Sweating my ass off and going bananas in Hanoi

View from the top of the Mua Caves

View from the top of the Mua Caves

I didn't write much while I was in Hanoi because my first two weeks were pretty slow. After tracks started up and I joined a day trip in Week 4, now I feel like I have enough to share. Here's what I got up to all month:

Sharpening my relaxation skills

When you think of Asia, what comes to mind? The food? The humidity? The mind-blowing world-famous massages? Ding!

Homeboy clearly loves his job

Homeboy clearly loves his job

My first track was to visit a popular massage parlor that pretty exclusively employs the blind and teaches them ancient massage techniques, conversational English, and helps them with other life skills. 

We went to meet the staff, learn the techniques ourselves, and then each get a 75-minute massage. It was heaven. 

When we arrived, the staff played guitar and sang a famous song from Hanoi about following your dreams and believing in yourself. It was the cutest thing ever. And my massage was great.

The ancient techniques were a bit awkward and I felt like I was just punching and slapping my partner's back. (Sorry, Nora...) Very glad the actual massage did not include them. 

My other track was to visit a knife-making village in the outskirts of Hanoi to forge my own knife! It was super badass. But painfully hot.

It's already miserably sweaty just walking around, but we were in an open-faced building doing physical labor near extremely hot coals. My shirt was soaked by the end of the day and I had a pretty nasty blister on my hand from carving the handle.

My knife came out pretty good, though!

The block of wood for the handle and the knife to carve it

The block of wood for the handle and the knife to carve it

Finished product!

Finished product!

First, we cut the blade shape from a sheet of steel. Then we took turns firing and hammering it, then polishing and sharping it. In the meantime, we were given a block of wood and a long scythe-like blade to carve the handle. The trick was to tuck the handle under your arm and use your knee as leverage while you pulled the wood against the blade to carve it. Hence, where my blister came from. #ouch

Nihn Bihn

My one and only trip out of the city was a day packed with adventure. First, I took a ride up to Hoa Lu to visit the ancient temples and learn about the establishing monarchies of Vietnam.

Then we came around to Tam Coc to take a boat ride down the river and through some epic caves. The guide rowed the boat with his feet! It was pretty impressive. The views felt like I stepped into a screensaver.

Finally, we wrapped the day up at the Mua Caves, which aren't really caves at all, but mountains. I'm not sure why they call it that.

Anyway, we were there to hoof it up 500 giant steps to reach a temple at the top of the mountain. There, were we able to look down on the river we just floated through.

I was winded, drenched with sweat, and one of the last to reach the top, but I did it, damnit. 

hanoi vietnam remote year atlas hiking mua caves

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Atlas Got Talent

Our farewell party in Hanoi was so much fun because we hosted it as a talent show. With this stone-cold pack of weirdos, you know some shit was about to go down.

We had impersonations, dancing, juggling, water chugging, and a custom song about all of us. It was hilarious and inspiring and such a great night of bonding.

See all our amazing acts here 
(Thanks, Barbara!)

Fruit Suit Riot

Team Fruit Salad FTW

Team Fruit Salad FTW

Somehow we got the crazy idea to each purchase these painfully tacky fruit print outfits seen in every shop around Hanoi and wear them on transition day. Because, Atlas.

The participation rate was pretty impressive and resulted in a cluster of about 35 idiots dressed in obnoxiously bright patterns walking through the airport together. Some people stared, some people took pictures, and many just pointed and laughed.

In one overhead conversation, a Korean family thought we were on a TV show. (Psst, Remote Year, there's an idea... $$$)

We ended up making complete asses of ourselves and got a bit too rowdy, but it was far and away my favorite transition day ever. These crazy kids give me life.

A lovely bunch of coconuts

A lovely bunch of coconuts

Up next: Chiang Mai

I've been in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a week and already I feel much more relaxed. I had a pretty incredible week and I can't wait to tell you all about it! Subscribe now so you don't miss my update.

I've got some great stuff planned and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the month.


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