By Julia Gordon

Heading to Ho Chi Minh city, a final bus ride I will never forget.

After leaving our guesthouse in Dalat, also home to a wonderful family, whose son serinated us with his lovely performance on the piano each night, playing America’s “greatest” pop hits, and mom who greeted us each time we came in the front door with such excitement and interest, just like my actual mom, except I was more keen to tell guesthouse mom about all the mischief I got myself into while out on the town…just kidding mom I’ll share with you all the juicy details from here on 😉

The hospitality here in Southeast Asia has been so warming, every time we enter a new place to stay we are welcomed with an immediate embrace of genuine love…a feeling sort of like being home. Adapting to the constant change from hostel to the guesthouse to homestay to hostel again has become easier and easier. I would like to think this is mainly because we have become a group of travelers ready to take on the world, but I also think Asia has this certain level of comfort to it that really makes you feel at home where ever you go, either that, or we have been extremely fortunate with our living arrangements…but I trust humanity so I am going to go with the idea that this culture has a wonderfully friendly community that enjoys opening its doors to a group of 14 Americans 🙂

As we waved goodbye to our guesthouse family, we stepped into what seemed to be the most spacious, and quiet form of transportation yet (excluding the sleeper bus and train which were great and would definitely recommend and will be liking them on trip advisor). This bus held 27 seats, seven of which were vacant so we had some space to really stretch out our limbs, which was a total luxury compared to our most previous bus experience going to Can Tho. Luckily that bus ride only lasted four hours, but I think its safe to say that those were some of the longest hours of the trip. Holding around 30 seats, each one filled, plus all of our overly stuffed backpacks piled high in the aisle, Sheldon’s guitar used as a head rest by many, passengers sitting practically on the drivers lap, some young Vietnamese boys hoping on and off using makeshift seats, and to top things off…a bag of live chickens sat in the front seats clucking away, letting out the occasional cockadoodledoooo…which released a roaring of laughter between us all on board, even our bus attendant who very gracefully stood on the stairwell by the door for the whole trip let out a holler of laughter…oh and no bathroom breaks…not one for four bloody hrs…not like any of us would have been able to get out, unless we climbed over the packs the guitar the chickens and then a few pedestrians…so we all had to hold it, an impressive moment to say the least, Taylor our peeing queen even held it in…a new record!

Yes, well this bus, our final one before arriving in Ho Chi Minh has leg room, air conditioning, and vacant seats to extend on…or so we thought…The drivers friend, who I think was a bus attendant of sorts started to pick up stragglers at street corners, and random goods from storefronts or sometimes people just standing on the side of the road threw him some stuff like bird cages (luckily no live birds), all while blasting some crazy loud EDM house party music “3-2-1 LET THE BASE DROP” on repeat…You just can’t have expectations in life, you can be hopeful, but expectations, especially in Asia would just be silly. The final pick up was a family of four, with every seat full, I watched curiously as to how he would go about figuring out this situation. For us in America, we would probably view this as a problem, but in Asia oh no worries…there is always a solution! He scurried his way into the back of the bus, reached down under mine and Laura’s seat, pulled out some stools, and plopped them in the center aisle…BAM! Just like that a new row of seats created…not the most comfortable…but certainly the most efficient…and so our seven hour journey to the city commenced, with a few more stops picking up and dropping off random goods, and people, all while the bus was continuously in motion…this man driving was on a mission…and I just so badly wanted to run up to him and say “sir, excuse me, but what is the rush? It’s just life :)”. I don’t think he would have taken that well or understood me, so I stayed put, with earplugs in.

Everything on this journey has been truly an adventure. Different things that would have absolutely shocked us in the beginning, like the nonstop passing of buses and motorbikes competing to get to their final destinations, the nonexistence of driving in a designated lane, instead motorcycles just getting pushed to the side…literally…some drive up on the sidewalk to get past traffic, babies gripping handlebars of motorbikes while families sandwich behind, chickens, stray dogs, and herds of cows roaming down the road. All of these things seemed strange at first, but now, practically normal…nothing really surprising us anymore, but educating us, forcing us to learn of these new ways of life, that humans just like you and I, live every day.

Never being judgmental or disinterested, but adaptable, understanding, loving, compassionate, savvy, evolved…travelers. An experience one will never forget, a transformation unlike anything else. I feel blessed to have been able to share this journey with 12 strong, beautiful, confident, wise woman (Laura, Eliza, Emma, Ajanay, Emily, Taylor, Iona, Katherine, Kyla, dearest Gracie, and our awesome leader Rachel) and our diligent, patient, caring men (James and Mr. Sheldon). Parents, your Sabai 2017 children have grown and found a new understanding for this wondrous world, and all of its gems…so I thought I should be the one to inform you that your precious little angels…will not be returning home…that’s right; we have all decided to move to a monastery, shave our heads, and worship Buddha…just kidding we will see you in a few short hours 🙂 But we will be practicing our mindfulness trainings…I will be calling each of you who vowed to Buddha and the Plum Village Sangha and we will recite the teachings together, at any time so expect a “good morning wake up please!”;-p

Peace and love to all and I hope you all will be able to sleep well knowing that you will be able to embrace us in your arms very soon…and to my new family, this bond will hold us together forever…we shall remain united until eternity.

May we continue to find peace in every step of life…

…and breathe, you’re alive 😉

Much Love,
Malee (your holy flower)


Grace, Julia, and Laura in a restauraunt in Saigon.



Scuba diving off of Pho Quoc, Vietnam.



Streets of Dalat.



Crowded bus ride in Vietnam.



Heading out on a hike in Vietnam.



Local guest house sign in Vietnam.