Lost Girl of the Week: Tracy Le

Lost Girl of the Week — By on January 12, 2011 at 7:56 am

This week’s Lost Girl, Tracy Le, had always dreamed of traveling to some of the world’s most glamorous cities. But when she had the chance to immerse herself in her family’s history in Vietnam, she found something more meaningful than simply being a tourist.

*****

I always dreamt of cat walking down the streets of New York City or
munching on a baguette and sipping espresso in Paris, but when I was
immersed in the country where my family tree was first planted, Vietnam,
my memories of past dreams instantly altered to a present thirst of my
reality.

Though my family was born and raised in Saigon, there were many places around the vast country they had yet to visit, so with the intention to do all things that tourists do, I was excited to embark on something that was
not only foreign to me, but in ways to them as well. Upon arrival, we stayed mainly in Saigon where we spent our time eating on street corners, buying a surplus of fresh fruits and bartering for material goods which usually involved me insisting to pay 12 dollars for a leather purse, because, obviously, 15 dollars was way out of the question.

With only three-weeks allotted for our trip, we booked a tour right away that
would take us from Saigon to Hanoi to Halong Bay to Sapa. This tour lasted
five days and four nights and though a bit brief, it was enough time for my
heart to revel in the beauty (also my favorite stop) that was Halong Bay,
located in the Quảng Ninh province.

Imagine you are aboard a luxurious mahogany wood paneled ship sailing through and beside limestone karsts (which is when broken down, “landscapes out of sedimentary rocks shaped by dissolutions”—think mini islands that are crooks who steal your breath away. And as you travel through the salty sea, merchants in tiny boats sell handpicked mangos, lychee and longan to you. Then at the strike of noon (or when the sun would have you most famished) you would stop at a port to purchase the most fresh crab, fish and shrimp only to later luxuriously grill on the said mahogany ship and devour them while the wind blows in your hair, your mouth tastes the best the sea has to offer and your eyes peer at what the rest of the world would agree would to be a natural world wonder.

After Halong, we headed to my second favorite and consequently the
last part of our tour, Ninh Binh, a small town outside of Hanoi to see
underground cave tunnels. Our tour bus, in order to get to this specific
destination had to maneuver it’s way through the muck and mire until
we reached an area that was enclosed by great mountainous hills and between them, quiet waters. Awaiting us were small canoes with even tinier
Vietnamese women who were to be our rowing tour guides. As we swayed back and forth, dressed in bright yellow plastic rainproof ponchos, the mist hit our faces and the numerous tunnel-like caves awaited.

Entering the darkness, we only had our guide’s voice and headlights to guide
our way as we shimmied left and ducked to avoid getting nicked by the rough edges of the walls or protruding glacier-like rock formations. There were a total of around 6 tunnels and we managed to go through all of them—unhindered and more rebellious than before.

These moments have been a reminder that there is a freedom the spirit
feels when it is unhinged and unrestricted amidst a foreign atmosphere.
For me, traveling is an escape from the mundane, normal and typical. Most
importantly, a reminder there are greater things to be discovered and once
uncovered, the possibility of learning history can graciously shape and
define your present, and that’s a story worth seeking. To travel is to dwell
out of my self and into other sources of life—different storylines. The
knowledge we gain from traveling surpasses language but develops into
culture. It surpasses independence and transcends into self-discovery. And
because travel makes up these things, it has become the blood in my veins—
a natural characteristic of mine that has me always scheming, planning, or
reminiscing about the world and how I aim to unearth the everlasting bodies
of water and vast lands as long as it beckons me to do so.

Tags: , ,