Hoi An was the third stop on our trip. This coastal city is considered central Vietnam, located about midway between Hanoi in the north and HCMC in the south. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old quarter is full of winding streets lined with old colonial buildings, most painted a cheerful shade of yellow. It was extremely hot on both days that we toured the city. Many of the small streets had low-hanging trees offering shade. It was also easy to pop into cafes for a quick break and re-hydration.
The ruined temples of the Khmer Empire are probably the most unique and most impressive human-made sites I have ever seen. I knew the temples would be big, beautiful, and full of interesting sculptures and carvings. I was not expecting to be quite so awed by their size, the details, or the overall atmosphere of the ruins.
The first stop on my trip across Cambodia and Vietnam (Cambonam) was Ho Chi Minh City. I flew into the city solo, after a complicated series of layovers. It was a bright, sunny, and hot morning when I arrived. After wandering around the taxi stands outside of the airport, I finally decided to accept the extra cost and bought a taxi ticket from a counter inside the terminal. The man at the desk wrote my destination on the ticket and said the fare covered everything, including the toll at the airport gate. Of course, the taxi driver tried to make me pay at the toll gate. Expecting it, I pretended to be clueless, insisting that I had already paid. There was a short standoff and then he begrudgingly paid the toll and we drove into the city.
It was a short drive into HCMC. The streets were busy. Mopeds and motorcycles far outnumbered the cars and wove between lines of standing traffic without a care. I saw bikes weighted with giant baskets or boxes, balanced precariously on the small vehicles. The sounds of motors, people talking, horns honking and the general noise of the city was loud and demanding. The taxi man did not drop me in front of the correct hostel (whether this was intentional or an honest mistake I don’t know) and I had to walk a bit and ask for directions. Thankfully I wasn’t far from my destination. The hostel was on a street crowded with hotels overlooking a large park that ran the length of the street. Palm trees sprouted from the sidewalks and dust covered every surface. The sun was bright and hot. It was a new place; I was excited.
*This post should be read as if posted immediately after I left Japan in August 2015. It took nearly a year of living in Thailand for me to fully reflect on my time in Japan, and to be able to write about some of the more difficult aspects of living there. These experiences are my own and will differ from others. I’m still reflecting, still writing, and still laughing at my inability to properly say “the train is coming!”. *
I climbed Mount Fuji! It was fun. It was hard. It was difficult. It was exhausting. And it was awesome. Prior to coming to Japan I would not have believed it was possible for me. I am not an overly athletic person but living in this beautiful country has made me more fond of outdoor sports and activities. After several successful hiking trips, including multiple long-term hikes, I decided to set a goal to conquer Fuji-san. The trip took several months of planning including acquiring the appropriate gear, international shipping, and regular cardio. By the end of May the plans were set, two terrific friends were committed, and we set out on the adventure together.