Monday, October 29, 2012

Back from 'Nam

There should be more frolicking, I think. Not at the Ha Loa Prison in Hanoi, where this instruction was engraved in a marble panel on the wall, obviously: respect is the only fitting response to all the suffering that's gone on there; but generally. We should all frolic more.

I've come home to spring, when it's normally lambs that have sole rights to the use of the word: trees all in leaf, weeds springing long and unlovely and lush, mock orange in flower. It's good to be back - though it was good too to be away. There's nothing like a new country to stir up your interest, stimulate your thinking, inspire your photography. I really enjoyed my week in North Viet Nam: terrific scenery, really delicious food, and such nice people. They work so hard, but they still seem to have time for fun, and for themselves: those morning sessions of walking and exercise were very impressive; and you've never seen initiative till you've witnessed the inspired uses that a simple concrete bench can be put to. Gyms? Pft.

I also felt safe, wandering around (albeit clutching my backpack defensively to my chest): not a target for any sort of unwelcome attention other than as a potential customer, which is fair enough. It was good that there were no beggars at all - try saying the same about Queen Street. As usual, the trip was a bit rushed; but not because tourism people were trying to get as much value out of visiting travel writers as possible, since this was an actual tour that anyone could take: World Expeditions' Rocky Plateau Tour, to be precise. It was intensive because it has to be, to fit as much distance and experience into the time that most people have available. I think that's reasonable: no-one would go to North Viet Nam for a relaxing holiday, they go to see and taste and feel, which is exactly what we did. And we left the place a bit better off for our visit, thanks to World Expeditions' sponsorship of one of the schools we visited.

We were also, you'll be glad to hear, careful always to toilet in fixed places.

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