*flagging down a Vietnamese rice farmer and getting a ride back to the village on a motorbike*
This is definitely something I (or my parents…) never imagined myself doing. I just completed a week long backpacking trip in Vietnam. In dire need of a nice shower, I arrived last night at midnight to my dorm at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. For anybody who knows me well, they know a backpacking trip is outside of my comfort zone, and that’s exactly why I wanted to do it.
Through the seven days of attempting to use the transportation system in northern Vietnam, I traveled to the beach towns of Da Nang/Hoi An, the metropolitan Hanoi, and the minority villages of mountainous Sapa. This was an eye-openning experience. From meeting other backpackers to having a local tour guide in Sapa, every person I met left me with something. Observing different ways of life forced me to take a step a back from my self-absorbed life of a 20 year old. When you meet a villager who got married at 16 and had three children by 20, it puts things into perspective. I become extremely aware of my freedom and privilage. It also shows you that your way of life is not the best way, just one way.
Something else that stuck with me was the Vietnamese saying “same same, but different.” There is so much truth in this. Being in Vietnam was influential for me. Many people thought I was Vietnamese. When I was in Sapa, it was harvest time for the farmers. Their rice harvest was supposed to feed the families for the whole year. I saw girls and boys my age and younger working in the fields. People that looked like me. “Same same, but different.” Interesting (for lack of a better word) that the thing you have the least control of, your birth, decides so much.
I made it back to Hong Kong as the same but different.