WEAR FROM: Cashmere top – VKOO | Culottes – A small boutique in Hongdae | White platforms – A small boutique in Itaewon
Dear friends & family,
This is going to be one of the last outfits on the blog where I have long, flowing hair (more like plenty of split ends) because I recently chopped off my locks in exchange for a lighter do. You’ll read more on that in the next blog! I have been experiencing a major backlog with blogging on this trip, and I have many stories and photos coming up the pipeline in the next few days. My current destination is Hanoi, Vietnam. I left Seoul about half a week ago and immediately went on a 25 KM trek up in the northern highlands of Sapa.
I am really glad to be back in Vietnam again. I love this country very much. If you speak your mother tongue or are lucky enough to be a polyglot, use it! Language is the key that opens the floodgates to people. When I was in Korea, I wanted to communicate with so many people but it was difficult since I didn’t know the language. Some expressions and aspects of culture just can’t be translated or understood in the same way in English. Meanings take on different forms. People warm to you when you share a common mode of communication. Although my Vietnamese is rusty, I enjoy being able to have small chats with the local vendors, haggling on the streets and having discussions with my taxi drivers.
I do miss the higher quality of sanitation in Korea. This is where the ultra germaphobe in me comes in. Here, the toilets (if there are toilets instead of holes in the ground) look like they could use a vat of Lysol. You will also need to bring your own toilet paper if you are going on an excursion or to the local hole in the wall restaurants. However, each place has its charm and comparisons are moot and pointless between countries. The standards we are familiar with can’t be imposed on the places we go to. The world is organized by a gamut of facilities, experiences and settings. The best way to travel is just to enjoy all that is thrown at you.
Another difference between Korea and Vietnam is that things are not as “cute” here in Vietnam. The fashion is a few years behind and there aren’t many conventional “Instagrammable” coffee shops and flower boutiques. But, it’s real. I like that Vietnam still feels real and less artificial. If I had a choice between using Splenda or real sugar in my tea, I’d go with the real sugar any day. In actuality, I enjoy squeezing drizzles of honey into my tea. I was thoroughly exhausted by all the consumerism and advertising after a month’s stay in Seoul. Korea has a highly photogenic consumer culture, hence why it is a normal occurrence to see people there snapping photos on selfie sticks and DSLRs at every photographable moment possible. When I was visiting Jeju Island, I was walking up Seopjikoji Beach and was incredibly surprised at the advanced level of selfie sticks I saw on the path. There were the long 5’5 tripod-style selfie sticks, the basic ones, the swirly ones, the ultra short ones, the couple ones and more. At some points, it became too much because I was consistently ducking to avoid the crowds of selfie sticks. Not to mention, sometimes it takes away from your senses being able to fully take in the present moment. I visited Seopjikoji on my own, which is rather unusual for Korea. People don’t like to do things alone. Eating alone, shopping alone and sitting alone are a big social taboo because you are perceived as being socially unintegrated. The day I left Seoul, I went to an Italian restaurant by myself because all my travel companions had left earlier and I needed to eat. They segregated the only other person eating alone and I on the main floor of the restaurant where no one else was sitting. The groups of people and couples were all situated with a nice view on the upper floors. Each time they came down, they would look curiously at us while the other man and I exchanged looks that said, “I get you, friend.”