There are many magical moments in my trip, like when the sun set while we were riding a boat on a branch of the Mekong river flowing cross Luang Prabang. The sky was like an unfinished painting with so many broken colourful rays sketched clumsily, and the whole sunset was over so quickly that I didn't even have enough time to marvel at the beauty. It seems hard to believe that such a scene happens everyday, for many many days of the earth's existence, each day old and anew, ancient and fresh. Like the dry blood stain on the floors and walls of the S21 prison, where thousands of Cambodian were tortured and killed under the Khmer Rouge. I have never felt history so close and alive anywhere else before, it was almost like I could touch the silent suffering, the indescribable pain and the hopeless cry of many many innocent souls. Anywhere I cast my eyes I could see blood, as if the ghosts refuse to let go of the living world, and many times I shivered, even though it was a hot December mid-noon in Phnom Penh.
Like when I looked up and saw the wings of an eagle spreading wide up high, reflected against the crystal blue sky, on a nameless mountain in Buon Me Thuot, and couldn't help admiring a creature so fierce yet so lonely. Like when I listened to a few amateur singers with one acoustic guitar and one box they used as drum, in a little, cozy, candle-lit and flower-decorated cafe in Sai Gon with an audience of around 20 friends and couples. As the singers sang and told their stories, made us laugh and wept, I could see the girls lean on their lovers' shoulders and those who were touched by a song that is special to them, sang along. Their voices, though unskillful, filled with emotions. Next to me, a guy might be singing about his newly broken love and his fresh wound, glad to remain anonymous while free to sing his heart out. Intimacy submerged us strangers all and draw us close together, so dense it became almost tangible in the air.
Like when I just walked in a random pagoda in Hoi An, exchanged a few words with two students who came there once and since then keep coming back whenever they are free from assignments, and ended up participating in a daily prayer session. As I sat among the old women and listened to the comforting rhythm chanted by more than 40 voices, I swam upstream in my own memory. I missed my grandmother and myself at 5 years old and how I used to beg for permission to strike her wooden bell when she chanted in front of our shrine.
Like the warm smile of a young petrol attendant in Siem Riep, and the candy he gave me "because you are from Viet Nam". Like the dinner with two Vietnamese - American ladies, who we kept running into times after times during our stay in Laos, and for whatever reasons, the conversation turned into the relationship between nature and nurture, and one of them ended up sharing thoughts that have been stirring up her minds for many years. Like when I stood in front of An Bang beach - the first time ever saw the ocean in winter, all alone, and felt a huge urge to share that very moment with my boyfriend, but couldn't. Like when I met Giao the first time in person, and our whole conversation about us, about our worlds was carried on a crowded and tired bus while rubber trees, paddy fields, storks and coconut trees passed by outside the windows. She said goodbye in a hurry, leaving me still tangled up in a surreal state created by the whole experience itself.
Throughout the trip, times and times again I asked myself what I have done to deserve such care and love, or perhaps it is just because I am fortunate enough to make friend with super kind people.
Or a magical moment like when the bus from Hue arrived in Ha Noi, and I found myself excited to be home, even though I only parted with it for 20 days. And it was fun spotting different rays of colours bouncing with the steps of street vendors, mostly selling flowers and paper offerings. It has been very long since I feltTet atmosphere so close. After all, it is the festive season. Ha Noi was all lovely, and the statement I once wrote for myself hasn't got out of date yet: "Each time I return home, it always feels like the first, and even feels more like the last."
It wasn't about getting myself out there, to boast that I have traveled to such and such, or to complete a task and check off points on a list like many people I met along the way. They would talk about "I have done this, now I am going to finish that", as if travelling is a job needs to be done, or a fashion trend needs to be followed. The most beautiful part for me, usually, is home-coming. And while I am actually out there, I collect moments. Like a most carefree person with no worries in the world who casually walks on a beach and picks up shells, I just leave and come home with two pockets full of magical moments. I don't try to get the most beautiful ones, nor the rarest ones, because who am I to know which shells will come with the next wave?
I will save those I cherish, and that is more than enough already.