top of page
IMG_2282.jpg

Vietnam 2024

Updated: Feb 28


My adventure in Southeast Asia started with Vietnam. I booked an 11-day experience with PrestiGo Asia. It was different to my usual trips and came with many challenges. I was very nervous, but knew I wanted to go and prove myself and others wrong.  



The flight couldn’t have gone better; I didn’t have a seizure and the journey was luxurious! The airline was not aware of my epilepsy, I made the decision to keep it from them due to their strict policies. This was another airline where I had to fill out a 6-page form and have a doctor stamp it both for the outward and inward journeys. This would be impossible to do in Asia. I was also anxious and not prepared to deal with the fuss of it all. Despite the progress made by most airports in adopting the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme to promote inclusivity, it's disheartening to observe that many airline companies still lag behind in understanding and accommodating the needs of passengers with invisible disabilities. Individuals with epilepsy should not feel they have to hide their condition in fear of being treated differently and having jump through hoops.  

  

When I landed in Vietnam, I was met with a further challenge on my first day. What I had thought would be a group tour turned out to be mostly a solo trip! Anxious, I messaged PrestiGo Asia to enquire about the itinerary and their swift response assured me that someone would collect me for a tour in a few days and until then I had free time to myself. With my worries eased, I started to embrace solo travel. I made the decision to book a day tour of Hanoi for the following day and enjoyed a stunningly delicious green papaya salad. 

 

My 11 days in Vietnam were packed and I did a tour every day, so only the highlights will be mentioned in this blog. Most tours ended by 3pm, giving me the opportunity to wind down in the evenings. I spent quite a few days in Hanoi, which I didn’t like due to the chaos, fast drivers and speed it was developing. A highlight was a visit to the Vietnamese Ethnology Museum which had some fascinating exhibits (although I didn’t like seeing the ivory). I was astonished at how well Ho Chi Minh's body was preserved.  


On the day of the planned tour, I waited to be collected as advised, wondering whether this was a scam or if someone really was coming. Fortunately, my ride came at 11.30 to take me on a food tour. Although fairly stressful due to the ED voice telling me that I would be putting on weight I was not exercising, I was able to tell it to F off and enjoy the delicious cuisine. Egg coffee was intriguing! It was a unique experience to taste the famous drink, in the café where it was founded.

I realised on this day that the ‘group’ tour wasn’t going to be what I had expected, and I would be with new people every day. This felt like a challenge with lots of memory, life management skills and responsibility needed. That evening I felt anxious, but I managed this by applying deep breathing techniques and looking at photos of mountains to calm myself and feel happy. All the while, I reminded myself that although this was going to be a challenge, I enjoy a challenge, it will be very rewarding and it was a brilliant opportunity to test myself and prove everyone wrong. Another mountain to climb!  


On one evening, I was collected from the hotel at 8pm and dropped at the train station for a night train. Although very anxious, I communicated with an also confused French couple who helped me get on the right train. It proved to be quite an adventure, as I shared a tiny but cosy cabin with a friendly Vietnamese woman. My worries ended when I was awakened by the melodic strains of Vietnamese music, and relieved to find someone waiting for me at the train station upon arrival in Sa Pa. 


When I saw the breath-taking mountains, I was so happy. I finally knew why I’d chosen Vietnam. This two-day tour near Sa Pa lead us walking through bamboo forests and two distinct villages, each offering a unique glimpse into local life. We stayed in a homestay, which I always love. Other tourists were very nice too, and I struck up a friendship with a young American couple, with whom I embarked on an additional afternoon walk. I was heartened by their understanding and normalisation of my epilepsy. On this occasion, I appreciated the sense of community that group travel brings. 


I decided to do a bus journey back to Hanoi, and I'm so glad I did. I had a small cabin to myself, and the ride treated me to breath-taking views of mountains and forests. I wasn’t too happy to be returning to hectic Hanoi, but the next day I would be going on to Ha Long Bay and I was excited. 


The morning brought anticipation as I set off for my one-night cruise. Despite the unpleasant weather, the beauty of Ha Long Bay still stood out. We kayaked and swam. I seized the chance to swim over to a remote, tiny beach, accompanied by our guide who paddled alongside me. Everyone there questioned me doing it due to how far away it was, but much to their surprise, I managed it easily and they were very impressed; I felt proud of myself. Our journey also included a wonderful walk to explore some captivating caves. The natural beauty left me utterly enchanted. Once back at the hotel, I knew I needed a break from people and learning, so I took my first rest of the holiday.   


The hardest part of the trip was on Phu Quoc Island. I enjoyed the freedom to explore without any scheduled tours. However, I stayed at a Spa resort surrounded by families, this caused some feelings of loneliness to set in. As sadness and the weight of past traumas resurfaced, I decided to keep myself busy. So I hired a private tour guide for a day and together we visited a number of sights including the largest pearl museum in Vietnam and the historical prison. I also did the world's longest cable car, which ended at a disappointingly commercialised theme park, replacing what used to be a forest. The island's capitalism left a sour taste, and I vowed not to return.  


I also embarked on a snorkelling adventure, and it proved to be an enjoyable experience as the muted underwater colours came to life with the vibrant hues of the reef.  


The final day was in Ho Chi Minh City. It was not the green city I was expecting, but I was still eager to explore. I embarked on a three-hour tour led by a spirited woman in her thirties. We took in many sights including the temples and prison. The highlight had to be a motorbike ride across the city - a thrilling and exhilarating experience. I was reminded how much I enjoyed solo travel. Although challenging, I couldn’t have felt more freedom.  


Although the ED is always a struggle when travelling, I've come to understand that purging will not lead to weight loss and that I don't need to exercise daily to maintain my health. This trip in particular taught me to appreciate my body and embrace confidence in myself.

 

As I boarded the plane for Bangkok, off to the next part of my adventure, a swell of pride washed over me. I thought about the personal mountains I had conquered on my journey so far. I had battled bulimia while going without intense exercise. I'd had to trust a new tour company, after difficult past experiences, and I was able to effectively communicate with strangers, encountering some wonderful people along the way. I visited multiple airports, despite anxiety from previous airport traumas. I embraced independence and navigated last-minute challenges with initiative, all while managing to keep panic at bay. These triumphs felt similar of the sense of accomplishment I experienced after completing Road Safety Week, an affirmation of my resilience and inner strength.  


Traveling solo has truly given me a sense of liberation that is incomparable. Despite initial opposition from my parents, I am determined to continue embarking on solo trips in the future. This trip has also reassured me that I have a toolbox of strategies under my belt that I can use to manage my anxiety, PTSD, bulimia and epilepsy, and this helps me to take control and gives me confidence to climb life’s mountains.   

 



21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page