Arriving in Vietnam and Thoughts on Slow Travel

The Malaysian Airlines red-eye from India to Vietnam was comfortable, but somehow I only managed to get two hours of sleep. Being that this was my first time flying Malaysian Airlines, I was pleasantly surprised by the fruit-colored seats and colorfully dressed flight attendants -- quite a different experience compared to the dry and bland feeling of say, an American Airlines flight.

My flight stopped in Malaysia's beautiful Kuala Lumpur airport for two hours where I almost accidentally got on a plane to Singapore instead of Ho Chi Minh City.

The screen displayed my flight number, MH191, as currently boarding at Gate 6. I entered Gate 6, gave them my ticket, and proceeded to get in line to board the plane. Thankfully the ticket attendant noticed the mistake and ran over to inform me that the gate had been changed to Gate 8 and that the screen was incorrect.

Arriving at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, I had no problems obtaining my 30-day tourist Visa. The Visa-on-Arrival process that I used worked perfectly: Instead of going to a Vietnam embassy in India and applying for the Visa, I simply paid an online agency $22 to get a pre-approval letter emailed to me that stated I could get the Visa when I arrived in Vietnam.

Exhausted and hungry, I exchanged some money for Vietnamese dong (VND) and decided to pay a premium for a taxi using one of the booths inside the airport (it cost me $7 instead of $4.50).

The hotel is hidden down a tiny alley in the heart of the backpacker district, a place off the main road that the taxi can't even reach. If it wasn't for the helpful directions left by the people in the hotel reviews, I probably would've never found the place.

I attempted to take a short nap but woke up six hours later and decided to spend the remainder of the day inside catching up on email and work.

The following day (today), I met up with a long-time online friend who is visiting Vietnam with his brothers family and his Vietnamese wife. I tagged along with them for the day, visiting museums, markets, and some of my friends wife's family.

Tagging along with my friend and his family definitely took some of the stress off figuring out where to go and how to get back home. But it also reminded me how different the experience is as a tourist -- how rushed everything feels and how little time there is to really soak in the experience.

It also made me feel strangely homesick for the place I've called home for the past three months: India. I'm not sure if it's the sense of familiarity that I'm missing or the extremely loving family that I stayed with for two weeks who made me feel like I was back home.

With only two weeks here in Vietnam, I've decided to tag along with my friend and his wife and live as a tourist for a little while. They're planning on visiting a bunch of different places, including taking a flight further north to visit more family.

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Whenever I get to a new place, it seems to take my brain a little while to absorb everything to the point where I can write about it -- it's as if my brain needs time to acclimatize to the new surroundings and process all the new information before it's even willing to form thoughts about them.

Maybe that's why I like slow-travel so much and maybe that's why I feel the need to modify my posting commitments. For the past three months or so, I have religiously posted three times a week: on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You may have noticed that I missed yesterdays post.

Many times I have struggled to get the posts published on time and I often had to force myself to write something or post a video if I had one ready. Forcing myself to write when my brain is busy digesting a new experience only ruins the end result.

After trying both methods of posting -- on a schedule or whenever I have thoughts I want to share -- I've discovered that posting on a schedule just doesn't fit my style. From now on, I promise to post a minimum of twice a week, but it won't be on any specific day.

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I fear that two weeks won't be enough time in Vietnam to really get to know what it's like to live here, but Nepal is next on my itinerary and I will be staying there for a full two months.

My former boss, who grew up in Nepal and still has family there, offered to let me stay with him at his parents house in Kathmandu. He will only be there for the first week I'm in Nepal, but he has also offered to show me around (on a mountain bike!) and introduce me to the neighborhood.

Nepal is a hikers paradise and as an avid hiker I plan to hit as many trails as possible. The popular Annapurna Circuit, a 150-mile trail that reaches a height of 17,000ft, is at the top of my list.

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18 Comments

  1. Hey Raam,

    Always great to read your stuff. I’ve been lucky to experience “slow travel” myself, and hope to be in that position again–summer ’08, we were in Denmark for 6 weeks, spending the occasional weekend somewhere else. It was interesting to note how our habits changed between our home base and when we went somewhere else as a “tourist”.

    I look forward to hearing more of your adventures and living vicariously!

    • Hey Brooke!

      Slow travel really is a wonderful thing. I think it’s the way travel was meant to be! There’s just nothing like having the time to fully experience the new surroundings and really get a feel for what a place is like. Slow travel is also really important for recognizing and discovering how our actions affect those parts of the world (especially true for third world countries).

