system; a complex twist of narrow streets and tangled wires, walled by the looming romance of crumbling French facades. Scooters flow staccato through the city’s veins and arteries, from a throbbing heart somewhere nearby. There are no interludes, there is no order, but there is synergy. Beautiful synergy.Hanoi traffic, These Walking BootsHanoi traffic, These Walking Boots

The pavements in the Old Quarter are not for pedestrians. Shops spill out onto the road, rows of scooters stand stationary on the sidewalk, and street-food vendors somehow preserve for themselves sacred little spaces amid the chaos. The streets ooze at the edges and pulsate in the middle. You have to have a new kind of spatial awareness to survive it.Hanoi traffic, These Walking Boots

Always lost; overwhelmed by the city’s unyielding onslaught, and never able to take it all in, I was in love with Hanoi. I moved, purposeless, through its streets; at first trying to gain some kind of traction and then gradually, finally letting go, simply absorbing. The colourful disorder fed my soul, and the contrast of my solitude against the unrelenting chaos became my quietest comfort in the heart of Hanoi.Hanoi street scene, These Walking BootsHanoi street scene, These Walking Boots