• Moroccan Adventures - Part 1

    After ten amazing days in Morocco, we returned back to bustling Hanoi during the Monday morning rush hour. I don’t even know where to begin to recount our trip – the colorful souks, the stunning countryside, a magical Moroccan-Indian wedding... Our travel itinerary was an ambitious one but it worked out well and our friends’ wedding in Marrakech was truly the icing on the cake. More on the wedding in another post, but boy did we have a good time celebrating.

    After three days of wedding festivities, the four of us (we traveled with two of Pem’s old high school friends, Adrien and Marie) drove up and away to the High Atlas Mountains in search of the Valley of Roses. Two days later, we took in the countryside by train as we traveled northward to Fes. After another two days, we entered the Berber capital of Meknes. And then all too soon it seemed we were back at the Casablanca Mohamed V airport, spending our last dirhams on coffee and trinkets and saying our goodbyes.  

    On our 13 hour return flight from Paris to Hanoi, Pem and I pored over the free newspapers since the in-flight entertainment program wasn’t operating (c’mon Vietnam Airlines! **shakes fist**). Reading the news always seems to break the spell of a great vacation. I also realized that at least for me, browsing for souvenirs in the souks had a similar effect. This was partially because I knew I’d have to lug whatever I purchased back to Asia, but mostly because the browsing, the bargaining and the haggling seemed so out of tune with what I was seeing and feeling. A leather backpack, Berber jewelry, a lantern, brightly colored poterie - all things I thought I wanted to buy for myself and others. But I kept putting it off, not wanting to carry anything unnecessary until our last stop in Meknes, where we arrived on a Friday and found most shops were closed.

    At the Casa airport, I had just ten minutes to find some small trinkets to bring back. I expressed my frustration with Pem, who concluded that nothing had stopped me from doing it earlier in our trip. Though I didn’t take his remark particularly well at the time, he was right. I just didn’t want to bring myself into those situations of being quoted a ridiculous tourist price and sensing that familiar pressure to buy, buy, buy. It’s fun for some, an obligation for others, but I think it’s become unappealing to me because it’s a reminder that any souvenirs I buy will soon turn into exactly what they’re meant to be. Small, inadequate mementos of a particular place at a particular moment, never to be seen again as it was for that very first time.

    “Travel is not about finding something: it’s about getting lost - 
    that is, it is about losing yourself in a place and a moment... It’s nice to see the significant centers of civilization, the important buildings, the monumental landscapes, but what seems most extraordinary is feeling yourself lifted out of your ordinary life into something new.” 
     - quote from Susan Orlean, Best of Travel Writing 2007