After writing class, I just couldn't resist bringing Karyn and Eliza to what I'd started to call the Pink Massage Palace. Allison and Kevin and Linda joined us. The six of us were all lined up getting our massage in the same room, the five women in pink and Kevin in black and white striped little shorts. ... [Continue Reading]
The 86 million people living in Vietnam come from 54 distinct ethnic groups. The largest, the Viet, make up 86.4 percent of the population. The other 14 percent is distributed among 53 different ethnic groups, many of whom live in the mountainous regions of the north. These groups share certain similarities, but have distinct dialects, clothing, housing, rituals, village organization, family traditions, and daily way of life. The Ethnology Museum in Hanoi, where we spent a morning, is a stunning representation of these ethnic groups and their way of life. Here are some of the faces of the ethnic people of Vietnam: Fish traps on a bicycle Hmong Clothing ... [Continue Reading]
This morning, we left Hanoi and are now on a three-day, two-night cruise of Ha Long Bay, on a traditional junk, a beautifully appointed ship with sumptuous seafood meals, comfortable cabins, decks open to the vast Vietnamese sky, surrounded on all sides by the giant limestone structures this bay is famous for. Sunsets. Sunrises. Writing and yoga on the deck. Kayaking. Cool clean air. Time to get to know each other over meals that never stop coming. Space for our group to coalesce after the zing of the city. Time to savor beauty. It was almost perfect, but something was still not right: Eli was still missing. Two days ago, back in Hanoi, I'd gotten a text from him: he'd successfully boarded his flight in Chicago. Yes! The Weather Gods had complied with our wishes. They ... [Continue Reading]
Our first morning waking up in Ha Long Bay, we were gifted with our first sunny day of the whole trip, and people happily scrambled for tank tops, sun screen, hats, and sandals. After early morning yoga on the deck and omelets made to order in the galley, we set out on a morning outing by boat to a subsistence fishing village just ten minutes away from where our boat was docked. We tied up at a small dock and six of us at a time got into a sampan, a traditional Vietnamese fishing boat, with a local woman rowing. She took us deep out into Ha Long Bay, and we enjoyed the sunlight and sitting down close to the water. The scenery was spectacular, the calm absolute. I've been in a lot of beautiful places in my life, but Ha Long Bay definitely merits its description ... [Continue Reading]
When Judy and I were planning this trip and I told her I wanted a place to do a writing and yoga intensive, she suggested the Avani resort. I trust Judy and her tour planning implicitly, so I said yes. But aside from a couple of pictures on the website, I hadn't seen the place until we drove up today. When we walked in after a 5 AM departure from Ha Noi, a drive to the airport by bus, an hour and a half hour plane flight, and another hour and a half in a bus, including a bathroom stop at a toilet that was an old school Asian toilet: a hole you squat over on the floor with a bucket of water and a scoop for the "flush," and then more time in the bus . . . and then finally, finally we got here, we walked in and our jaws dropped. We were each handed a cool washcloth, a ginger welcome drink, ... [Continue Reading]
Today, in our first writing class of the day, I talked about the Buddhist concept of "bare attention." Bare attention means deeply looking into something -- just really seeing it deeply. Stopping to really see, to really perceive with our senses. Taking the time to slow down and see. Just noticing what is. It is only from this kind of deep observation that we get to know something intimately - and as writers, that makes it possible for us to describe it in vivid detail. When we look in this way, we see more than just the surface of things. More than what we typically notice when our attention is brief, distracted or cursory. Now that we were slowing down at this resort that has been so carefully orchestrated to be restful, I thought it was a good time to pull out this exercise in ... [Continue Reading]
This is the breakfast buffet. More eye candy. Hmmm...I wonder what I should have for breakfast? Eliza said, "I haven't tasted goat cheese like this since I was in France." She was practically drooling with pleasure.
For one of the prompts in writing group today, I used Eleanor Lerman's poem, Starfish. I wanted to share it with you, on this Virtual Vacation, along with the prompt I gave after I read it in case you want to write along at home. I'm also going to share Joanie's response to the prompt (with her permission) because her piece illustrates the value of the very thing I encouraged everyone to do on the first day of this trip: "Go out and have a little adventure on your own. You never know what you will discover." First here's the poem: Starfish Eleanor Lerman This is what life does. It lets you walk up to the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman down beside you at the counter ... [Continue Reading]
One of the most important things helping people stay grounded and in their bodies, coping with jet lag and different foods, new means of transportation and new beds every few nights is Yoga on the Go. When my partner Karyn said she wanted to come to Vietnam with me, we integrated yoga into our daily schedule. Only we didn't know exactly where we'd be doing it because yoga studios aren't exactly a staple in Vietnam and there weren't any in our hotels. So we knew we'd have to make do and create opportunities for yoga everywhere we went.
When we arrived at the Avani resort, there was a green parallelogram-shaped packet in our rooms that held a number of cards (also parallelogram-shaped) describing the various kinds of spa treatments we could receive. There were massages, facials, body scrubs and baths in three categories: Purify, Balance and Boost, ranging in length from 30 to 90 minutes. The treatments had names like "Gentle Rhythms," "Muscle Melt," "Calming Hydration," "Herbal Harmony," "Foot Joy," "Facial Reviver," and the "Vietnamese Body Ritual." These names were pretty enticing and I liked the geometry of the brochure. Plus while we were at Avani, there was a special on: whatever treatment we bought was extended for an extra 30 minutes. There was also a parallelogram describing the beauty salon: where you could ... [Continue Reading]