August 27, 2014
Hanoi, Vietnam

I spent the entire day doing walking tours around Hanoi, eating all of the food, getting lost in all of the tiny alleys, taking all of the photos. It's so hot here, so muggy. I let the light gret tank top sit in my bag and opted for black shorts and a black tank for the day to hide what I like to call my "efficient cooling system" (so sweaty). This has turned out to be a terrible, terrible mistake. I didn't realize until I got back to the hostel, finally looking at myself in a mirror for the first time all day, that I have bright white salt lines all over my shirt and shorts from my sweat. I'm disgusting. Where can I hide?

September 04, 2014
Phong Nha, Vietnam

The first day of the Tu Lan Jungle/Cave trip we had the most beautiful weather. Perfectly sunny, yet hot and 100% humid, like every other day in Vietnam. Decked out in full length paths, long sleeve shirt, waterproof back pack, helmet with headlamp, and sneakers (I opted for my own shoes instead of of the Vietnamese Army boots; this was actually a terrible decision that I will get to later) our group of eight people headed off on the 12km trek through the jungle to different caves where we learned about native creatures and rock formations. Squeezing my American-sized hips without disrupting any stalagmites or stalactites was nothing short of a miracle.  

The final cave we ventured through to get to our campsite was a "wet cave" meaning we had to jump into an underground river, the only light coming from our headlamps. Luckily the waterproof pack also acted as a floatation device; we floated through the darkness like turtles. I hear the guide yell "don't go over the waterfall!" as we near the opening. Panic sets in as I start to hear the water roar get louder; I frantically doggy paddle to the right, bobbling to the landing, desperately pulling myself out of the water. It's only then that I realize the "waterfall" wasn't nearly the drop I had envisioned. More of a slight decline over a couple rocks and emptying out into a small lake. Panic very unnecessary. 

I slept that night in a sleeping bag hammock tied between two trees at the mouth of a cave, dozing off to the sounds of the rushing "waterfall."


On the second day mother nature quickly turned on us. Within an hour of the finish line; the unrelenting sun was swallowed by dark clouds that opened up, drowning out our vision in a downpour. Lighting bolts looked close enough to touch; the cracks of thunder bounced from one side of the valley we were treking through to the other; ricocheting off of the towering limestone mountains. The last major obstacle to conquer was crossing the river. The rain effected the levels within minutes, causing the water to spill onto its banks. Though it was flowing gently yesterday, the river was now filled with angry rapids. The porter quickly swam to the opposite bank, stretching a thick rope to the other side. Barely five feet tall, he held one end while our guild held the other as we each took turns jumping into the rushing stream, now far too deep to touch the bottom, and pull ourselves across to the opposite bank. The lightening still overhead, I made it to the other side but was barely able to drag myself away from the river because the path, now soaked from the monsoon, has turned to thick slippery clay. My sneakers could not grip the ground like the army boots did; I was unable to stay upright for more than a few steps – I gathered chunks of the earth under my feet with every step. The tiny porter, maybe half my size, had to push and pull me along the path until we finally reached grass.