[Greetings from Saigon]
After three and a half months on the road I’m happy to report that I’m back in Ho Chi Minh City.
I left at the end of March this year to begin a trip that would take me around Asia, Europe, and North and Central America. This trip included meet ups with family and friends, a writing assignment in Europe, and a travel blogging conference in Toronto. After Canada and the US I travelled to Belize, which was my first time to Central America.
I had flown into Belize with a grand plan of making my way through all seven countries of Central America. While part of that trip was intended to investigate places to live, I questioned if I was going just to tick off more countries on the places I’ve been list.
After reading some online guides of things to do in Central America I realised that I don’t want to visit every Mayan ruin and see every little beach town, just for the sake of going. Instead, I picked out Caye Caulker in Belize and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala as places to linger on my trip (and at the rate I blog I will probably have a report on those places by the end of the year). That worked out to be a far more enjoyable experience than bouncing around from place to place on chicken buses.
In Belize I spent my time in the Caribbean on the little island of Caye Caulker. I was planning to spend a week there, but after days of rain and a forecast of more to come, I cut my losses and left Belize earlier than planned.
Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala – with English making way to Spanish – I now felt like I was in Central America. If the Spanish didn’t give it away, the number plates gave me a little reminder as well.
I arrived in Flores to see the Mayan archaeological site at Tikal, the national treasure that features on the number plate. Most of my time though was spent around Lake Atitlan, which is a popular place for digital nomads. The cost of living is comparable to Chiang Mai so I wanted to see what it would be like to live here.
My original plan was to visit all seven countries of Central America in one go. When I wrote out an itinerary on paper I was exhausted just thinking abut it, so I pared it back to two countries. I was happy to stay put for a while and enjoy visiting two new countries, but I still tempted by nearby borders. I saw an advertisement for a minivan going to a beach destination in El Salvador and I immediately started calculating if I have the time. Then I came to my senses and reminded myself that I will explore the region around Atitlan. El Salvador and the other countries of Central America can wait.
While I still would love to do that (Nicaragua calls out to me), at the moment I’m more in the mood to work in one place for a while.
Going back to places
I was wondering if I had made the right decision to come back to Vietnam after having already spent five months of the last year here. The day I was returning I read Andrew Evans post on why he goes back to places he has already been. Not that I needed affirmation on my decision, but this article resonated with me at exactly the right time. I don’t like it when I hear that someone has “done a place” either, and at this point in my life I’m getting so much joy out of being in Vietnam. As soon as I set foot outside of the airport I knew I was back in the right place. I would rather be spending my time here than adding more countries to my visited list, just for the sake of visiting.
The Scene in Saigon
On my first day back I found a great room to rent for $230USD per month. This includes internet, and cleaning and laundry three days a week. I’ve been revisiting my favourite cafes and street food vendors, and getting friendly welcome back smiles at my most visited places.
The year ahead
While I am renting a place here my travels will be one or two week trips rather than months on end. I will be doing some local travel, as well as making a trip to Hanoi. I would like to compare what it is like living in Vietnam’s two largest cities.
Once my initial three month visa expires I will be back in Thailand for a month, where I’ll be attending a conference in Bangkok. After that I have a month to spare before I go back to Australia, which will be the first time in over a year.