Car horns are honking. All hours of day and night. This is a busy city that I don’t think ever takes a moment to sleep. I arrived after 3 long flights and my fair share of movies, food and books. I am in Vietnam and overwhelmed knowing that I’ve finally arrived. The heat at 1130 in the evening is only matched by the amount of traffic. It’s Saturday night and everyone plus there dog is out. The amount of scooters sharing the roads with taxis and other vehicles is even more then I imagined. And I just saw a man driving his scooter with his dog holding onto the the handlebars. Anything goes around here.
I’ve high fived my taxi driver as we didn’t understand one another but he got me here safely and was happy to escort me across the bustling road, checked in to my hotel and now it’s after midnight and I’m wide awake. Because it’s somewhere near 11 am back home and I feel slightly turned around. After very little sleep and being very thankful for earplugs I decide it’s time to take on the day. The carhorns haven’t stopped and I’m ready to see what this city has to offer in the daylight.
After a nice breakfast at the hotel I’m ready to go. Have I mentioned the coffee here is extraordinary ? So good I had two cups. For anyone that knows me I’ve only started enjoying coffee in the last 6 months or so, and I usually stick to one or two cups a week.. But then I’ve never had coffee like this. Smooth and chocolate-y and beyond description.
I head out the door ready to explore with my only plan to exchange some USD for the Vietnamese dong and get a Vietnamese SIM for my phone. Shouldn’t be too hard, and after wandering I find a few places to grab a SIM. For a few dollars I now have a Vietnamese phone number for the next month. How technology has allowed us to stay in touch with back home is amazing. Wander some more and I realize it’s Sunday. Banks aren’t open. I left on a Friday morning and arrived here on a Saturday just before midnight. Where did those days go? Oh well.. There’s a few other choices for exchanging money and after accomplishing that I continue to wander.
Has anyone ever attempted to cross the streets in Ho Chi Minh city? Well it’s an art form and a science. Hesitate and you might not make it, hurry to fast or slow down and you won’t make it. Instead you just walk. The traffic moves around you. Nothing like countless scooters flowing on every side of you. My advice. Follow the locals the first few times until you understand the art too it. It’s not for the weak at heart.
So I’ve been wandering taking in the culture, the noise and the views. I’ve been offered several rides on the scooters to take me where I’m heading (aimlessly wandering) plenty of fruit and flowers, and food. I’ve declined politely as I have no agenda. I’m just walking.
After going through a market, stopping for another coffee and finding some peace in a gorgeous park in the middle of the hustle I know I’m lost. Not sure what district I’m in, and not worried in the least. I’ve been walking for hours. And the heat is near unbareable. But I love it. I’ve never felt so happy to be lost. Wander some more and I see a few similar faces and storefronts. It’s now early Sunday afternoon and the locals have been sitting on the sidewalks for hours enjoying their beer and playing games with friends. Some sidewalks you squeeze through dozens of scooters parked, and street food carts, and people sitting anywhere that fits for them. “Here miss” and “hello lady” and ” you want” are repeated too me as merchants try to sell me their art, food or a ride to where I’m going… I’ve never quite seen anything like this, there’s an energy to this city and at the same time a calm watching so many locals just relaxing, eating and drinking with no plans of leaving the sidewalks anytime soon.
I enjoy the water out of a coconut and some food at the market that I passed through earlier. Pointing at a picture on the menu of something I want to eat. Banh xeo. A Vietnamese pancake filled with shrimp and bean sprouts, eaten with greens and dipped in chilli flakes and fish sauce. I’ve enjoyed this before back in Calgary and enjoyed here as well. The food here is unreal and I’m looking forward to taking it all in. Arriving back at my hotel I decide to freshen up and nap. The shower feels amazing but the nap doesn’t happen. Back home it’s the middle of the night, but three coffees in and having been in the sun all day, I’m tired but wide awake. I relax and read for a bit and then wander about some more. I’ve been lucky staying at a great hotel the Asian ruby central hotel. The rooms are clean and the air conditioning wonderful. I’m sure it’s a luxury I won’t have everywhere this trip.
The evening comes and I meet up with a girl named Stephanie. I’ve been talking with her online for the last few months. Another traveller set to explore Vietnam without an agenda. We wandered the night markets and enjoy some food. Tonight it’s pho for me, with a few beer. My new friend doesn’t usually enjoy beer, but it’s readily available at every corner, and market, and costing roughly 49 cents American.. She gives it another try. It might take her a few days to see what others enjoy about beer. But I’m enjoying them. Not all the beer is ice cold as we enjoy back home. It’s served with ice here, or 1/2 warm… I don’t mind. It’s part of this busy hubs charm.
Vietnam I’m here, and thankful for my first full day. I was lost but enjoyed the feeling that I had nowhere else to be, so why not take in the moment of being exactly where I am meant to be.