I have to hand it to my Mum and Dad – they’re both terribly good sports! Not only have they had to deal with their eldest son deciding he wanted to move 5,000 miles away from home for an as yet indeterminate length of time, but they have also twice put themselves at my disposal during fortnight long visits to Vietnam.
The first was last year. The second came a few weeks ago, in late April and early May, when Mum and Dad again braved the 24 hour door-to-door journey from Foxhouse Lane, Maghull, to Dang Thai Mai, Ho Tay.
I guess I can be a little ruthless and somewhat unforgiving on my poor parents whenever they come to visit. I’m sure they’d much rather have a fortnight on a beach somewhere exotic, sipping cocktails and reading books, like any sane, normal person. Alas, I seem to have the habit of doing things like putting them on motorbikes and taking them deep into the Vietnamese outback for days on end.
In fact, this time, we even included a trip to Cambodia in our itinerary. That is tropical, lizard infested, giant frog hosting Cambodia. Anyone who knows my Mum will know that, an animal lover though she is, she does not easily befriend any creature lacking fur, and this indeed became a defining feature of our trip – moving from one hotel room to another in a perpetual lizard dodging operation.
Nonetheless, both Mum and Dad continued to embrace another of my potentially ill conceived adventures with laudable aplomb, and we actually ended up having a bloody good old time. We spent a day wandering around the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wat; a night being driven around Saigon eating (amongst other things) grilled frogs, half formed bird fetuses and goat meat; and indeed, three more days perched on the back of motorbikes, this time riding through the baking jungle terrain of the Mekong Delta – a trip as spectacular as it was intensely draining.
Their reward for such exhausting adventure was three days gently roasting in the sun of Phu Quoc, and a further week spent languishing amid the positively luxurious surroundings of Hanoi’s Intercontinental hotel, which has become something of a home from home for my parents. Even then, once safely back in Hanoi I still insisted they board mine and my girlfriend’s motorbikes once more for a short and rather pleasant evening ride around Westlake. We went to see the Hanoi water puppet show, which I can’t recommend enough to anyone coming this way; I sent them on a Vietnamese cooking course, to which I conveniently arrived just in time to eat most of what they’d spent hours cooking (some things never change); and on one final day, I brought them into the school where I work to receive a Vietnamese language lesson from a charming and none-too-little inquisitive group of 8th graders.
Of course, its never easy saying goodbye, and when I finally saw my parents off at the airport on Saturday last week, it was with a discernable lump in my throat. My Mum, brave as ever, fought back tears, probably much better than I did. Alas, I imagine after another slightly frantic holiday, they’re now rather enjoying having a rest safely back at home in a place where the only other non-human creature is the cat.
Having to go long periods of time without seeing loved ones is part of the whole deal you take when you decide to move abroad for however long. You generally can’t have one without the other. Of course, even weekly Skype sessions can’t dull the fact that I do miss my family terribly whilst I’m away. And yet, me coming here has allowed us to experience some utterly wonderful adventures together.
Saying goodbye is always hard. But it just makes me look forward to our next adventures together even more. Just maybe next time we’ll find a place lacking amphibians…