On our first day in Hue we were collected from the train station, bags and all, and put on motorbikes to tour the area by the Hue Riders. We were led by Bill, who cussed and laughed a lot and told us stories about his time working as a translator for the American Marines during the war. He told us that he was baited by a beautiful spy who convinced him on their first meeting to get married. Before the deed could be done she insisted that he meet her the following day to meet her parents.
“You crazy ass mother-fucker!” one of Bill’s comrades said as he shared his good news. “She’s gonna fuckin kill you you idiot.” I remember Bill’s short arms waving around emphatically in this story’s retelling. “She a fuckin spy!” and so it goes.
I liked Bill’s camo hat and his sharing of himself so unapologetically, even though every other word that spilled out of his mouth was some variation of the f-word. He was for the losing side and risk and he was proud about it.
Bill’s troop took us to what would become my favorite quiet place in Vietnam, Tu Hieu Pagoda, where I snapped my favorite picture from the whole trip.
After coming to this place I knew I could come back to Vietnam just to sit here quietly all day and alone. It felt Jurassic. It felt like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones would come bounding out of the jungle at any moment followed by a troop of the ancient undead. It felt outside of time and forever and still.
I loved it and being there helped me regroup after the news of my father’s passing. For a little while I managed to be calm. Slowly, I started to feel grateful just for having had the opportunity to know this place. After a couple of rough months in South Korea I was excited to travel again and it was looking into that opaque water full of koi fish and turtles that did it for me.
I left the pagoda to rejoin the others a little reluctantly. But being in Bill’s company again just reinforced in me the knowledge that every adventure and road and detour has its own hidden gems.