I’m currently typing this as I sit in an air-conditioned cofffe bean and tea leaf. Yes, I am aware of the irony of this but you’ll understand why as you read on.
Today is my first full day in Ho Chi Min City and man has it felt like forever to get here. I flew from Seattle to Toyoko yesterday which was a 10 hour flight. It was looooong but thankfully I had an abundance of movies, games, music and books to hold me over. They served 2 meals on flight which were actually not bad. Don’t ask me what the food was because all of the labels were in Japanese. I was, however, so happy to see that ANA’s airline provided napkins made out of recycled green tea leaves! It’s the little things…
It was about 1:30am Pacific Time when we landed in Toyko which if you know even the slightest about me, is way past my bedtime. I fought to keep my eyes open so I didn’t fall asleep and miss my connecting flight to Saigon. After we got settled in our seats and were ready for take off, the captain informed us that we would be delayed due to bad weather. The delay which was originally supposed to be 15 minutes turned out to be 2.5 hours. Luckily, I had a great seat companion who was also traveling to HCMC to meet up with old friends. We got to talking and I learned that he had fought in the Vietnam War back in the 70’s and that this was his first time coming back to the city since then. A random fun fact about Gil: he also used to be a professional skydiver. Fast forward 6.5 hours…
Since we didn’t land in HCMC city until about 1:30am their time, I was worried about navigating my way from the airport to my hostel so late at night. Instead, I tagged on with Gil’s friend ‘s family and 7 of us crammed into one little taxi (baggage included). Gil and I had thought that they would drop us off at the hotel which his friend had already set the price for but instead we ended up going to his friend’s wife’s mothers house. Keep in mind its about 2:30am at this point. They made us take our shoes off at the door and they served us water. At first we thought we might stay at the house with them but then 2 young men (which I assume were her nephews) put us on the back of their motorbikes and drove us to the hotel. Having just riden on the back of Trevor’s motorcycle for the first time on Sunday, I was quite nervous to have two strangers drive us around with no helmets or jackets. But I quickly got over that fear when I realized I had no other choice. Cheers to keeping an open mind!
We finally arrived at the hotel and the owner did not speak a single word of english. We ended up using a lot of hand gestures and I pulled out my google translate app to communicate that we wanted 2 separate rooms. He showed us to our rooms which looked quite decent actually. Unbeknownst to me, it was actually covered in bugs as I got a closer look this morning. I fell asleep around 4am but barley slept and awoke at 6:30am in which I scurried out of there as fast as I could.
I took a taxi this morning to the center of the city and held my breath the entire time. If you’ve ever been to NYC, you know how crazy the taxi drivers can be. Now imagine that on steroids. The main form of transportation here is motorbikes and EVERYONE drives them – the old, the young, the business professionals, the small shop owners and even dogs hehe! I had heard from someone that crossing the street in HCMC is like a game of frogger – they weren’t lying! In just a short half hour of walking, I was almost hit by two separate motorbikes. The drivers here are relentless and they don’t stop for anyone!
I was hoping for an authentic Vietnamese experience and that is exactly what I have gotten so far! But for now, I’m excited to veg out in some AC, drink coffee, and eat some pho (apparently pho is the breakfast of champions in Vietnam) before finding which hostel I am going to stay at tonight. I’m really excited to meet other westerners and start touring the country!