This WordPress question is really timely, since I am gearing up for a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam in about 48 hours. Unfortunately, I have had a splitting migraine since yesterday, and I am just this morning out of the fog enough to answer this one (and get back to packing). The short answer to this question is, “It depends on where I’m going.”
When I go abroad, I sometimes think about how many modes of transportation I rely on to get me there. It usually starts with walking, then a taxi, perhaps a bus or subway, a train, and finally, a flight – and then, I go in reverse to get to my lodgings. That order is about what I look forward to for Wednesday’s Hanoi trip. Among all those modes, I really enjoy train travel the most. It isn’t as fast as a plane, but it is so much more convenient to get on and off, and it can be wonderfully scenic. There is a romance and intimacy to trains that I feel no matter if I board in Asia, Europe, or North America.
One more way I love to travel is by ship or ferry, as I adore being near the water, and once I’ve got my sea legs there is nothing more languid and romantic than a cruise.
On a daily basis in Korea, though, I rely on walking the most. I haven’t owned a car for about six years (and even then, I had it for only about five). It’s so different from when I lived in California, and relied on one daily. Now, I don’t need one, and I have honestly never really liked driving. Being car-less is freeing. My university campus is about a twenty-minute walk from my home, and I take that walk 4-5 days per week, rain or shine, depending upon my teaching schedule. Walking to work allows me to psychologically prepare for the day, and on the way home, to wind down. I occasionally take short-cuts through a folk village, pet the feral cats, talk back to the magpies, and say good morning to the jindo who guards the neighborhood’s seafood restaurant. I couldn’t touch base with my neighbors or nod to passing students if I was zipping by in my car.
Granted, sometimes I have to carry things, or take my dog to his vet. I have wheeled bags for those times, and they can be easily hoisted onto a bus, or into a taxi.
Air travel, as crucial as it is to keep me connected to the world, is probably my least preferred mode of transportation. It requires an increasingly complicated and stressful amount of preparation, especially if one is going abroad. The pandemic has added an extra layer of time-consuming work on top of the security, and the documents needed for customs and immigration. In truth, I really dread this aspect of flying. Unfortunately, I think we are stuck with it, for now.
My next flight will be on Wednesday, and will take me to a part of the world I haven’t visited since 2016, when I spent 10 days in Cambodia. I split the time between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, part of which was also during the Lunar New Year.
I share a few photos here of Bayon and Angkor Wat, some views of traditional foods, and my visit to the notorious S-21 Toul Sleng prison and one of its last survivors, Bou Meng. Mr. Bou is a remarkable soul who radiates loving kindness in spite of the horrors he experienced during the Khmer Rouge regime. He only survived by virtue of his artistic ability, as he was forced to paint propaganda portraits of Pol Pot, Lenin, Marx, Engels, and even the Vietnamese revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. His path has brought him back to S-21, now a museum, where he greets visitors and educates people about this historical monstrosity.
The whole trip was like a dream, and at times incredibly moving. Unfortunately, the photo quality is low.
Above photos show the S-21 prison (formerly a school), Mr. Bou and his memoir; views from my hotel in Phnom Penh, where a food offering is laid out for the Lunar New Year; produce and goodies for sale at the central market in Siem Reap, including various insects (I tried the crickets, and they were not terrible); a beautiful dance performance by Cambodian Living Arts at the National Museum; and (below) views of Bayon and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, part of a spectacular day of visiting the entire temple complex.
I hope to have much clearer photos of Hanoi to share with you next week. Until then, be well!