In less than twenty four hours, I will head to Europe. It’s a fortunate reality I’m still getting my head around. Travel is funny like that. It’s all up in the air (metaphorically), until of course, you’re up in the air (literally). Clouds never appear more dream-like, and life, never more unrealistic. With such a daze in mind, it’s time I looked back. To the moments, the people, and to the South East Asia.
It was April this year when I travelled to Vietnam. I was 16. With a hunger for dumplings and meeting new people, they called me young and effervescent (I’m kidding, I’m more of a spring roll kind of gal). I found people awake down side streets, asleep on hotel rooftops. I crept past darkness to reach the top level for that view. Three sets of eyes travelled the distance of such a wide expanse. It made me question colour as much as it made me question life. The way I was living it, otherwise the way I wasn’t.
I didn’t know what to do with the information. To know that below, someone was cooking chicken for their family on the curb. In the morning, another Viet would brush their teeth in the gutter. They’d smile at their reflection in a murky puddle. They’d look up and smile at me as I walked past.
Here’s what I saw in the Vietnamese smile. Between the rice they shared for dinner, I saw family. I saw time and it’s inevitability. The way they accepted such a fact. I saw appreciation, and love. A warmth so strong, it would foreground any squalor.
I saw trust. Trust that would be invested in the Viet, like it would be in the world. In foreigners and strangers, like in friends. People will tell you otherwise. At a mere 17, I still disagree. The Viet are not their pick pockets. They are so much more. They’re caring. They’re wise. And they’re willing to teach you, as much as they are to stand beside you. A young Viet on top of the Thien Thao hotel, he looked out through different eyes; our bodies were dressed in different uniforms. What we saw, and what we felt – it was the same.
It was and would be a crazy sense of a world out there. A world so exciting and intense and overwhelming. So bloody two-faced, and somehow still incredibly good-hearted. We don’t have to understand it. But man, if we do anything in this life, we have to see it. We damn have to see it.
Photos taken by Tony Collins