The Red River Diaries
by Aaron Joel Santos
I spent quite a bit of time last month traveling the length of the Red River in Vietnam for an editorial story in The Word magazine. We went by train, bike, and car. The sky was slate gray the entire trip. It rained that misty, incessant kind of rain for days on end. We braced ourselves against boring rural towns and gusts of wind off the Gulf of Tonkin. We thawed our hands in small cafes against even smaller heaters. We complained about the weather. A lot. We met interesting and interested people along the way. We were invited to tea. We were shown into people’s homes. We were told their stories.
The complaining was just habit. It’s what we’ve come to do when we forget how great it is to travel and meet people and see the country from a perspective that most foreigners never get to see. The towns we passed through weren’t tourist towns. They were farming towns. Small places with friendly people curious as to why we were even there in the first place. Forgettable in the overall picture maybe, but a bit poignant when you’re right in the middle of it. Anyway. Here are some pictures from the journey. From Lao Cai to Xuan Thuy, from the China border to the river’s delta.