I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. Touch. This post is number four in my five part series on the how Vietnam stimulates all the senses and, for me, I think that this post is the most challenging to write. I’m used to writing about how food tastes or smells, and I found the post on sounds very easy to write as well.
But, touch. It’s hard to describe touch. And, besides clothes and each other, what do we really TOUCH when we travel? There’s a great quote in the film Eat, Pray, Love that I keep thinking about as I write this post. The character Elizabeth is in India and she’s sitting down to have a soda. Her companion stops her before she can take a sip from the bottle and hands her a straw, saying “Don’t touch anything in India except yourself.”
Fairly good advice in a country like Vietnam as well, where hygiene standards aren’t quite what we’re used to. Bottles are reused, chopsticks are merely rinsed and reused, bathrooms are hardly ever scrubbed down.
Yet, despite this, there are things that you feel in Vietnam, touches you might not even be aware of. For me, the main one is damp. Every single place that we’ve visited, every hotel room we’ve stayed in, every cafe we’ve stopped at for a coffee feels vaguely damp. This tropical country gets plenty of rain and the air is always humid. There’s a stickiness in the air. It makes the pages in our notebooks swell up, makes our clothes always feel slightly cold to the touch. The damp feeling never goes away here.
As I type this I’m sitting on what is possibly the worst mattress in the world. We’ve been living in this hotel in Hue for a month now and I simply cannot seem to get used to this mattress. In fact, every mattress that we’ve slept on so far in Vietnam has been terrible. Hard and bumpy with coils poking you in the ribs, these mattresses are certainly a touch that I won’t miss when we leave Vietnam.
A touch that I will miss, that I’ll dream of, is the feeling of the sun on my shoulders here in Hue. Being in the centre of the country, Hue still gets lovely, sunny tropical days… but the sun isn’t as strong and painful as it is in the south. Instead, the sun in Hue is warm, gentle, often tempered by a breeze off the river. It’s the touch of a perfect spring day.
And, finally, my favourite touch in Vietnam, and anywhere, is Andy’s touch. His warm hand holding mine as he guides us through the swarming motobike traffic, his strong arms picking me up to pop my back after a night on this mattress, his kisses as we walk home in the misting rain at night. His touch is the best touch of all, no matter where we are in the world.