It’s a working vacation in Vietnam

Cellphone time, on a pleasant day by Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

DA NANG, VIETNAM – As usual, I have waited more than a week to write something about my latest journey. Seems to be a habit of mine.

This particular trip has turned into a working vacation, which though fairly lucrative, has cut into my free time somewhat.

A few days before I was going to leave Zhengzhou, a former colleague from Jishou University asked if I could proofread and edit a translation they had prepared of a book by a Chinese author. (I cannot reveal who the author is, or the title of the book.) She asked if I could finish it in five days, and I had to explain I was leaving in three for Hong Kong and then Vietnam. So, we agreed on a five-day extension.

It was 198 pages long.

Everything was going along swimmingly, until I caught a nasty head cold in Hanoi, which rendered me useless for two days. But I managed to process the book by the agreed deadline, and collected the other half of my fees.

Then they offered me another job – 191 pages this time, but by the same author. What the hell, I figured. Nothing like earning money to defray the cost of travel. I know people who do this kind of thing for a living.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing: dividing my time between proofing two long books and being The World Traveler™.

To be honest, this trip I have not been consumed with the urge to see as many sights as possible. In Japan I visited five cities in almost four weeks, and in Malaysia, as many in the same amount of time. Before taking off on this trip, I had already decided to make it shorter, largely because (at the time) my travel funds were rather modest, and because I wanted to be less rushed.

Unlike the earlier trips, I have played this one more by ear. I originally had planned to stay a week in Hanoi, but since I lost two days from the head cold, I extended my stay, and decided to spend the remaining time in Da Nang.

I wonder what Ho Chi Minh would say about Vietnamese buying Rolls-Royces.

Halong Bay was an option, but one of the other guests at my Airbnb in Hanoi’s Old Quarter told me the weather was not very hospitable for open-boat travel. So, I figured a place further south might be a bit warmer. I picked Da Nang because I wanted to be near the ocean, even it was too chilly to swim in it.

Yeah, it’s been chilly here in the northern half of Vietnam. Today it reached 70°F, but mostly it was in the 50s at night or 60s in the day in Hanoi. Still, it’s better than the snow I left behind in Henan Province.

I’ll be in Da Nang till Sunday, then it’s back to Hanoi and Hong Kong. Chinese New Year begins on the 16th, and I have not quite worked out where I will be yet. Probably somewhere in China, but we’ll see.

I’ll go into more details later, but Vietnam is both very affordable and very inviting. There are westerners everywhere, not to mention the busloads of Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists. Like China, the ostensibly communist nation of Vietnam has embraced capitalism wholeheartedly. I even came across a Rolls-Royce dealership in Hanoi! But prices so far are pennies on the dollar. Had I realized how inexpensive everything is, I would have come earlier than I did.


Also published on Medium.

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