After walking around, dripping sweat, for the majority of my two months of travel around Southeast Asia (some days were 110F with intense humidity), I had come to the end of my road. I stepped off the bus in Sapa, a countryside village set high in the mountains of Northern Vietnam, and shivered.
Not only was I standing amidst the terraced rice fields, foggy mountaintops and hill tribe villages of a storybook paradise, but I was cold for the first time since Thanksgiving, seven months prior.
The goosebumps that rose on my skin were a welcomed site. It had been another one of those cramped, overnight bus adventures, and the heat had been getting to me. My first mission was to find coffee (if you’ve never tried Vietnamese coffee, you really haven’t lived) and a place to drop my bag for a few nights. I ordered my cup of
crack joe hot (it comes with condensed milk, which tastes like white chocolate – my favorite – and is dripped, individually, to perfection) and tried, unsuccessfully, to warm up.
On my way in I had noticed the abundance of North Face shops around town. The famous ski-wear brand is produced in Vietnam, and the very same jackets we pay an imported price for in The States are available in nearly every local shop for a bargain price – literally.
I found one I liked and haggled the saleswoman down to something like $35USD, probably half of what I would pay for the same jacket back home.
I later bought a scarf, which unfortunately I had to wear with shorts and sandals, but it felt good to be bundled, and I knew I would need the extra protection and warmth for the motorbike journeys that were to take place between coffee breaks over the next few days. I’ve missed Fall weather, I thought, as I inhaled a heap of fresh, dry air for the first time in too long, and it sent a chill through my bones.
When I returned to my hostel that night, after a photographic adventure without a map that led me through a minority village on top of a mountain, between endless rice plots at various stages of the process, and past giggling children who played on the dirt roads that led me blind, I looked up the day’s weather report.
The average, for the same day I spent near teeth-chatter, was 70 degrees.
Maybe I wasn’t ready for to return home afterall.