Vietnam is a lesson in context. Travelling a lesson in perspective.
So many things look and sound good on the surface but dig a little deeper or look a little closer and you will discover that things aint as postcard perfect as people make out. And that’s okay. I just wish that occasionally people (I include myself here) would share “the other side”…show the rubbish heap behind the Monument… talk about the loneliness after the sunset, the sickness behind the burrito.
Let’s just say I’ve learnt that a $10 hotel room looks good in a certain lighting from a specific angle, not usually lying on my bed in the early morning light looking at the dusty curtains and peeling paint.
The problem with Facebook and Twitter et al is that they lack context, which is why they breed so much anxiety. It’s easy to look like you have it all figured out in those 140 characters, one well chosen status update and few thousand pixels edited and approved for envy value.
Pretending love, life and travel is all smooth roads and no road blocks is not only a piece of well crafted fiction, it’s a reality not worth sharing. I happen to like natural light, human darkness and the shadows in between.
So as a quick tribute to the rotting and ripening of life, the alleyways that bring us the best foodstalls and the kindest shoe repairmen, here’s a bit of pictoral truth and the lessons they have taught me about Vietnam….(expect some more down the line)
THE GRAND HOTEL
Who wouldn’t want to stay in this beautiful hotel? It’s old, it overlooks a lake and it just looks plain grand, to coin an oxymoron. But what this picture, the brochure doesn’t tell anyone is that there is a great big Karaoke club next door. So unless you like your nights set to the bed music of other people’s Idols auditions, it’s always a good idea to ask pose that question to the establishment in your email. (they will probably think it a big asset and proudly tell you just how close it is!)
A grand hotel indeed. But how about it’s neighbours?
Still a grand hotel, but minus the quiet colonial feel that it is going for.
THE ENVIOUS VIEW SHOT
Remember that saying nice from far but far from nice? Travellers often post shots of great sweeping views. There is often a context. In Vietnam, that is usually a construction site. This place really is a developing country, which means you are likely to have a construction site just a few meters away from your hotel. Which also means you might get an angel grinder or hammer waking you up, even on a Sunday. So be warned and check your hotel out first.
Zoom into that beautiful valley
Zoom out of that beautiful valley.
THE DESERTED SUNRISE/SUNSET
I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time i headed down to the beach to take pictures of the beach in all its sunrise glory at 5.15am. The beauty wasn’t the surprise. Nor was the fact that the sun goes from a gentle golden to bright white light so quickly. what did make me stand and stare (and actually miss the rise shot) was the fact that the beach was packed, jam packed with locals. I’m talking 100 people in the sea and just as many on the beach. Crazy busy. And the same thing happens at sunset. The thing is this concentration happens at sections along the beach so just 100 meters to the left and you have that deserted postcard image that will have people booking their next holiday with your newly launched tour company. So now I look at those deserted beach shots and i think…really? When? Where?
The beach at 5.15am 50 meters to the left.
The same beach at 5.15 am, just 50 meters to the right.