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25 Seasons of Travelling I've been to every continent three times over. Here is what i've learnt in the 25 years i've been travelling the world.

Vietnam at Eleven

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 28 May 2014 | Views [356]

Vietnam at Eleven
Lauren Hall


And then I understood what travelling truly meant. It is the endless pursuit of understanding what makes the world turn and turn. It is the knowledge that there is more to see, hear, taste and feel than what is in your own backyard. It is the eventual and perpetual realisation that there are multitudes of cultures on this earth that are a privilege to see with your own eyes and Vietnam, to this day, has been my paramour of countries.


I don’t know if it’s their patent hats or the coloured lanterns that light up Hoi An all year round. It could be the fresh air of Dabar or the clearest waters of Natrang that elate my heart. It could simply be the memory of speeding through the streets on a tiny motorbike at midnight that sugar-coats my memory but all I know is that it is everything about that country that makes it a superb choice of location for all travellers.


By the time I was eleven, I had already had the pleasure of experiencing the North African cultures of Morocco and Tunisia that in my mind, I thought Vietnam would be no different. I was naïve and riding on an inflated ego by the time we arrived in Ho Chi Mihn City where the fumes, smog, stunted traffic and a compactness all reflected a culture completely unique to anything I had seen before. It may seem that I repeat that last statement whenever I speak of past adventures but in truth, it has never stopped being true and let me take a moment to be thankful for that.  I thought myself a seasoned traveller and Vietnam reminded me that I had only seen the smallest portion of what the world still had to offer me.



Ho Chi Mihn taught me many things. The first and most important was that Asian cuisine was nothing compared to what it was in this city and it ran circles around any restaurant in Sydney. Aromas of all sorts would fill the street morning, noon and night. Whether it was a restaurant, a street vendor or a formulation of chairs around a man with a stove, the food was out of this world. One morning, my parents and I decided to discover the secrets behind this city, this countries, infamous cuisine and we ventured down to the Floating Market. If anyone reading this has ever seen a Floating Market before then you can understand how my eleven-year-old mind might have reacted to the scene. I had experienced markets before, the ones of Morocco and Tunisia are not for the faint hearted but Ho Chi Minh’s floating market is where I return to in my mind right before falling asleep every night. It is tranquil and hectic all at the same time. Hundreds of canoes line the waters in rows, filled with spices, fish, flowers, meat, wheat, eyeballs, animals, you name it and its there! No one really yells, no one fights for business; they all just sit there wearing their hats, talking amongst eachother and handing out treats and tasters to travellers who float through the watered aisles. It is what I imagine the embodiment of serenity to be.


Ho Chi Mihn is not unlike many other “cosmopolitan” cities. It is constantly in motion, buzzing with energy from day to day with many sites to see. For example, you can take your eleven-year-old daughter, who has never seen a dead body in her life before, to see Ho Chi Mihn himself, the man the city’s capitol is now named after. He is encased in a glass tomb that floats above nothingness and silence is not only requested, it is mandatory. Nothingness is also what I should have had in my stomach that morning but ill leave that tale for another time. Perhaps in fact, ill let my parents tell that story as punishment for their misguided judgement.


On the opposite side of the spectrum is a city known as Hoi An. It is famous for its lanterns and you will understand why when you get there. They line every corner of every street and riverbank throughout the city. They come in different sizes, shapes and colours but they are all quintessentially Vietnamese with their tassels and symbols. On that trip I must have spent all my pocket money on lanterns. They would encase you in their glow, swaying against each other in the early dusk light and capturing the magic of the country each time the moon came out.


Hoi An is also famous for tailoring clothes, another novelty an eleven year old wouldn’t pass up. However, it’s always the lanterns that first come to my mind. Even after countless trips back to Vietnam it’s always been those lanterns, shining bright and bold with the slight scent of spring rolls made fresh at the Floating Market to accompany them in their beauty.


I could speak to you for a lifetime on how I feel about Vietnam. I could tell you I’ve never seen water as clear or as blue as I have in Natrang, nor have I had the privilege of snorkelling those waters since that first visit. I could tell you how I truly felt like a fish in that water and how, unlike my mother, I was a natural underneath the waves. I could explain how years later, I formed friendships in Hanoi that haven’t been broken since or how an overnight bus ride can really form a solid appreciation for personal space. As I said, I could speak to you for a lifetime but I wont because all I ask of you is to experience it for yourself. For in my mind, it is a country that is still the perfect embodiment of the last frontier, at least for now. If it can be loved by another as much as I have enjoyed loving it, then my eleven-year-old self would be proud and that’s all I can ask for.






Tags: 25seasonsoftravelling, hochimihn, lalaloh, lanterns, natrang, snorkelling, travelling, vietnam

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