Yours truly in a Red Dao herbal bath. Photo: Affandi Hamid
I’d sent this piece in for a writing competition, but I didn’t make the shortlist, so here it is for you guys.
I had begun my trip to the highlands of Vietnam expecting to learn more about the cultures of the Red Dao minority. What I hadn’t planned for was having the trip turn into a culinary experience, which in turn had me reminiscing my own identity and childhood.
It was a three hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi, followed by a nine-hour train journey to Lao Cai. Then came the hour’s drive up the winding hills to Sapa, punctuated by the 13km hike to a Red Dao village, where I was to spend two nights.
Photo: Abigail Keenan
Writing truly is magical. It’s the closest thing to clairvoyance that humans will ever get to. Like how else would you describe me sharing my thoughts with you without uttering a single word?
I could take you to the scorching streets of Pune, to the biting cold of Mount Furano, all within the boundaries of a sentence.
I remember harbouring a dream of writing for a magazine. In fact, I remember the exact article that prompted me to sign up for a Writer’s Bureau course. It was an FHM Magazine article, and it introduced me to the world of creative non-fiction, much like the stuff I publish on my blog.
It was then that I’d realise how words could be manipulated to evoke emotion. I starkly remember the sentence ‘One hour later and the airport lights were a thing of the past.’ The turn of phrase blew my mind, and since that day, I begun to aspire to the ways of wordsmithery.
A wrestler getting some reps in with a sixty kilo bag before clocking in as a bus driver
“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
It’s easy to procrastinate your life away. I mean, look at my last post date. It’s been months since my last update.
Or you could take a look at how I spent the past weekend: I slept in, had a late lunch, decided I wanted to spend the day writing, did some chores, played some games, watched TV, realised I’ve pissed away hours of said writing time, drank some vodka, blitzed a few online chess games, had dinner, drank more vodka, and before I knew it, the sun has set, and I’ve wasted another day.
So inspiration for writing has waned lately, but I do have a side hobby I’ve picked up because I thought it’d make a great companion to my writing. Enter the world of Stuart’s mediocre photos. These were taken on a trip along the Red River in Vietnam.
An interesting porcelain workshop of sorts. Not sure what it was, really.
Embarking on the hike to Ta Phin
I should’ve packed an extra set of clothes. We were headed to the remote village of Ta Phin, Vietnam, so I saw it fit to cram my day pack with water and bread. Oh, they had tons of that over at my homestay. They even had enough beer and rice wine to kill a couple of cows. What they didn’t have were spare clothes, a fact I had to learn while drenched from the rain in fifteen-degrees Celsius weather. I sought refuge next to the fire pit under the pretense of helping out in the kitchen, all the while thinking, I definitely should’ve packed that extra set of clothes.
If you could quantify emotions on a scale of one to ten, I’d be a solid three, and that figure’s never budged as far as I remember. If you attached an emotional Geiger counter on my hip, you’d only hear silence for days, save for the spikes when I’d have to make small talk with an unfamiliar acquaintance or make a phone call.