We woke up the morning of June 3rd in a funk that could only be cured with one last Vietnamese coffee. Which meant that we were walking. The upside of staying in a hotel that caters to westerners is that we always had fried eggs and pancakes. But the downside is that the coffee now seemed watered down and burned. This trip ruined us on regular coffee.
So we set off on a walk to find a cafe. We crossed the street without waiting for a break in the traffic, and the oppressive humidity barely registered. We had fully completed our transition to honorary locals.
We walked past people exercising in the park, and saw the usual assortment of motorbike merchants heading to work.
We're really going to miss this place. The people are wonderful, the food is outstanding, the history is fascinating, and the scenery is jaw dropping. This was nothing short of the perfect vacation, and even more so because Aimee and I got to spend so much time with Mimi at such a critical time in her young life. She's going to be in for a rude awakening when she realizes that grandmas won't always come out from behind the kitchen to hold her, and drivers won't always stop their motorbikes to fawn over her.
Speaking of the perfect vacation, this trip wouldn't be complete without at least a couple of intestinal anecdotes. But despite the open air markets, street kitchens, and lack of any visible sanitary oversight, the food always seemed clean and safe. Only twice did my belly revolt.
The first time was while walking around Hanoi towards the end of the trip. I was sitting down eating some lunch when my gastrointestinal timer suddenly started counting down in seconds, not minutes. I waddled to the closest hotel and asked the front desk employee if I could use their bathroom. He looked at me like I had cholera, and pointed me around the corner without missing a beat. And when I got to the bathroom, I saw what he saw. My shirt was soaked with sweat from carrying Mimi, so I looked horrendously ill. It's a small wonder that he didn't call me an ambulance.
The second GI episiode was self induced. I couldn't help myself. I had five super-spicy banh mi sandwiches in one day, and I paid for it. Choices have consequences, Myles.
But the day of our departure, we all felt great. We walked around a bit and had a second coffee, probably because we knew that our addiction was about to get cut off cold turkey. But this particular coffee was a bit different. One of the traditional Hanoi coffee variations uses a whipped egg in place of milk. It was delightful.
Lunch was at a com (rice) restaurant where strangers predictably lost their minds over our daughter and proceeded to feed her some type of root vegetable.
But this is exactly why we travel. There are so many right ways to do things, and it's (almost) always a pleasure to see how other people live their lives. The contrast is particularly striking when raising a child. Oh, you can teach kids to eat strange green vegetables? You can potty train them before 12 months? You can teach them not to throw food on the floor? We wouldn't even know that this was possible without traveling here and seeing it in person.
Have I mentioned that we're really going to miss this place?
We were flying out at midnight, but had decided to extend our hotel reservation into the next day. Spending an extra $30 seemed like chump change to allow us to start getting Mimi ready for bed and take a shower before our 28 hours of flying.
We did the usual bedtime routine with Mimi, but she knew that something was up. 8 pm rolled around, and then 9 pm, with Mimi wide awake. We knew we were on borrowed time, and lied to ourselves about how she now might sleep better on the plane instead of turn into an overtired gremlin.
Our Sue-arranged van picked us up at the hotel around 10 pm (Mimi was still wide awake), and navigated the late night traffic to the airport. At the airline counter, we did our usual "yes our daughter has a ticket, something weird happened with the computer reservation" dance when we checked in. Three employees, two managers, and twenty minutes later, we had tickets in hand and made our way through security. Thankfully, there wasn't much of a line at midnight (although more than I would have expected), so we had plenty of time. We thought we'd try to prevent (or at least delay) the gremlinitis with some yogurt and fruit.
Our daughter was above and beyond her usual level of adorableness, which only made Aimee and I fear the inevitable breakdown that much more.
Here you go, Ya Ya. You can play with her for a bit. Come find us after the flight.
We made it on the plane without any trouble, and again found ourselves in the bulkhead row! But right about the time that Aimee and I started to congratulate each other, our daughter turned into the emoji with the red face, sharp teeth, spiky hair, and devil horns. Saw that one coming. She went from angry to loopy to exhausted in the time it took us to reach 10,000 feet, and thankfully fell asleep before the fasten seatbelt sign went off.
After a decent nap for all three of us, we arrived in Tokyo at 7am on Sunday. And by a coincidence of layover timing and crossing the international date line, we also arrived in Dallas at 7am on Sunday. Both flights were relatively easy. For the Tokyo to Dallas flight, we sat next to a Nigerian born, British raised, US educated resident of Tokyo who is the country's main banana importer (most interesting man in the world?). He was on his way to Ecuador for work, and we spent mot of the flight picking his brain on how to travel with kids (his two daughters had unsurprisingly been all over the world). He had a few good tips, but most importantly mentioned that Mimi was the best kid he's ever sat next to in decades of very frequent international travel.
|"Who, me? Yeah, I know. Now whenever you guys are done yapping, could you pass me a Wall Street Journal? And this sippy cup won't fill itself."|
As usual, it was nice to be home, but this trip really left an impression on all three of us. The country is fascinating, almost mystical. We were already missing the place before we even unpacked our bags. Aimee and I are talking about our next trip to Viet Nam as if its an inevitable certainty, and we're scouting out places at home to buy rice noodles and Vietnamese coffee. It's no replacement for actually being there, but it'll soften the blow.
Goodnight, Viet Nam. We'll see you again soon.