Our first trip to Southeast Asia: An over due recount
Judith, I’ve been meaning to write this since… who knows when? I can’t even remember accurately how much time has passed since we started our trip together. Sometimes I feel it’s been one or two years, but most of the time I feel it’s been a lifetime, and I end up wondering if it was actually me who got in that bus with you at midnight in Sapa and cried in the banks of the river cause we didn’t have the right currency to cross to the other side.
I’ve thought about writing this so many times I can’t believe it is now at 9:11 am in this
I’m distracted. I keep stopping and floating away in daydreams of flashes and experiences we lived, and I realize that there is not only one way to tell this, as there never is, and there certainly is no linear path either.
So, I can walk around humid dirty alleys in Jakarta looking at windows of Padang as if it is the weirdest thing in the world when now it is something so common and a meal I miss so much. Remember our first dinner there? How wild and adventurous we felt. I was waiting for you in a hostel of which I only remember red and a beer. Then your hug which I hadn’t felt in months. Which I will feel again so soon.
Traveling together through Asia was such a crazy decision, such a good one.
We left our huge bags at Indah’s and left the next day if not one after. There was not much to do in Jakarta, and I convinced you of it, but not before we took that bicycle tuk-tuk around that market which I am sure now, costs us much more thousands than what we would have paid afterward. But who could have said we were going to fall so deeply in love with Indonesia to the point of both finding home there, me more than once, and you still receiving this letter in an island in that beautiful archipelago? I lie now, because you have left, and I am back, but that is what happens when you take sixteen months to share your writing.
Judith, I miss you so much that sometimes I think of moving countries just to be closer to you and your kindness, that v
I remember my long pinkish dress because for some reason it made me feel insecure, and I remember the heat of Vietnam when I was crying that morning after staying over with whom I should have not, and being burnt in the leg by a motorcycle.
Our first stop was Hồ Chí Minh, and from that
The next day we left for Hanói. We took a taxi to our hotel and we passed huge highways of a city we never saw again. Because if you don’t know a local, and this I’ve learned with the passing years and by visiting Singapore with Ariel and her mom, you never see a city as it really is. The room was so big, remember? Wooden and with two beds; it was so hot we would sit there in our underwear dripping sweat on the floor.
The more I write the more I remember. I can see that dirty market we walked to once, and the beautiful pond with the bridges. We had lunch in an alley, and you knew so much more of Asia than me, so you kept impressing me with food recommendations or things we should try that Andy had told you. We walked so much; the shops, buying the lotion that we had finished… It is strange how memory works, taking away what you want to cherish and then showing you a dirty pharmacy with plastic bottles of lotion. Maybe that wasn’t even there, the trip was just starting.
We struggled to find out how to get to Hạ Long Bay, refusing to go to the mausoleum to see a mummy. Oh, and the train, I had forgotten until now. Writing makes the memory come to life.
We walked all day that last day, I can see bits and pieces of the palace and the green walls; a book shop we passed by where I wondered how it must be like to live in this city; little alleys and smelly streets and then that train that had no sleepers or first class. We sat on that train for what felt like days; maybe it was a whole month.
We never thought of planning how we would move around prior to the beginning of our trip, we didn’t book anything, or checked any routes; this is what will
Judith, I’ve been owing you this text since so long. Promising it to you since we lived in Berawa and I was still in that unfortunate and passionate relationship. More than five years ago. I think about it often, our trip I mean; you. Now I don’t ever remember it all nor do I know how to continue. So, I’ll keep going with the only thing I hold true after all these years.
The constant rush of joy we felt despite the tiredness, ridiculous risks, crappy hotels, bad food, burnt legs…
The trip we did together was such a door for the rest of our lives. And now we stand here, after around seven years, both with a man we’ve met in Indonesia, both coming back but always in such bad coordination, but in love, happy and you waiting for Indah to come out into this mad beautiful journey which is life.
I will write as memory works, madly, with no order or discipline; with little discernment, more as a whim than anything else…
There are still parts to come.
With all my love and the memories I can gather, because all my photos were stolen (remember?, from home… that night we were watching TV?), Eda Sofía