One Step Closer To Freedom: Part 1
So I finally decided to do it and take the plunge. Travel for half a month without attending to the businesses much. My goal for 2016 is to be completely free of a schedule. So the next trip will be one whole month. Then two. Then three. Then... who knows! I REALLY really want to stop trading dollar for hours.
Everyday, I'm one step closer.
If you want to see the financials, just skip over whatever is below (all the traveling stuff) & scroll towards the very end.
Where we went:
- Ha Noi
- Ha Long Bay
- Sa Pa
- Hoi An
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Vinh Long
- Canh Tho
Our trip, in maps:
I wanted to go to Thailand and Cambodia as well but we ran out of time. We booked our flights as we landed, not before we flew to Vietnam.
I just want to give a HUGE thanks to Julio, my travel buddy. Wherever we are, she is always on the ball with collecting maps and asking people for directions, speaking in our native tongue (Vietnamese) quite well, keeping us on track pretty much and completely enthusiastic about the possibilities of proposed adventures ahead. We never missed our flights and everything flowed pretty smoothly. She is always cheerful, quickly rebounds when frustrated and overall a great travel partner to have. If I had a yelp rating for Julio as a travel buddy, I would give her five stars.
We landed in Ha Noi at like... 11pm. Having no hotel booked as we just winged it, we were dropped off at a random street and just rolled our items to the nearest hotel. Tu Linh. There was no vacancy. They recommended another branch just down the street. Rolling our items down a dark, abandoned street in Ha Noi felt nice (or unsettling). We pulled up to the second branch and it was locked, lights were off. I told Julio at this point it was time to do the appropriate thing = PANIC. Julio disagreed and from within we saw a lady approaching the doorway to unlock the establishment (the door was locked with a U lock). A man sleeping at the reception area stirred awake to help us move our items in. While in the shower, I encountered a guest, Mr. 4 inch cockroach. I swallowed my scream and asked the hotel people to make it disappear. They did so with the aid of their sandle plus the sanitation system (toilet). The next morning Julio and I worried since we didn't plan much, we'd have to spend half the day planning. No such thing - Quyen (I think that is how you spell her name), the hotel front desk lady helped plan our entire Ha Long Bay and Sea Pa trips within 1 hour. She saved us the stress of having to plan it ourselves - so we had time to explore Ha Noi.
Everywhere we went, Julio kept asking me why is it that when she speaks in Vietnamese, they respond back in their broken English? So the locals would rather suffer through trying to communicate in English than further corresponding with Julio with her Vietnamese. Later on we both figured out, to our dismay, that we sucked at speaking TRUE Vietnamese. We just sucked. Some of us, moreso than others (Out of the two of us, I mean).
Needless to say we got "Chat" like hell. Translation: "Ripped off". Failing to hide the fact that we are foreigners and not having any ability to bargain, our trip immediately became more expensive. Every item's cost within any market became twice or three times the usual amount. At least with non-vietnamese speaking friends, they are oblivious and ignorance might be bliss. We were reminded everywhere we go that we were going to get ripped the fuck off. And there was cackling accompanying these reminders.
I bought a coconut in Sa Pa for $50,000 Dong. Later on I learned that it costs $5,000-$10,000 Dong/Coconut and I gave my left arm for one in Sa Pa. At least they didn't take my hypothetical first born.
First stop! Ha long bay. It was ridiculously breathtaking. I had the chance to stretch myself out with the view of the islands as my backdrop. I'm talking about Tai Chi, here. I was taught a cooking lesson, sang Karaoke till midnight with a bunch of travelers from Australia (all Indians), explored caves, kayaked, watched how pearls are made, and slept to the sound of the water. My phone made us look more photogenic than we deserve. HAHA.
I remember eating freshly caught squid and eating it WITH its ink. I remember drinking too much and singing too hard, Julio snapchating the singing and a friend from the US telling me she saw me singing last night. I remember Julio and I kayaking the heck out of our arms. We were two Asian girls yelling "LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT... no... TWO RIGHTS, TWO RIGHTS, THEN ANOTHER LEFT, JULIO, WE GOTTA SYNCHRONIZE OR WE WON'T MOVE FORWARD" in order to catch up with the people ahead of us so they could take a picture of us on our kayaks. The things we do for a picture. I have it on my other camera so I'd have to add it below. WAS IT WORTH IT? Yes, it was.
Our second stop - Sa Pa where we had a home stay with a Hmong family. The Hmong people in Sa Pa are really traditional and physically small (sorry if this offends anyone). They let their children roam free so you would see toddlers just littered everywhere on the mountainside. Like goats. Khu, our travel guide told us the story of when she first say "White men" in her village. She yelled "MONSTER! THERE IS A MONSTER APPROACHING," describing the tall, hairy white man ambling towards their home. Her mom told her it was just another human being but when I put myself in her shoes, an extremely tiny Hmong toddler, I guess seeing a white man would be quite scary. I now look at all my white friends differently. (Kidding/not kidding). When we first go to Sa Pa there were tiny crowds of Hmong ladies around us asking if we want to take a tour to their homestays. We have already booked one, so one lady in particular, Khu, called Julio's cell phone. Julio thought a stranger was calling her and I told her it was Khu (standing 1 foot away with a lit phone corresponding to Julio's lit phone). An interesting fact - when you are trekking your way up the mountain, you will be followed by more Hmong ladies in hopes of befriending you along the way so you would eventually feel guilty enough to purchase something from them when you have reached your destination. The Hmong followers we've gained helped us pick out our walking sticks, weaved foliage into flower decorations, and although senior in age (40's-50's), they out hiked us easily as this was their daily walk (a 4-6 hour trek up and down the mountain). No wonder they live such long lives, they exercise everyday, eat their natural home grown food and breathe fresh mountain air. A local vietnamese girl named Mo taught me how to ride a motor bike on the side of the mountain which gave me the SKILLZ to give Julio a ride through a fog filled city.
PART 2 is coming up next. I'm just too tired to type anymore right now.
Oh yeah, I wrote this before I wrote the above, so here ya go:
[Please note: Of course, I have friends who are selling at $40K/month or even $60K/month... and I am not there yet. Maybe next year.]
I was barely on the phone throughout my trip since reception was so spotty for me (except for being on facebook and instagram) and I just stepped back to the office today. I've come back to these numbers:
Overall = Not too shabby for not working for half a month. Thanks to my staff. Not me, of course.
My goal is to get to $30K/month within 4 months.
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming in 1 day. I want to vomit my memories onto text before I forget what happened on the trip. Maybe vomit is too strong a word. I want to capture the good times onto text before any early onset of alzheimer's kicks in. Not anymore appropriate? Oh well. I cut my hair, which I might regret later, but below is the new do:
PART 2 WILL HAVE:
- Adventures with other travelers we met on the road.
- More random observations.
- Julio quotes.
- Pictures not on facebook.
- The FIVE + different types of toilets we encountered on our trip and how Vietnam is doing is wrong and Japan is doing it right. (You had this coming, Vietnam...)