A moment in Da Nang

(Da Nang, Vietnam) — There is so much to say, and there is only so much time will allow me. If I only get to impart one sentence, let it be that every day has been completely different here, but each has been filled with something magical, something disappointing and something wonderfully reassuring. Maybe we play the fool, the hero and the jerk every day at home, too, but something about being on the road makes it so much more obvious to me. The emotions that come along with making a new friend, being duped or getting lost are heightened to a sometimes hilarious degree here.


I met this lady in Hoi An's old town. She never stopped smiling as far I could tell.

Anyway, I’m sitting in my hotel room in downtown Da Nang. I don’t have time to find out whether this big, busy, pungent city has a lot of charm, as I’m flying to Hanoi in a little more than an hour. Soon after, I’ll be off to the northern mountain town of Sapa, which is just a few kilometers from China. I can’t wait. I think what I’m most excited about is getting away from everything. Here or in Nha Trang or Ho Chi Minh, the moment you step outside any building, you feel like prey. Part of the challenge of being here is having literally hundreds of people a day come up to you wanting to steer you toward their restaurant, tailor shop or motorbike tour or whatever. You get to a place where you actually get wary of smiling faces and start to hate answering the inevitable question of where you’re from. You feel attacked from all angles, and you are. It reminds me of being in high school, actually, because the pressure is similarly never ending. You get a point where you realize that it will never change and so, instead, you must. I’m happy to report that I’ve said “no” more times this month than I probably have all year.

But God, please don’t think I’m having a bad time. I’m having the time of my life. Every day, I feel lucky to be here, challenges and all. My mind might be full of half-formed plans and I might spend about 23 hours of every day covered in layers of sweat, but part of me feels refreshed. I think it’s the part that has now been reminded that I can still surprise myself.

This is more of Hoi An, a small, touristy fishing village on Vietnam's coast. I just left it, and I already miss it.

This is more of Hoi An, a small, touristy fishing village on Vietnam's coast. I just left it, and I already miss it.

Anyway, there is much more to be said, but I’m about to hop on my plane. I know it sounds decadent, but the alternative is about 35 hours on buses, and while I can be insecure, but I’m not that masochistic.

I can’t wait to see what the north has in store.

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