I woke this morning with the news of Anthony Bourdain's passing. Lost in my thoughts today, I'm instantly transported back to Vietnam longing for a bowl of bún chả, (grilled pork and noodles served with herbs and dipping sauce) the dish Bourdain famously shared with Obama in Hanoi just over 2 years ago.
My husband (by way of work friends) introduced me to bún chả. It's a dish I've grown fond of, like many other Vietnamese and Southeast Asian delights. It's comfort food. It's a great meal to share with friends, and I am lucky to have done just that on more than one occasion. Seated on a low plastic stool with a cold bia (Vietnamese for beer) - there is nothing quite like the experience - the flavor of the spiced pork cannot be beat. It's a small portion and yet, I always seem to leave with my heart and belly full.
If you're ever in Saigon and looking for an authentic spot, check out Quán Bún Chả Ánh Hồng at 31 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
As I reflect on the circumstances of our life overseas, and our sudden transition repatriating at the end of last year, I have no regrets. It's something I remember saying the moment I learned we would be moving back [home] to the United States, and never more relevant than today. In the Parts Unknown episode from Bourdain's 2016 visit to Hanoi, he appropriately sums up my feelings about our time in Vietnam:
"It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever."
Vietnam is part of me and I will wear that badge proudly.
A brilliant chef and storyteller, Bourdain's journeys shaped my travel aspirations and empowered me to get uncomfortable: "As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” I came away from our life abroad with physical scars - the ones on my left leg mark my ACL reconstruction surgery in Bangkok and the twisted box jellyfish tentacles from the Philippines still show on my right - but as they fade, the memories of those adventures remain. Our travels during the past 4 years have truly been a gift. We have encountered places...cultures...foods that we had once only dreamed of, often sharing these experiences with friends or family in tow. I am grateful to the people around the world that opened my eyes to the new. To the unknown.
Until the next adventure...