One of the commonalities of my sea kayak expeditions is that wherever we go, people are not surprised to see us there in boats. They might not be familiar with the shape or design, the materials or the colors, but they always understand what it's like to be on the water, to be navigating in a small boat.
Taking kayaks to explore the coast of Vietnam made perfect sense, allowing us to reach corners of the country rarely visited by outsiders. That the government in Hanoi was not convinced it was a good idea became simply another part of the adventure.
One thing that drew me to Vietnam was the people. We traveled mostly in the north - kayaking 800 miles, from the border with China to south of Hoi An - and along the way met thousands of people whose lives were played out on the sea. This woman's job? Renting beach chairs, north of Danang.
We traveled through Vietnam 25 years after what is known there as the 'American War' had finished. We found that the people we met were as curious about us as we were about them. We would see these round, reed boats - tarred on the bottom to keep them from leaking - as far as five miles out to sea.
Getting our kayaks to the shore was not always simple. Here, in Hoi An, we hired cyclos to carry us to the water's edge.
As we traveled down the coastline - from the limestone islands of Halong Bay to the wide sand beaches near Danang - we were invited into many homes. This woman, a Catholic in a primarily Buddhist nation, lived on the Ken Ga River.
One advantage of this expedition was that we didn't have to carry much food with us, since we could buy fresh fish and produce every day. Here Polly Green and I are offered a just-caught squid, by one of the 'floating 7-11s' we encountered all along the coast.
One-third of Vietnam's 80 million people live along the coast, and make their living off the sea. Polly Green paddles past a line of squid boats near the port at Dong Hoi.
The remnants of war are everywhere in Vietnam. We visited the battlefield at Khe Sanh, where this young girl sat on an abandoned American tank. One of the expedition's goals was to provide a glimpse into the lives of Vietnamese today, twenty five years after its most recent war.
The most beautiful thing we saw as we kayaked down the coast was these elegant fishing nets. Strung from a rough-hewn, stilted house, the nets are lowered below the surface of the water using hand-and-foot cranks; an hour or two later they are pulled back up, and the gathered fish emptied. Often they are worked 24 hours a day by a husband-and-wife couple.
A boy on his bike, outside Hue, the imperial capital of Vietnam.
Poling towards the sea near Dong Hoi, our 800-mile expedition nearly complete, I'm doing what my teammates sometimes say I do best: Standing around with my hands in my pockets!