The Power of Kindness Whilst Travelling | The Ho Chi Minh Trail
Finding a Place to Sleep
"It's getting dark", Kat shouted across from me. We frantically drove as fast as we could on our little 125cc Chinese-made motorbikes, we had been driving for approximately 7 hours on the enchanted Ho Chi Minh Trail and were now in Nha Nghi. We needed to find a place to stay and it was usual not to see life for up to 50 miles at a time, the darkness was the only thing that scared us here. We had been weaving, turning and dodging passing cars and motorbikes as we tried to make our way through the nearly 1,000 mile system of mountainous jungle paths and trails used to bring weapons and supplies by the Vietcong from Hanoi in the North to Ho Chi Minh City in the South during the Vietnam war. There were no traffic lights and no signs, just the maps on our signal-less phones.
A fairytale in reality. The greens of the forests around us during the days that passed were ethereal and both of us were caught breathless by the sheer isolation and beauty. For miles upon miles, we got to see everyday life in rural Vietnam - a wide canvas of picturesque mountains and animals strutting happily. There was a true warmth I felt seeing this, knowing that humans can work together with nature rather than destroy it.
A couple of weeks ago we had decided to travel from the South of Vietnam all the way to the top, I was in Australia working, and Kat was teaching English to children in Vietnam. I stepped outside of the airport and a wave of stuffy, humid heat hit me. There she was, waiting for me. I followed her into a building where hundreds of bikes were lined up like soldiers. Over the next couple of days, we looked for bikes - testing and searching with $200 to spend. It was normal to say greet one another with "xin chào", even strangers. Soon we found a mechanic where we bought the two bikes from, he threw in his custom-made shirt he had got from a remote village in Sa Pa, a beer and a helmet. As we waited we conversated with a couple of the locals, laughing at our inability to speak properly to them but loving it anyway. The mechanic gestured for me to start the bike and drive it. We were ready.
The Power of Kindness
Kat ended up spotting a house further up ahead and we nodded to each other to stop, a gesture of communication without words. We crawled along to a stop next to their little wooden gate and got off our bikes; sweaty, wet and tired from being stuck on a muddy uphill dirt road that wasn't paved liked most of the trail is. It had been spitting buckets of rain and so we had to wade through brown shin-deep waters as construction was happening in front of us. Two hours later we were out and dirty.
It is like what Amelia Earheart said:
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”
It reset everything I had thought about the world before, as well as my previous experiences in Nicaragua and across South East Asia. Kindness serves inner growth for the person it is given to, it makes them want to be kind themselves, and for a while, they are genuinely happy.
Carrying on with my story, a man and a women came quickly out of their house to us and without a beat ushered us in as if we had never been strangers. At that moment I didn't feel like a - người nước ngoài - what they call foreigners in Vietnamese, but they did make a common remark about my brown - người đen - skin, afraid of me getting too dark in the sun. Something I no longer took to heart. It is customary here to cover yourself in order to stay as pale as possible. Despite a language barrier, they let us know they would prepare a meal for us and while we wait we could use their shower, a hut with a metal, irrigated roof. I and Kat took turns bathing with their bucket.
When we emerged, we entered their living room and on the floor was a mat with bowls full of different kinds of local foods. On the mat were four members from their family smiling eagerly at us. Their faces a picture. Noodles, rice, fish, chicken. We were spoilt for choice. Using our hands we dug in.
Once we were finished they cleared a room for us and left us to sleep. Their kindness knew no limits, something I never expected but came upon me to the point where it was normal for them to extend themselves like this to strangers. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Thank you for reading.
Photo from @unsplash
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