Ni Hao Ma?

i spent the month of January traveling through China.  China.   CHINA.  And dipped briefly into Vietnam.  It was very surreal and very super.  I’d like to post some excerpts from my leather-bound travel journal, accompanied by photographs of the wildest, strangest, most frightfully hilarious place I have ever been.

January 6th, 2011.

The bus ride from Nanning, China to the Vietnamese border was five hours.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring Nicholas Cage played continuously.  I talked to a soft-spoken, kind-eyed Vietnamese teenager named “Nam” in his broken English for the entire ride.  I don’t think he knew his name was how vets abbreviated his country.  He was from Hanoi but studied in China.  He had been hopping from bus to bus for five days to make it back to his family for the New Year.  He said his overgrown cocaine pinky nail was for scratching.  Later, he finished the rest of his blow before his father picked him up at the border.  He told me that once Vietnamese girls find a boyfriend, they stop speaking with other men.  I asked him if his girlfriend talked to other guys.  He quietly responded, “yes, becuss i let her.”  I asked him if his girlfriend and his female best-friend get along.  He paused to search for words.  “They play wis each ozzer while i am away.”  Nicholas Cage shot magic from his wand.  Nam smiled at the bus TV.  “Oh.  I…lub…Nicholas…Cage.”

Vietnam is a completely different animal.  We left China through Friendship Pass.  How optimistic.  The border is a haphazard mob waving passports at three military-clad agents behind glass.  Halfway down the list of forbidden items on a hanging placard reads “NO ANIMAL CARESSES”.  It may have been worth risking my camera being smashed on the tile floor by a Chinese police officer for a picture.  We drove through hills of burnt red mud, past terraces of dry rice paddy stubble.  Straw, conical farmer’s hats spotted the fields.  Arbitrary trash fires, haze, and people just shivering.  Not shivering while doing something else but shivering as if it were its own complete activity.  Closer to the capital city, old men gather and chitchat on exit ramps.  Old women sell fruit to bikers on the side of the highway under bright red Party billboards.

 

Don't Do It
Since 1998
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