This is the first of a series of short stories I will write, all of which will be little extracts from my travels. Things that have stuck out to me as being particularly memorable or interesting, written in a creative writing-esque format… enjoy and lemme know what you think!
‘We began slowing down the bike after the bells started. The eerie echo of clanging metal reached my ears before my eyes clocked it’s source, six bony knees poking out beneath the trim of grubby dresses and three pairs of hands cupped together scrambled towards us as we came to a stop beside them. ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’ rang through my mind as my eyes fell upon the little girls who had dropped their ragdolls to run out in front of us. The whites of their eyes an unhealthy yellow as they pleaded in their native language for money or food, I couldn’t tell you which one. My boyfriends eyes met mine with a mutual agreement that we would give what change we had to these colorful beggars, along with some sweets we had bought with us for the ride. We were God knows where in the mountains, half way through a five day road trip to the boarder between China and Vietnam. Recommended to us by a friend we had met in a hostel in Hanoi for it’s preserved beauty and lack of tourism compared to the similar but overcrowded Sapa Valley.
We had spent the previous night at a home stay in a small village along the route we were vaguely following on our map. Generously welcomed into the home of a family of smiling Vietnamese hosts who cooked us a cracking meal, kindly catering to our vegetarianism without complaint. I ate my rice in the company of a baby who could barely walk but who could navigate it’s way around an ipad far better than I could, only glancing up now and again to receive a spoonful of something from mum. After dinner there was fruit tea and the exchanging of Facebook names with the eldest son who’s English was patchy but who’s cheeky smile made up for it, then time for bed. Ten or so mattresses dotted the floor of the huge living area like floating logs in a lake and after a heavy day of being a backseat driver amongst the elements I was more than happy to throw down my backpack and curl up under the Tom and Jerry blanket given to me by the host mum. There were maybe 6 or 7 others with blackened faces and helmet hair who had turned up throughout the course of the evening, all grateful for a shower and a home cooked meal.
We set off just after 6am, heading out into the early morning fog that clung to us as we searched for our mopeds amongst the bushes they’d been parked in. A breakfast of banana and sweet rice crackers prepared us for a long day of driving and we strapped our full water bottles down with tattered blue rope we’d found along the way. It was after a long stretch of rice paddies and no talking that our flower girls approached us. Muddy hands held bundles of tiny mountain flowers, offered in exchange for whatever we could give. The older boys shoved the younger girls to the side as they fought for the notes we were pulling from our wallets, boisterous in their desires to return home with something to show for a day spent sat idly on the cliff edge. My boyfriend tried to distract them as I took strawberry and cream drops to the little ladies who maternally nursed the tangled hair of their Barbie dolls, trying my best to communicate with looks and smiles where language failed me. These little women wearing filthy cotton rags had lives consisting of hunger and poverty, their days spent waiting for tourists on bikes to pass just so themselves and their families could eat a little corn and warm their corrugated iron huts. In a world completely alien to my own I caught the swollen eye of a child who could teach me nothing and everything all at once.’