It's hard not to romanticize a place. Especially when you've only just been in it for a short period of time... and yes, I do find ten days an extremely short period of time. At the same time though, there's really nothing to it and before long I suppose I have to admit that there you have it, clear as day; I have taken on the mantle of any other traveller to an exotic land so different from the one I've been used to. I've imposed myself upon the earth, mingled with Her people, partook in her bounties and then romanticized the "everyday" to the point of it becoming painful to leave behind. I know, I know... it sounds sorta horrible doesn't it? When I put it that way... I mean what difference does it make then, between us as "educational" travellers and those scores of backpackers and tourists who attempt - in their own flamboyant and exaggerated way - to replicate and immerse themselves in the "culture" of the local.
But then again maybe we've been looking at it the wrong way... all those whites in their faded tank tops and sarongs, the ones with dreadlocks and piercings all dressed in the apparel of the locals in a futile attempt to "blend" ... maybe they're not so different from us? After all, I suppose only a tourist would stare at something as mundane as traffic with his mouth hanging so low as to hit the floor. So I suppose that's just the way it is then... and perhaps the only mistake I feel like I've ever made as a traveller was trying to blend in, in the first place... because undoubtedly this is what makes "us" see the beautiful in what is perhaps quite mundane for "them". And maybe... just maybe there's nothing so wrong about it after all... because Ho Chi Minh was beautiful. I loved every part of it, from the cramped and narrow alleyways that made the concrete maze of veins and networks criss-crossing throughout the city, to the lovely monuments that dotted the place - historical shrines surrounding by flowers of the most vibrant and lush variety. I loved the hustle and bustle of the people of Saigon, the many colours ...heck, I even grew to love its occasional rains and the characteristic tropical heat which strangely seemed to do wonders for my skin rather than otherwise!!! I found all these things beautiful - even the never-ending flow of motorcycles which on more than one occasion seemed to prove to be the death of me - and the matter of the fact is I do now see that it was only probably because of my position as an outsider that I found it so. In fact I see now in retrospect that I was probably too harsh in my opinion about the countless of Caucasian tourists who do the same back in our home, Malaysia. I mean just because we 'look' more Asian doesn't make us a part of that culture after all. And that is something, I think we as travellers need to work on more.
Besides, who am I kidding anyway.... assimilating with the people... becoming one with their culture. True I was there to study it, true I did enjoy myself... but would I stay there indefinitely? The answer is an honest and truly "probably not". Because there are other things about my country that I like, other things that make me more than proud to call it home. And the one, most important thing just reminded me all about it with sweet and tender kiss on the lips. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. But anyway, I'm almost all out of things to say about this so I shall just end here by saying that for the past ten days I was a traveller, an outsider entering the heart and soul of a country that was so alike and yet so different from the one I come from. I was an alien, standing in the middle of the Ho Chi Minh streets, sweating my ass off in the tropical heat, nostrils clogged with grime and dust, dodging to the tip of my nose the throng of motorists which were almost too-liberal-for-comfort with their horns, admiring, despite it all, the entire experience. And I was loving every part of it.
|It is only from the outside sometimes, that we can appreciate the beauty of what's on the inside.|