      Thank you for the comment and for reading! 🙂

  2. love Siagon! It was the first 3rd world country I visited without my parents a few years back and I got done for a $40 taxi ride from the airport as soon as I landed. It was a good eye opener tho and made me cautious moving forward. Eat some Pho its awesome!

    • Hey Vinay!

      Yeah, I read so many warnings online from others visitors to Siagon about getting ripped off, so I was pretty mentally prepared for it!

  3. Hey Raam, congratulations on making it to Vietnam! It’s so cool that you are traveling to all these countries and documenting your experience on your blog. I also understand how hectic and stressful it can be to try and stick to a posting schedule, especially for you since you do so much traveling. Just try your best man; that’s what I do. I’m looking forward to see what’s ahead of you for the trip, especially in Nepal. Good job and keep up the good work!

  4. Raam!!!! great job on your posts, just post when your spirit feels it is time and we will read! Glad you connected to my Chi gung/astrologer friend Peter, isn’t he a great thinker and compassionate too!

    I’m leaving by bike very soon from Boulder to Canada! Spent the last few days downloading video footage for my next astrology documentary, Return of the Magi 2: Astrology Demystified. I’ll get you a chart recorded and emailed as an mp3 as soon as I start my journey, that seems poetic.

    have a great time in Vietnam, wish I could be in Nepal with you, but I’ve got a separate quest to the north. I’m meeting an old high school exchange student from Australia in Nelson, BC, should be fun camping together and laughing about old times and working out of internet cafes!

    Much love brother!

    • Kelly, thank you so much for the advice and the support!

      I’m really looking forward to reading about your bike adventures! Camping in BC sounds awesome! (Actually, camping anywhere sounds awesome!)

      I can’t wait to hear my chart — thank you again for that! I’m looking forward to the day our paths cross. 🙂

  5. I love Nepal. Please be sure to visit the Great Stup in Boudhanath when you are there. You might like to go to Tulku Orgyen’s Monastery, Nagi Gompa.

    I support you letting go of the posting schedule and posting when you are inspired and ready.

    • Thank you, Sandra! I will definitely try to visit both of those places! In addition to trekking, I plan to spend a good amount of time in Katmandu and Pokara, but I should have enough time to get to some other places! 🙂

  6. Hi Raam just touching base.

    How’s being a tourist – you must be having a ball. Still hot enough for ya? It’s winter here, but I’m a person who seriously longs for tropical environment – (especially when it’s raining). I should move to North Queensland at least! It get’s pretty wet and warm in the point bit of Aus.

    • Hey Ali,

      Being a tourist is stressful and hectic! Everything is crammed into such a short period of time, haha. But I can’t complain… my friend David and his wife are being awesome and letting me tag along with them.

      I hear you on tropical environments! I also love the tropics and the past three months have been awesome for weather. How cold does it get where you are in AU?

  7. Post whenever it suits your schedule and yes, let not blogging or anything ruin the experience as you bask in a new country. I hope you received a warm welcome into Vietnam and that presently are very much enjoying everything, Raam. Remember I still want PHOTOS!!! 🙂

    • Thank you, Farnoosh! Pictures will come! My internet connection here at the hotel is really slow and unreliable, so I can’t upload pictures yet, but I’ll get to it!

      Vietnam has been awesome so far. My schedule tagging along with my friend has been a lot busier than I expected, but it’s nice to be seeing so much (even if it is only from a bus).

      • Raam,
        Yes I got that about the connection – it’s too bad. How about a gallery post when you are up to cable modem speed at some point? :)! Best of luck, and be safe!

        • Will do! I’ll have good Internet within the next 48 hours, so I’ll have plenty of photos up soon. I’ve taken over 1500 pictures since coming to Vietnam!!

  8. I gave up on a posting schedule a few months ago myself after spending many nights desperately trying to put something together in time for my self-imposed deadlines.

    The content should be a direct result of your travel experiences, not the other way around. You don’t want to force anything at all. So you should only write when you feel comfortable and ready to put together a post. And you certainly don’t want to let anything stand in the way of you enjoying and learning from your adventures.

    • Thanks Earl! Taking time out to soak in the experience is definitely something I need to work on! It’s all about slowing down. I think it’s also important to make writing a regular habit. More than anything else, I find the scale of the experiences and the level at which they’re affecting me makes it very difficult to put the experiences into words. But the only way that’s going to improve is if I practice regularly. 🙂

Webmentions

  • Hulbert Lee June 23, 2010

    RT @raamdev: Arriving in Vietnam and Thoughts on Slow Travel http://bit.ly/aAATQe

  • Raam Dev June 23, 2010

    New on raamdev.com: Arriving in Vietnam, Feeling Homesick, and Thoughts on Slow Travel http://bit.ly/aAATQe