A December Journey to Remember

Read more slice of life stories at Two Writing Teacher's blog.

Read more slice of life stories at Two Writing Teacher’s blog.

Most of December was spent on the other side of the world. My days of December were not spent shopping for presents, preparing Christmas treats, or decorating the house in the traditional way. My husband and I joined his family to celebrate the retirement of my brother-in-law by cruising in Asia. It was an incredible journey! We began in Singapore and fourteen days later ended in Hong Kong. We also visited Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Hanoi. What an interesting world we live in!

This trip makes me appreciate the life we have in the United States. Singapore and Hong Kong are very affluent cities, but the poverty in the other cities was disturbing. It was a three to four hour bus ride to reach the cities in Thailand and Viet Nam. The roads bounced and jostled us as we made our way inland. Traffic was horrendous! Lane markers must have been just a suggestion, as drivers created their own lanes. Sometimes they decided to go the opposite direction but it was too difficult to cross to the other side, so they would be going against traffic. I always though Italian drivers were the craziest, now I’ve changed my mind as Thailand and Viet Nam made me close my eyes.

The family transportation in Viet Nam is a small motorcycle. It was not uncommon to see two parents and two children on one motorcycle. It was amazing to see how much could be carried on these motorcycles. I saw one man transporting a refrigerator (in the box)! When it rains, ponchos come out or they put their jackets on backwards. Surgical masks are worn by most of the people in Viet Nam.

familyIf you lived in the city, you could make $350 a month. If you lived in the country and farmed, your monthly income would be $30. The people work very hard to make a living in Viet Nam. Students go to school either in the morning or the afternoon. When they are not in school, they are to work for the family. Education is not free in Viet Nam, but everyone sends their child to school. It is a family priority. Teachers will have at least forty students in each part of the day. Then in the evening they need to tutor to make a little more money. I asked the guide who gave me this information, when do they have a life beyond school? He looked at me confused, this is their life he responded. I can’t imagine that the education is much beyond rote memorization.

Throughout this trip I’ve tasted some amazing food. If you ever go to Bangkok, you must find sticky mango rice. All I can say is yum! Check out the pictures of some of the foods, I can’t remember what they were called, but I know that I enjoyed every morsel.

Sticky mango rice in Bangkok

Sticky mango rice in Bangkok

Chicken Pho

Chicken Pho

A fish to be put in rice paper

A fish to be put in rice paper

A fish roll

A fish roll

Several of the tours included lunch, which usually consisted of about eight courses. We didn’t get a lot at each course, but each course provided unique taste experiences. I ate entire meals with chopsticks, that is something I’ve never done before.

Hong Kong was a great city to conclude our journey. Forty years ago, my husband graduated from the Hong Kong International School. This trip allowed him to travel down memory lane with his brother and father as we visited their previous home and school. On our last day we visited the Po Lin Monastery and saw the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Then we took the underground back into Hong Kong where we rode the tram to Victoria Peak for a view of the city.

Big Buddha on Lantau  Island

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

All in all, this was an incredible journey that took me out of my comfort zone of travel. I am so happy that we were able to be with family as we saw amazing sights.


17 thoughts on “A December Journey to Remember

  1. Elsie,
    Thanks for sharing about your trip! I am surprised to hear about the crazy traffic issues and the life of a teacher…
    Also, thanks for sharing the pictures-you always have great photos to share!
    Happy New Year!

  2. Wow, what an amazing opportunity! My dad just got back from China (on business) right before Christmas, and while he’s now been there 3 times, it’s always out of his comfort zone. He relishes the newness of everything, just as you seem to have done. Sounds like a fantastic way to end the year! (I’ve missed your writing these past few weeks — glad you’re back!)

  3. Jaana says:

    Elsie, this is wonderful!!!!!!!! Long time ago the first place I landed in Asia was Singapore! Have a wonderful New Year! I am sure I will be reading about your word/words for the year very soon!

  4. I am watching the Rose parade and this year’s theme is from Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go. I think that was your personal theme for 2012! 🙂 I love that you have taken us on your adventures with your apt words and great pictures. I hope 2013 will bring you my way again. New Year blessings!

  5. Tam says:

    What an opportunity and a great way to spend the end of the year–with family and traveling at the same time. Happy New Year, Elsie.

  6. What an adventure…and thank you for taking us along and sharing your thoughts. I grew up in Bombay, India – the memory of the very rich living side by side with the utterly destitute is one I will never forget. Welcome home, and Happy New Year!

  7. Great to hear about your adventure, Elsie & that so much family went too. What an amazing trip & adventure! The mango rice does look yummy & I liked seeing the pic of you & your husband. Happy New Year!

  8. Thanks for taking us along as armchair travelers. What a fun trip! I too lived in Hong Kong (35 years ago), so I loved seeing the view from Victoria Peak. I’m hoping to go back to visit someday.

  9. Welcome home Elsie and Happy, Happy New Year! What an interesting time to be away from your home and usual holiday celebrations. I loved appreciating what we have through your eyes.

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