3 January 2011:
Have been awake since 2:30am. After only 4 hours' sleep, I look as though I've been dragged face first through a thick, thorny hedge and now somewhat resemble Uncle Fester, although with more hair. Note to self: studiously avoid looking into any mirrors for the foreseeable future. Option 2: large black sunglasses and a headscarf.
First order of the day is a cup of tea. So many thoughts swirling around in my head, but at the moment they're disappearing like mist before I can formulate them properly. As organised as I am, I've come to dread the final hours before travelling. Self doubt rushes forth to attack my confidence and I'm fearful that I've forgotten something really important. You'd think after so many years of extensive travel, I'd have had this sorted by now. Passport, tickets, money. Passport, tickets, money. They're the only things that actually count. Everything else can be improvised along the way (and has been from time to time). Quickly jot down some friends' addresses so I can send postcards. In these days where communication is mostly electronic and constricted down to some form of hieroglyphics that would baffle even the Egyptians, I like nothing better than to take the time to hand write cards and letters to people I love. There are still those of us left in society who appreciate the beauty of whole words and complete sentences resplendent with grammar and punctuation. Quite frankly, the thought of writing "c u l8r" to someone in any form of communication is about as attractive as having cholera.
My dreams last night (for the brief period I was actually somnolent) revolved around silk lanterns, food markets, a fug of pollution, French pastries and cocktails at the Majestic. I am aquiver with anticipation and just hope that the reality of the trip lives up to the mental expectations I've created in the itinerary. Travel excursions can be a bit like men - half the fun is talking about them. The other half is thinking about them. The creature itself has very little to do with anything at all, and when it manifests into reality, can be frightfully disappointing. And that's the fun part.....
At least travel excursions usually end in the acquisition of several pairs of shoes, or shiny pretty things, which are never disappointing and actually bring real comfort to a girl when most needed (which comfort I find is mostly necessary after being disappointed by a man). The combination of pretty shoes, alcohol and a bucket of ice-cream three times the size of one's head is bound to make any girl forget any unpleasantness in life, especially when taken in company with one's best girlfriends and a sooky dog. There's an upside to everything if one looks hard enough.
Time to shower and gird my loins for the first sector of our trip - Brisvegas to Darwin. We've got a 6 hour stopover in the northern capital, which under most international human rights conventions constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. On the upside, going via Darwin means that it's then only four and a half hours to Saigon from there. That's infinitely preferable to being stuck in a shiny, skinny flying incubator of all things bacterial and disgusting for 12 hours straight.
I hope to be able to grab some sleep at various points before we arrive in Saigon. One advantage of being somewhat vertically challenged is that confinement into small spaces and airline seats isn't the torture it might be for someone who takes up more room on the planet. Both of my companions are very tall and their journey will be far less comfortable than mine. I am exceedingly grateful for small mercies.
It's difficult to believe that five months of planning is now firmly in the midst of fruition. Fingers crossed that all will be wonderful, and that my optimistic nature will prevail in every interesting situation which might come before us. I really want the girls to have the best trip ever and hope that I can do my best to ensure that this happens for them.
Bon voyage to the Silk Boot Club.......bye bye Brisvegas and hello Hoi An!