About ten years ago, I visited the empire of nature-favored Sapa in the far north-west of Vietnam. The memories of it are so pleasant that last year I visited the place and the surrounding area again with a good friend.
Slightly stupidly planned in January, while not realizing that the weather conditions during that period cannot be described as particularly bright in the resort close to the Chinese border. Cold, fog and rain made us decide after two days to grab the rush and move to a warmer part of the country. Of course on certain occasions I still get this negligence on my mind regularly, in an otherwise mischievous way.
Poked and saddled in traveling, this time I took the trip again on my own. The beautiful hike through a piece of overwhelming natural beauty and the many Hmong villages did not want to complete this very young old crack once more. In addition, I must admit that it is quite vanishing for me to be physically able to handle this with my eight crosses.
So under the guidance of a nice young guide and five, in my eyes very young companions, the trip again undertaken. My not so slender body, with the necessary kilos of overweight, has passed the journey with flying colors and my ego has risen by leaps and bounds. So quickly forget the tiredness.
Return to Hanoi
With the night train I travel back to Hanoi and when I arrive at my hotel near the beautiful Hoan Kiem lake, I notice that all roads around the lake are closed to traffic. The national flag flies from many places and it is very busy. A better return even an athlete who has won a gold medal at the Olympic Games cannot imagine. Friday, September 2, turns out to be "Independence Day" and with a weekend ahead, it's a party. To what extent everyone understands what that day means remains an open question.
Also read on this blog that the Thai people know little about the history of his or her country. Well, does the average Dutch person know so much? The Union of Utrecht and the Seven Provinces, the Southern Netherlands or Johan van Oldenbarnevelt; just tell me. Ask a Belgian about what the opera "De Stomme van Portici" brought about in 1830 and you will get history lessons. But all this aside.
I continue to fly from Hanoi. Long lines at check-in or during immigration are almost unavoidable. It happened to me earlier that in Bangkok, standing in a long line, a duty lady asked for my passport. She looked into it and motioned me to come along, after which I was guided through customs in no time at a special counter for pregnant women, the disabled and older people. Swallow that the aunt looked at me as an old guy. However, the comment from one of the readers of this blog made me perk up. “Those girls from immigration don't have a single look at age, just pay attention; the bar ladies in Bangkok certainly rate you much younger, they know a lot more about it ”. Nowadays, without a glance or a blush, I walk straight to this exit of the immigration service upon arrival in Bangkok.
A lot of people are waiting in line at the check-in counters in Hanoi.
With the necessary arrogance, I step as a kind of war veteran who has survived the hell of Sapa to the lady who checks in the VIP travelers and has no customers. She smiles at me with her most beautiful smile and receives my travel documents. Then comes her question: "Do you need a wheelchair sir?" A shudder goes through my body. A wheelchair for this young athlete? Does the wicht now see me as a super old guy? "No I don't need anything" is my short answer. "Do you need assistance for boarding?" It gives me goose bumps and in this case not from the otherwise very graceful lady.
A moment later I walk straight to the gate and try to deal with the disappointment of aging. I thought that I still looked reasonable for my age, but apparently the younger girls have a different view on that. Still a sweetheart that girl because she has, as it turns out, checked me in at the front of the plane with a more than average sized seat with no one next to me.
Moments later, while reading, I come to the conclusion that I checked in at the desk for "patriots, army veterans and all citizens who defended Vietnam in wartime." Yes, I can live with that because I was also a brave soldier who survived the trek through Sapa.