I spent the morning on the subject en of a Kodak DSLR in a photo session reminiscent of that in "Lost in Translation". The photographer was good though, and Tien looked ƒ incredible. I felt like a doofus next to such stunning beauty, but her sisters flattered me into a comfortable state of mind. It was fun and some of it was silly. We went through several outfits and lighting setups and it was interesting to see their techniques, so different from what I do. It was surprisingly tiring though, partly because of the waiting while Tien changed from one stunning outfit and hairdo to another. After the shoot we went and had lunch at the place where I got ill and got the same thing, but this time I didn't eat the vegetables. Afterwards we wnt to look through photos of the shoot. Nobody has taken photos of me in a long, long time. It was odd to see myself, looking my age, balding, gaining a little weight. I quickly got over my self consciousness and we picked out all the necessary photos, paid and went not home but to a flower market. All I wanted to do was sleep at this point, but thu bought like 10 pounds of flowers and I carried them in my arms as we scooted home.
Sleep at last... Tien and I talked and I drifted off into a Lon nap. When I woke up we discussed the details of my third attempt to get to Cambodia. We would go to saigon by bus early the next morning, leaving from Long Xuyen.
We woke up at 3:30. I thought about how many times I've gotten up at odd hours of the night on this trip. Tiens brother went to find somebody to take us to the station but didn't come back in time and we ended up motorbiking down with her dad and sister.
It was completely dark, it was warm and there was a crescent moon shining through haze in the sky. We shared headphones and listened to the garden state soundtrack. There weren't many people on the road, but it seemed that when there were they'd pass us in groups and the headlamp would shine a bright circle onto their backs.
We arrived at the bus top late and had to wait 45 minutes for the next one. Tiens dad shook my hand and smiled big, then rode off on his motorbike. I thought about how interesting it is to communicate things nonverbally, like saying goodbye to your future father in law.
The morning light began to show the details of the rainclouds that had been sneaking up on us in the dark, and as I photographed them they retaliated with a gentle sprinkle. It was pretty dark and my f/4 was not giving me much as far as shutter speed and I thought about how nice it would be to have a tripod. Incidentally the guys at gorillapod.com emailed me the other day asking to use a photo I took on their website and offered to send me some gear. I wished that I had it with me already and later told Tien that when I get back to Vietnam we'd have to go take photos in the morning light if I had received a tripod yet.
As we were boarding the bus I realized that I didn't have any earplugs. Luckily I had brought a second set of headphones so Tien and I could both listen to music, but we couldn't share it on a single iPod. I made a mental note to remember earplugs from now on.
We made our way down the bumpy and now familiar route to saigon, the first time in dayligt. At the ferry station I watched crowds of people passing. I saw a guy on a bicycle flirting and joking with the girl he was with and thought about how great it is that mannerisms transcend spoken language. These two were happy and I could see that. Some women behind them were happy and I could see that. Another woman was in a hurry and I could see that. When you're surrounded by people who don't speak your language you begin paying attention to such things and they take on a bigger weight in the absence of words.
I saw a half white girl on a bicycle, easily distinguishable because of her brown hair, and realized I had seen another in a restaurant a few days earlier. I wondered if these were products of war.
I saw people taking a motorcycle riding class.
When we stopped for a break Tien and I got breakfast, eggs and bread and coffee, which made me very happy. When a skillet was placed before me I touched it to move it and burned my finger a little and cursed. Instead of the American ever-liable reaction of sympathy and placation, the employee who had set it down laughed and smiled at me and said something in Vietnamese. I thought this was awesome. People need real world conditioning, not the legal shelter from physical reality and responsibility that so many liability lawsuits in America display.
When we got to Saigon the traffic was terrible. I realized that even though Saigon is great for so many reasons I really don't like it all that much. It's not bad to stay a day in, but I wouldn't recommend an extended visit over Hanoi or more rural places. Then again, maybe it's different if you speak the language, know the hidden gems, or at least have your own transportation.
Tien and I checked into a mildly crummy and hence overpriced hotel and caught up on missed sleep. We sat on the bed and ate pringles and drank soda from the fridge and went back to bed. The best thing about vacationing is a lack of responsibility. We were free to do whatever we wanted with our time and chose to be lazy. Eventually we got up and had lunch, discussing some details of her immigration, then realized we wouldn't see each other for a few weeks and had a sad goodbye. I gave her a few billion dong, the Vietnamese currency, put her in a taxi and was alone again in Saigon.
I spent the rest of the night in my hotel room catching up on computer stuff and being lazy some more. In the morning I shaved my head, checked the charge on my gadgets, checked out of my hotel and headed for an Australian cafe I'd seen.
Apparently Australian cafes are not the same as American cafes, which I stupidly expected because of the shared language. I did have a cappucino though, my first in weeks, and a Vietnamese breakfast of bread and beef stew.
A Filipino man was sitting at the next table and began talking to me. He asked about my travels and my work and said he was looking for a cheaper hotel. It was nice to have a conversation and I hoped to find more English speakers on my journey through more popular tourist destinations.
I wnt to the bus HQ and checked in for my ride. I was required to hand over my passport and was told it would be given back at the border of Cambodia.
As we boarded the bus I was asked to let them pack my backpack. When I asked to take it on the bus they said no, so I took my book and gave it up. This was the first time letting it out of my control while traveling.
I got on the bus, found a seat centered between the axels and read until we began to drive away. We passed the bus station where I proposed to Tien as we crawled a crooked trail out of the city. I wished that I had my bag, or more accurately my camera.
I've wished several times on this trip that I had just brought along a panasonic LX3. I've even considered buying one and mailing my D300 back to America, but have not. Maybe I'll buy a messenger bag instead, something easy to carry a few accessories in. A man purse.
So here I am on the bus to Cambodia, writing again on my iPhone. I really wish the iPhone had real GPS support. I thought that it did, and the accuracy of the 3g iPhone made it seem so, but I have not been able to get a GPS signal on it since leaving SF even though my Geomet'r works fine. It sucks because it's not like I knew that before I left, it's not something I could've tested. Maybe if I put in a local SIM card it'll work...