Friendships are both at once the best and worst part of travelling (second only to food).
Everyone told me about how amazing it would be to meet so many people on the road. It’s true that not a day went by without meeting a new face, and occasionally, those new faces would turn into travel mates whom I shared a bit of the road with.
The thing about the road is that it’s overwhelming. It heightens all your senses. Everything is bigger and brighter, every landscape is a little more colourful, the flavours are more potent, and the friendships, more intense. Mere hours separate meeting someone from being the closest thing to family they’ve seen in days. And a few days, or weeks later, the firework’s exploded, the smoke’s dissipated, and you’re alone on the road again.
Until, at random, you meet again. That’s the beauty of the road. We all take the same route.
I met Jane on the night bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An; we were two white chicks waiting for a bus with large backpacks and a dishevelled look – the best situation to strike up a conversation. Then I arrived in Hoi An to find that my friend Reema, whom I’d met on a minivan in Laos about a month earlier, was also in town. The three of us rented bicycles and headed for a ride through the countryside surrounding the town.
Reema & Jane
On my first night in Hoi An, I joined a street food tour organised by my hostel. I met people from Lithuania, the Netherlands, Argentina, Germany – we shared anecdotes about our trips so far, words of Spanish and German, made plans to meet up in Valparaiso.
The people you meet on the road are all different from you, and all open and keen to share. Don’t travel if you’re not ready to share some of your most intimate thoughts with people you barely know. I’m learning to fully do it and appreciate it – travelling is the perfect no-consequence soundboard to test out viewpoints and personalities.
Hoi An was the first Chinese-looking town I visited in Vietnam. Its buildings are a faded yellow with paper lanterns hanging over the streets that light up at night, bright reds and blues against the pitch-black Asian night sky. You’ve got to pay what’s a relatively hefty fee to visit the old city, but it gives you tickets for five of the town’s historical spots. I took a peek at the Japanese bridge and popped into the Vietnamese folk museum, which I’d both recommend.
The best part of Hoi An, though, was its food – but more about that when I manage to sit down and write about Vietnamese food…