I always pack light when I travel. I only bring the essentials and lightweight ones. Without anticipating the current weather in Hanoi this time of the year, I only packed short pants, lightweight dress & tops, t-shirts and a pair of jeans for the plane. I normally bring at least one lightweight jacket and/or cardigan but this time I completely forgot to pack them. On our day trip to Halong Bay, I decided to wear shorts and short-sleeved top as I was planning to do kayaking in Halong Bay – but later decided to do boating instead
It was one chilly afternoon in Halong Bay that day. We were on the boat deck while cruising and that made my situation went from okay to worse in just 30 minutes or less. Others were all wearing jackets and long pants or dress and I was the only one wearing shorts and short-sleeved top. Maybe they were thinking I was kind of stupid to be wearing those clothes on that particular afternoon. At first, I was still okay, enjoying the cool afternoon breeze, or should I say wind, of Halong Bay. When I was starting to get really cold, I wrapped myself in a scarf and sat down while talking to other tourists about Hanoi and other travel stuff. In the middle of the conversation, they asked me if I was still okay and I said yes but maybe my facial expression gave it all that’s why I wasn’t able to convince them. Honestly, I was feeling cold already but I had my scarf wrapped around me so I guess I was still a bit okay. Suddenly, this nice guy (I will call him M), who was also part of the conversation, asked me if I wanted to wear his jacket and my instant answer was “NO”. At the back of my head, something was telling me to stop being stupid and accept the offer. I said NO not only because I felt like I can still bear the cold wind of Halong Bay but because I was kind of embarrassed. He asked me again and I said I was fine but before I could protest once more, he was already taking his jacket off and handed it to me. That time, I couldn’t say “NO” any longer so I took it, wore it… and yes, it was really comfy. I must say, it was really nice of him to offer his jacket to me 🙂
On the bus, on our way back to the city, we had a really nice chat with him about things related to travel and other stuff including how Asian women look younger than their real age. At the bus stopover, he asked me again if I was cold and he offered me his jacket again. I was actually cold but I said NO because I felt like it was too much of an embarrassment already. It was dinner time already when we got back to Hanoi so my friend and I decided to get off at Hoan Kiem lake area to grab some dinner before heading back to our hotel. We asked M if he wanted to tag along and he said yes. When I got off the bus, I felt the sudden change of temperature and I felt like I was going to shiver any moment. Fortunately, it didn’t take us long to find that pizza and pasta place at the lake area. I was cold, tired and starving so that place looked perfect that very moment. It was a nice place actually. While having dinner, we were thinking of where to go next for a drink or dessert and coffee. I was actually thinking of having Vietnamese coffee after dinner and some sweets but M suggested going to a salsa bar. At first, I was like “salsa bar, really?“ then I realized I’ve never been to this kind of place before so I said yes. While walking to the bar, I was feeling really cold again but I didn’t want to let them know. I had my scarf around my neck, but I was still wearing shorts so my lower body was getting really cold. Somewhere along the way, M asked me again if I was cold and if I wanted to wear his jacket. I was really tempted to say YES but I said NO. I just couldn’t bear being a damsel in distress again. Besides it was only like a 15-minute walk so I decided to walk as fast as I could. I felt relieved when we got to the bar, at least the temperature inside was perfect. We had our drinks while watching the people at the dance floor and while having conversations about anything and everything under the sun. I was feeling all comfy and happy, that im-on-holiday kind of happy feelings, until those dancers called it a night and left the bar. In a matter of seconds, I was in a serious predicament again. Before I could retreat to the powder room, M was already standing in front of me asking me to dance salsa with him. I wanted to just pop in the air and instantly disappear that very moment. I couldn’t even dance gracefully in a dimly-lit club let alone dance salsa with him. I can’t remember how many times I said NO but he was still there, standing in front me, not moving and waiting for me to get off my seat. I dragged myself to the dance floor, pleading to be spared of such a huge embarrassment. So there we were, just the two of us in the middle of the dance floor with me panicking and hoping for him to change his mind and let go of me but it didn’t happen. I was in the state of a great panic attack, everything seemed blurry and all I could understand was him telling me to just mirror his movements. I tried a little bit but I just couldn’t concentrate, I felt like everyone was looking at me and laughing at my predicament. Fortunately, he took pity on me after two minutes or so and I was able to get away. Well, that was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I maybe a brave person but I have this really strong fear of embarrassment. It was about, if not after, midnight when we decided to call it a night since my friend and I needed to get up early the following morning for another day tour outside of Hanoi. We hugged good bye and went on opposite directions. That day ended really well even after all those blunders and embarrassments. It was one great travelling experience and I hope there are lots of nice men like him out there – for some unavoidable damsel-in-distress moments like those of mine. After that night I realized that I should learn the basic salsa steps, just in case.
Traveling always gives us memories and experiences….the good and the not so good ones that we will always cherish for as long as we can remember them.
When we travel, we experience the many firsts in our lives, we meet people whom we feel instant connection with after the usual hi-hello-where-you-from kind of conversation, we experience sincere kindness of strangers, we get inspired by other people’s guts and love for travelling, we experience the culture, we fall in love with the place, we see the world from a different perspective, we experience freedom… freedom from the walls of our own comfort zone.
My recent trip to Hanoi gave me some new and memorable experiences… Memories that will put a big smile on my face when I look back months or even years from now. Sometimes when we travel, random things happen to us in the most unexpected manner – things that would leave us wondering how and why they happened and at the same time thankful because they did happen.
Hanoi is a wonderful place, it is one of those places that I will keep going back to in the future.