It’s a universal truth that travel can be about discovery and exploration. Finding new horizons to seek out and exploring a new unknown. I hunger for the chance to find someplace new. But even with that said, one of my greatest traveling joys might come as a surprise. Given the chance to explore, one of my first inclinations is to return to a place I have visited in the past.
There is something primal about returning to a location from the past. It comes from a deep place somewhere between recapturing old feelings, to the pull of familiar tastes, smells and emotions that hooked me on that place years before. It almost feels counterintuitive. Traveling to find the familiar. Traveling not to discover something new, but to revisit the past.
Such was the case yesterday with my a long overdue return to Vietnam and the old district here in Hanoi. More specially, a single busy street corner in this evolving and ancient city. This place is a little slice of afternoon heaven combining several of my favorite things in life. The end of day ritual of relaxation that includes a cold draft beer and nothing more than the chance to sit back and breathe deep – reflecting on the days accomplishments or lack of depending on the my luck.
It’s a Vietnamese beer hall nothing more. A place mostly filled with locals. A few Anglos joining in to keep it interesting. The patrons spill onto the street corner as the tiny interior inevitably fills. The best seats are directly on the sidewalk that boarders the pub. Peanut shells and spilled beer are pretty much everywhere. Small blue plastic stools and tables barely large enough to hold an average American body strain under any weight. Scooter traffic streams by as the staff slings beer and food tallying your consumption on a small clipboard they place at your feet. About as simple of an operation as you could imagine – it hits all the necessary requirements as the late afternoon light fades into evening.
Sure you can drink beer on many street corners in the world. But there is something about this street corner. Something about this beer and the painful way the chairs hit you right in the middle of the back. It takes me back to a feeling I had the first time I traveled here. The excitement of discovery I felt on Day One in this amazing country.
My anxiety to arrive here had grown all day. Afraid my little corner of heaven would be gone. Wiped out by a developers dream project.
No need to fear. The one place I hoped would transport me back in time had not become another casualty of change. The memories were still with me – trapped in the deep corners of my psyche. I just needed this place to truly feel them again.