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Far From Home: Part Two

by Going Slowly


I'm standing in the bathroom of our hotel room, trusty yellow scissors at the ready. With one hand, I grab handfuls of coarse, sun-bleached hair, and with the other, I snip. As brown fluff falls away from my head, looking like some furry animal has died on the floor, I cut some more, and then some more, and then some more again.

I used to do this often in college; it was so freeing to watch the mess fall away, leaving me with a half an inch of soft, healthy hair, and an exposed scalp that felt so good to brush across. It was like being a buddhist nun. Tonight, I refrain from really going to town, and satisfy my urge with a trim.

There. That feels better.

Now, time for a shower. I find immense pleasure in the fact that there is an actual tub raised off the ground, and a real curtain separating the water from spraying all over the room. Most places we've been in Southeast Asia so far have neither a curtain, nor a tub, nor anything separating a space for washing oneself from the toilet or the sink.

As a result, showering sprays water everywhere: on the toilet, on the toilet paper (if there is any), in the sink, etc. Tonight, having a tub and a curtain feels like the ultimate in luxury. If the water was hot, now that would be a real treat. No such luck.

When I'm done with my cold rinse, I towel off and climb into bed with Tyler, who is busy programming. As I take notes about our day, the power keeps going out, leaving us in a peaceful darkness for a few moments each time. Corresponding with the loss of electricity is a bellowing generator that we can hear rumbling to life outside. It feels like there is no such thing as quiet in Vietnam.


I've completed the day's work for my clients, and we're both "a la carte" (as Tara's grandmother likes to say), relaxing under the skimpy covers, watching a movie. Suddenly, without so much as a knock, our hotel room opens theatrically, and in walks a small middle aged man, as if it was his turn on stage.

We're too surprised to say anything, and assume that in just a moment, the man will see us. Surely he'll apologize for having barged into our room, become flustered at our near nakedness, and take his leave apologetically? He doesn't. In fact, he barely acknowledges our presence, so we stare silently as he fiddles with an air conditioning remote. What the hell?

What should be an awkward moment drags on into awkward minutes. He is still in our room, lingering, pointing at us, pointing at the AC, still fiddling with the remote. What the hell is going on? We're fine, we're fine, we say, we don't need you to mess with our AC. He doesn't speak English, and we don't speak Vietnamese; communication isn't happening. But shouldn't it be obvious that we want him to leave?

We're not sure if he's completely oblivious, or if it is totally normal for people here to march into hotel rooms unannounced. Honestly, we have no idea what is going on. Eventually, the guy takes his leave, having done absolutely nothing to our air conditioning. What the hell just happened?!

An hour or two later, we're both ravenously hungry. As we leave the hotel in search of food, we pass our uninvited guest in the lobby. Tara glares at him, but he only smiles. Outside, we're drowned once more by a wave of noise and traffic. It's so abrasive to our frazzled nerves that we almost decide to forgo food altogether.

Outside, we wander the streets until we come upon this smoothie stand, glowing like a vision, the saving grace of our day. Juice and smoothies are two of Tara's top comfort foods, as evidenced here:

Tara the Juice Obsessed

And here:


Troubles of the day melt away and she skips up to the counter and points to whatever the man happens to be making for another customer.

Squeezing Orange Juice

It turns out to be freshly squeezed orange juice with an added spoonful of granulated sugar that doesn't quite dissolve, but rests at the bottom of the cup like it would in a lemon shake-up.

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

Tara's eyes grow wide as she slurps the nearly whole thing down, emphatically stating that it is the best juice she has ever had. Saving a bit for me, I take a sip and find that she's absolutely right. We return to the stall to order another juice, along with a thick, creamy orange smoothie reminiscent of a push-pop.

Mixing a Smoothie Smoothie

We're going to leave it at that, but then, remembering our rule about getting a lot of a really good thing when we happen upon it, we order about six more cups to keep in the fridge for breakfast. What a nice thing to look forward to!

This simple little juice extravaganza is the highlight of our day. Vietnam, we gotta say… unlike Thailand or Cambodia, you're not exactly love at first sight.

Next Entry
Culture Shock


oh my goodness, i can completely relate to this!!! when i was in vietnam years ago, i was sitting in my hotel room alone and THREE times, an expected guest burst in to do something or other. once it was in the middle of the night to let guests in and then they realised that the room was already occupied. no apology, the door was just shut and they went to bother someone else. after that, i stuck a chair in front of the door to make things a little more difficult for people to get in.
vietnam is not everyone's cup of tea. personally, i prefer laos and thailand and don't think i would visit vietnam again, it's just a bit too in your face and hectic.
i'm so jealous reading of your adventures. we've been home for 6 months and every time i read an entry, it makes me wish i was back on the road.
enjoy the rest of your trip!
Posted by sarah jeffers on February 8th, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Your comment, about love at first sight, is so interesting!! We loved Vietnam at first sight, and Thailand too...but had a rough time in Cambodia from start to finish. It had its charms but overall was really tough for us. I guess it has to do with the cities visited, the time of year, the people you meet, and probably more. Although I will admit -- Vietnam is the place where we really felt like people tried to rip us off the most. Also - we think you should alternate "catch up posts" with "where we are today" posts, and then reorganize them later. Come on, do what we say!! :)
Posted by Sarah & Jamie on February 9th, 2011 at 4:10 AM
Sarah J - Oh I'm glad we weren't the only ones with weird Vietnamese hotel break-ins. I can't believe it happened to you three times!

personally, i prefer laos and thailand and don't think i would visit vietnam again, it's just a bit too in your face and hectic. ...ditto to that! I think Laos is our favorite so far.

I'm not sure if I ever sent this to you or not, but we took this picture for you in Russia! :-)

Sarah & Jamie - Hey guys! Very interesting about your different views on Cambodia and Vietnam. It could very well be our differing routes! But I think what it came down to for us was the fact that we're fairly introverted and need some peace, quiet, and personal space in order to be happy... and we didn't find too much of that in along our route in southern Vietnam.

As for posting current entries, we've often thought about it, but always decide not to. You'll just have to wait! :-p
Posted by Tara on February 21st, 2011 at 12:26 PM