The Joy of Travel / by Deborah Clague

Vietnam has left quite the impression on me. Beautiful country. Wonderful people. I hope to one day return and explore the country further with one of my newfound friends who've kindly offered to help me navigate the maze of streets in Hanoi, experience the world-renowned endless caves and further perfect the art of haggling at one of their many markets. Shopping just isn't as much fun back here in Canada until I get the price down a nickel. #foreverafrugalWinnipegger. Travel is what I live for. Once you get a taste for it, it's really hard to remain stationary. 

A few years ago, I backpacked throughout China. There was almost immediate culture shock. In the Western world, we're somewhat enveloped by the false belief that our way of life is the only way of life (or at it's worst, the "right" way of life). I was completely guilty of the former during my first Asian excursion; this ignorance allowed China to kick my ass. Thoroughly and deservedly. After having the metallic taste of pollution on my lips for weeks and being hit by a motorbike, I returned to Canada with the worst cold of my life. I was bitter...I didn't grow to hate it though. In fact, the longer I reflected upon my journey it intrigued me. China was an adventure you don't get by traveling to, say, the safety and familiarity of Disneyworld. It was exciting. It was dangerous. It was young Marlon Brando beckoning you from across the bar, or in this case, Pacific. You know you are going to be up all night; half sleep deprived from jetlag, half pure wanderlust. The sights, sounds and colours leading you down a rabbit hole of discovery that may include the revelation that your tastebuds are really keen on octopus. Mine aren't. But crocodile ain't so bad. The other side of the planet is glorious. 

Vietnam did not shock me. I oddly felt right at home admidst the insane traffic and neon lights of Ho Chi Minh - God, I love tacky neon. It's like a city made of lite bright™. The constant noise and hustle of the city uninterrupted by cloak of night. I often complain about the illegal dubstep club my neighbours operate, but for some reason, the racket here didn't bother me. It was actually comforting. A sign of life (my neighbours can still f*$# right off though). Vietnam is a country in transition and as such, there is much positive energy in the air. Architecturally, the modernist, boxy structures reminded me of Tokyo...another country that was forced to let go of a part of it's heritage by means of war. I admit, I was not previously educated on this particular facet of near-recent history. An hour spent at the War Remnants Museum changed that. The very graphic images shocked and saddened me and also reminded me of a man I encountered on the subway of Shanghai. Scurrying on all fours with a peculiar gait, he appeared to be half simian. The museum taught me that his condition was a a result of exposure to Agent Orange, the horrible, disfiguring side effects of which are still found in this part of the world.  

I didn't have much time to explore outside of the general vicinity of my hotel, however, I did travel to Tra Vinh Province in the southern part of the country for an overnight stay. The approximately four-hour journey meandered through urban sprawl into the thick of the jungle. Our driver was a bat out of hell, doing 100mph in the wrong lane while traversing blind corners on what appeared to be blind luck but was actually the highly organized chaos of the roadways here. Despite reciting prayer and preparing a final Tweet to my loved ones, I had faith in him. I was also thankful that this was the only vehicle I was in all week that had working seatbelts.

The boom of modern Ho Chi Minh: 

War Remnants Museum: 

Regular day on the job - this guy was doing construction on the edge of the 14th floor of Ho Chi Minh University of Industry (not a helmet or safety harness in sight): 

Meat market, Ho Chi Minh: 

Lunch at Mekong Delta (giant riceball in background): 

I want to adopt this wee guy: 

If a cobra like this bites you, you have 20 minutes to live: