It is said that travelling is hard. If that is so then traveling with other people is even harder. In travel, everything about a person seems to come out of their deep recesses and flows up to the surface. Therefore, you must really love your travel companion. I have always found it extremely difficult to travel with other people. I know that I am mainly the problem. I have an undilutable idea of travel that is very difficult for me to alter to accommodate another person who does not approach travel in a similar way. After eight years of near continuous roving I also know that I am set in my ways. I do not know if I am even able to to speak of my idea of travelling….it is almost impossible to put it into words. It is just an essence, a spark, a romance for the Open Road that makes up the bones and bearing of a traveller. Some people have it, others do not. I do not think that either way is any better than the other. But I think that I confuse my friends who try to travel with me who have lives exterior to travel. I think that I let them down a little. I have fun when I travel, but I do not travel for fun. I find that I do not really care very much about “seeing sights” or “doing” anything. I hate tours and I do not want to be shown anything. I want to find; I want to discover for myself- this is the great affair of the Wanderlust. As the old Zen adage goes, “what comes in through the front gate is not family treasure.” I roam the planet just to walk, think, joke and be free. For me travel is a process. It no longer matters very much to me what country I am in or where I am going; the process is always the same. When friends meet up with me on the road I find this very hard to explain, so I do not often try. I just suck it up as much as I can and enjoy doing things that I normally would not do on my own, as I know that they will soon be going home and that I will ultimately look back on the times with fond memories.
A tourist travels to arrive. A traveller never arrives.
So I sucked it up and went on a little tour to Halong Bay with Dave. I managed to convince him to stop making schedules and writing down our itinerary on paper and to just take things as they come. It was an enjoyable time, I must say, but I know that I would have been far more content just walking out on my on around the coast. So I took the trip as novelty and talked it up a little with the other tourist on board. I had to bribe the boat captain to allow me to hold on to my own passport (which has been a constant point of conflict throughout my time in Vietnam). Everywhere you stay the night in the country the hotel/ tour proprietors want to confiscate your passport. They tell me that it is the law; I do not care if it is. A long time traveller in the jungles of Peru once explained to me the logic of keeping your passport close to the body, and I have always remembered his words of caution. I outrightly refused, much to the dismay of my travelling companion, to let anyone in Vietnam take my passport away from me, and this steadfastness put me in a constant state of conflict. So it soon became high time to get up and out to another country.
My thought is that if I am hassled in one country I can easily go to another. So that is what I did. There is 191 other countries in the world besides Vietnam and I know that in most of them I do not have to deal with the arbitrary hassle of fighting to keep in possession of my own passport. So I went straight back to Hanoi and booked a $65 flight to Bangkok.
Once in Thailand I felt a heavy weight released from me. The bus ticket vendors at the airport laughed at my jokes rather than giving me the scowl that I became accustomed to receiving in Vietnam. I thought that at this point of my travels I was far beyond “liking” or “disliking” a particular country; I thought that I was beyond inconsequential value judgments. But Vietnam proved me wrong- it is the only country in the world that I can say that I do not like being in. The runners are just as persistent as those of India, but there seems to be a manner of scorn in their propositions rather than the hidden joy that Indians seem to take from purposefully annoying a transient. I did not feel as I would like in Vietnam, although it is a beautiful country, so I moved on.
I also must say that I was beginning to think that my travels with my companion were going to soon come to an end and I wanted this end to be as quick and clear cut as possible. He is from NYC and has money, his parents were funding his travels, and our intentions were far different. He wanted to party and live it up. I cannot blame him, that is what people do in SE Asia. I do not degrade his intentions at all. But that is just not for me. I am a simple walker and I take what comes.
So on to Thailand I went.