It’s my 9th of the 30 Days Around Vietnam and I have 9 new lessons from travelling.

They say many lessons are learned from other people’s mistakes or listening to their advice. Sadly, some lessons are learned through experiencing the antonym of success. True, sometimes we fail but the good news is we do learn from them. Ouch! And Yeah!

Ha! I know, when you read this, you’d think am so silly and stupid but oh well…I was.

1. When travelling in the mountains (esp. in Sa Pa), bring your own boots!

I only had my Biti’s strapped sports sandals with me. Obviously I was not very prepared for the trekking in Sa Pa. I mean, I was…    emotionally and mentally ;-)but not fashionably.

Good thing the guide had a pair of spare boots- the same footwear that the Hmong ladies wear. Rubber, water-proof and not very thick and for a newbie trekker, the boots were killing me. The only consolation is that they were Purple! My favorite color.

Side note: Trekking is not a very popular activity in Southeast Asia. In fact, during the trekking tour, apart from the locals, I was the only trekker who was Asian. Not many Asians would enjoy going up and down the mountains. But me? I did. I am amongst the few!

It was actually my first experience to hike that long for three days and as expected I was trudging on the last day! :s But I tell you this…you could never afford to miss the beauty of Sa Pa.

2. Bring a book. A real one!

I have slept, mainly, on a train, for three nights. It’s awful when all your technology runs out of battery and you have nothing to entertain yourself with. Say, you have charged all your gadgets with you but you would really want to save them for more important purposes, like for me, calling and texting as I don’t play on my phone.

Also, sometimes you just don’t like the people or at least their behavior while in the train cabin. In my experience, a couple was busy smooching each other amidst other people who share the four walls with them. “Troi oi! This is Asia. No kissing too much in front of the other people. Or better yet, get your own cabin”, said the Filipino me, quietly.

 Now that’s when a book would have been good to cover my face.

3. Bring sachets of coffee and a Coffee Mate. I mean, creamer.

I know Vietnam has some of the best coffee blends in the world but I can’t bring my coffee maker or filter with me when traveling, right? So there’s the lightweight and more affordable one- the sachet! Although I’ve been trying to avoid 3-in-1s these days because among other health-related reasons, I don’t want sugar in my coffee, having sachets of coffee with me keeps me in my bedroom. That means when I’m working on my photos or articles or blog posts, I don’t need to go out to have one.

4. Travel light …as in ultra light…when going to the mountains.

I got excited when people at the hotel told me that there’s WIFI in the village. So I thought, maybe I could work there and might as well bring my laptop with me. Also, I brought with me 2 litres of water (talk about being over-prepared) which I didn’t have to because there were a lot of stops where we could buy water. As a result, (with my other stuff included) my bag was really heavy; I’d say it weighed about 15kg. So on the way back, which was the third day, I bravely asked the tour guide if we could swap bags for a second…which actually lasted for an hour ;-).;-)

5.  Don’t put your bottled water in the bag.

This has never happened to me thanks to my friend, Jaja’s birthday gift- a North Face Recon- that has bottle pockets. One time, an American guy at a hotel where I stayed in Sapa had nothing dry to wear as his bottled water crushed in his backpack; poor fellow had to spend his dough for a dry shirt. Another example was, one of the trekkers I’d walked with had to ask the guide for a space in his bag to put his water there. So I think it is wise to use a bag with a bottle holder. You could also buy a sling-on mineral water bottle holder which is very cheap especially in Vietnam and Cambodia.

6. Don’t buy things you don’t need.

The vendors are very persuasive; some would even harass hold you so just you’d buy. Sometimes, sellers are kids and they are so cute. You’d buy from one then more kids will flock on to you and many of them would be broken-hearted because you didn’t buy from them too. The lesson is, whatever happens, never buy things you don’t need. I am now trying to be tough. To be unfazed.

7. Bring at least 4 memory cards with you.

You’ll never know how much you’d be clicking once you are in a beautiful place. You’d also want to take a video of a performance like a dance, or a song, or video people just like what I did with Oi Gioi Oi. My son Kuya Paul, who loves Thomas & Friends and trains, had asked me to take some photos of the Orient. So I woke up very early while on a train to video what’s inside the cars and even the view from my window.

8. Don’t bring your regular sun cream; buy one with a higher SPF that is designed for outdoors.

On the mountains, the weather seemed cool. Chances are you’d think you wouldn’t need sunscreen or any protection. But actually, you’d still get sun burned once you are outside for a longer period of time…say 8 to 10 hours. Trust me, I’m still feeling the pain on my the very first layer of my skin!

So I bought one yesterday in Ha Noi… SPF 45 from Faceshop. This should do it!

9. Bring a small phone, the cheap one.

This will really come in handy. Just insert it in your pocket; it’s very convenient. Text or call whenever you need to without worrying about being robbed. Also, the battery lasts for 2 to 3 days , unlike the smart phones which are supposed to have longer standby time.  So I bought a small and cheap one. It allows me to contact my loved ones back home, anytime , anywhere.

There will be more lessons, that’s for sure! Thanks for reading and I hope this post has been helpful to you.


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