First order of business, Internets: the future of this blog.
It seems that many of you were too shy to express your opinion on what the future of Niesbeetle should be, despite a convenient poll. In fact, all but four of you voted. I expected more from you, dear Internets. But, nonetheless, the show must go on so, without further ado, the people have spoken and decided that Niesbeetle will now morph itself into a food blog. I cannot promise quality pictures or regular posts but I will try it out, at least for a time.
Second, another post about my travels. This one isn’t about a particular place I visited or a particular facet of life in South East Asia. It’s just a collection of some thoughts that my little brain thunk while I was on the road.
1.) You’re doing the same things, just in a different place.
I thought about this a lot while I was travelling through Vietnam and Thailand because it struck me that I wasn’t usually doing anything that out-of-the-ordinary. Sure, I wasn’t going to a job everyday since my job consisted of survival and entertaining myself but walking around a city, asking people directions, riding a bus and struggling with servers at restaurants is nothing new. Even though sitting on the street, on plastic furniture surrounding a keg with locals selling beer at 5000 dong a glass (about 25 cents) in Hanoi was definitely out-of-the-ordinary, it still felt like a rendition of going to a pub with friends and sharing stories.
I’m not trying to downplay all the fun that makes up travelling to a foreign place–it’s absolutely exciting and exotic-feeling to be eating hummus and veggies in a cafe in Cambodia–but I realized that I can really eat hummus and veggies just about anywhere. In some ways, realizing this could diminish the wonder but I thought it was kind of enchanting to know that a couple weeks earlier, I had been doing the same thing on the other side of the planet.
2.) It’s ALL about who you’re with.
As you all will recall, I didn’t like travelling alone when I first got to Vietnam. I was bored, I hadn’t met anyone (because apparently people mostly travel in pairs) and I seriously thought about doing some more short-term volunteering just to pass the time until I had to be in Bangkok for my flight to Delhi.
Then I went to Dalat–the first place I actually really like in Vietnam–and met MT in the evening at our hostel. We were two out of very few people staying there and we were the only two that hung around to have a nap before getting up to see the fireworks for Tet. Over the next couple days, we got talking and did a few things together. We found out that we had very similar itineraries for Vietnam and we got along pretty well so we did some things together in Dalat. We saw Crazy House, we got delicious coffee, we walked all the way to the bus station and back, we ate like kings at a nearby vegetarian restaurant for 30 000 dong. It just so happened that she’s quite suspicious of meat at the best of times and didn’t like the idea of eating meat cooked in the iffy restaurants of South East Asia so she was cool finding vegetarian places wherever we were. I never had to feel guilty that I was depriving her because she was cool with it.
Once we started travelling together, things like walking to the train station to save money, wandering around to seek nourishment of some kind and just hanging out in the hotel were fun. We talked, we laughed, we met other people, she bummed cigarettes from some guy sitting with us on the plastic furniture in Hanoi, we enjoyed many a dessert dinner.
This point comes full circle to the first because, although we did certainly do many things that we wouldn’t normally do in our respective home countries (for example, bungee jumping, playing with elephants, riding a boat through the Phong Nha caves, ziplining, going on luxury cruises through a World Heritage Site), most of what we did was totally ordinary, except we had good company. Long bus rides, negotiating with travel agents, deciding what to have for dinner was far more exciting with such a great, spunky travel buddy.
However, don’t take this as a warning to not travel alone! Sure, I didn’t have the best time when I was first alone in Vietnam but I also didn’t stay in a real hostel until I got to Dalat so it was unlikely that I would’ve met anybody anyway. Plus, part of the fun is seeing who you meet, finding someone to travel with for a little while, have some great conversations with and part ways whenever you feel like it. When you meet someone on the road, you’re not obligated to stay with them or compromise your route if you want to change it. That’s the beauty I found in travelling alone. Sure, it’s good to know that you’ll always have someone there to walk around strange cities and to keep you entertained while you wait an hour and a half for a delayed bus in a bus station in the middle of the night but it’s also really run to do it with someone you don’t know that well. It’s the thrill of not knowing.
Till next time, Internets,