What did we do in Cambodia besides be awestruck by Angkor? We toured a silk farm. We visited the new Angkor National Museum. We got $5 foot massages. We went horseback riding in the Siem Reap countryside. We shopped for kramas—the traditional Cambodian checkered scarves. We handwashed our clothes. We honed our bargaining skills. We worked on our upcoming travel plans.
Then on February 21 we flew back to Vietnam, to Đà Nẵng, and headed down to Hội An, a cute coastal town about an hour south. Hội An is known for its tailors, but we didn’t quite realize that everyone in town was going to want to make us clothes and shoes (in the same way people usually try to sell us postcards and trinkets).
At first we didn’t know what to do, but eventually we succumbed to their offers of custom-tailored finery. Steph had a dress made, then sandals. I had a jacket made, then some button-down shirts. Then Steph had a jacket made. Then I had another jacket made. Then Steph had another jacket made, and another pair of sandals, and another dress…
Things were getting out of control, and we knew we’d have to send it all home (as we’ve been doing with all the crazy things we pick up on the road). The whole lot ended up weighing 6kg. We sent some to the US, but most to France, so we’ll have something decent/different to wear when we finally get there.
On February 25 we left Hội An for Đà Nẵng to pick up the “sleeper” train to Hanoi. I put sleeper in quotes because it arrived at 4am, so we didn’t really get a full night’s sleep. Thankfully we booked a room for the night so we had a place to crash during the early morning hours.
That said, it was a beautiful ride along the coast, with stunning views of the South China Sea on one side and the lush and mountainous interior on the other. At one point it occurred to me how typical this idyllic beauty is of countless portrayals of the Vietnam War. Except these rice fields and that dense vegetation were the backdrop for the war itself. Actually being there, riding in a train through the now invisible DMZ between old-south and old-north, the normalcy of the place seemed incongruent with the images in my head depicting the one-time savagery of war.