I left Can Tho, South Vietnam on a very ugly, rainy day. I had a shuttle that picked me up from my hostel and was driven down to the bus station where I was directed to my bus. It was 11am and my ride to Ho Chi Minh City was supposed to be about a 4 hour ride. The bus I got on was a sleeper bus. I was so confused. It’s 11am and we only have a 4 hour ride. Why am I on a sleeper bus? I thought maybe I got on the wrong bus so I asked the woman behind me, and she said yes, going to Ho Chi Minh. Now I’ve only been on one other sleeper bus before and it was nothing like this. It had double beds, like actual beds, and you lay down two to a bed. But that was a night bus that drove all night, so that makes sense.
This particular sleeper bus was the most interesting bus I have ever been on. There are three rows on the bus, each row has two levels of beds. Luckily, I was on the bottom because watching other people trying to climb into the top beds was nothing short of comical. Also, this was the smallest most uncomfortable little seat I have ever been in. It was so small I had to back into. I mean ass first and just basically fall. I couldn’t stretch my legs because this is Vietnam and the average local is 5 feet tall. The seat doesn’t lie all the way down or go all the way up, so you’re basically stuck in a half laying, half sitting position. It was terribly uncomfortable, especially if you’re not going to be sleeping. Did I mention it was 11am, who sleeps at 11am? I typically use bus rides to either work on the blog or read, neither of these things were comfortable to do in these odd beds. Luckily this was a short ride, I couldn’t imagine being on a bus like that for longer than 6 hours.
When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh I got off the bus and was instantly rushed by about 20 dudes trying to get my business. This is my least favorite part about taking buses in SE Asia. It’s so overwhelming to me. You get off the bus, you’re grumpy, hungry and so out of sorts because you don’t know where you are. The taxi drivers will be yelling for your business before you even step off the bus. You’re just trying to get your bags and collect your thoughts but you’re being asked “where you going” by 20 different people. I still have no system for this, I try my best not to scream out loud, only in my head. Typically I go with whoever is in my face in a way that they can’t be ignored.
So I pick my driver, or I guess they actually pick me. He’s on a motorbike but that’s ok with me. I’m always shocked with how much can be carried on a scooter. A 60 inch TV, no problem. Two adults and 3 kids, also no sweat. Me and my two giant backpacks, piece of cake. I give him the address and off we go. I had completely forgotten what I had read about Ho Chi Minh City and the number of motorbikes and the craziness that goes with it. I think the statistic was, there are 8.5 million people and 7 million registered motorbikes, or something like that. It’s complete insanity. There seems to be no traffic rules and it’s a giant free for all. There are very few traffic signals and the ones that do exist aren’t taken seriously. You just go, that’s the only way to explain it. Its absolute madness, but it somehow works. They are very mindful and pay attention to their surroundings. They use the horn A LOT. The noise level is ridiculous. How do they even know who is honking at who when everyone is honking. I don’t understand this technique. This would never fly in the states, that’s all I have to say about that. It’s quite thrilling though.
I arrived safely at my hostel, which was a cheap hostel and I’m always trying to pinch pennies. I now know why it was so cheap. The dorm room that I stayed in was mixed gender, but the 3 nights I was there, I was the only girl. The room was on the 4th flour so lots of stairs to climb everyday. The room was tiny, basically only enough room for the 4 sets of bunk beds and that’s it. Because of the lack of space, the room was always a giant disaster and reeked of dirty boys. One morning I woke up and went to the bathroom (also tiny) and someone had puked in the sink. Thanks guys, that’s awesome. No better way to have your morning ruined than that. The last morning I was there I was leaving to get some breakfast and noticed that the curtains and the wood floor were on fire because someone had lit an oil burning candle, I’m sure to mask the nasty smell of the room, and the whole place could have burnt down. Thank god I got up and was leaving at that moment to catch it before a major disaster. All day long I couldn’t help but think how awful it would have been to lose all my things in a fire.
The hostel was in a great location with everything from shopping, eating and all kinds of entertainment right around every corner. My first day I just wanted some food and to walk around to get my bearings. The hostel was one street away from the popular walking street that is lined with any kind of food imaginable, tons of bars, massage parlors and shops. I stopped into an Indian food restaurant because I was wanting to switch it up a bit. I had an amazing meal and then was ready for a nice walk. I walked around the surrounding blocks, down back alleys and into a beautiful park. The parks in Vietnam are fantastic. They are all very well manicured and most of them have different types of workout equipment. I was shocked at how incorrectly workout equipment can be used and fully entertained by the people watching. I found a bar that had IPA on draft and of course I had to stop. I love IPA’s and hadn’t had one since leaving home. They played a good variety of English music and I sipped my IPA, as if I was in heaven. I called it an early night, as I usually do, and headed back to my hostel to get some sleep.
The next day I woke early and walked to a shopping center that my friend Isabella, who I met on Phu Quoc island, had told me has a good variety of clothes because I was still in search for new clothes. I shopped for a few hours and was able to find some knock off Nike pants and some shorts that I prayed to God would fit. I walked around for a few more hours before I decided to get a much needed massage. I try to get at least one massage in each country that I visit because they are all so different and unique. I sadly didn’t get one in Cambodia, which I regret. So I was long over due. The massage was mediocre, basically just a rub down. Honestly, no complaints though. It more or less just feels good to have some human touch.
That afternoon I met up with Isabella who was also in Ho Chi Minh City. We met at the Post office, which is gorgeous and took photos of that as well as the cathedral across the street. The Cathedral is stunningly beautiful. You can’t go inside because it is under construction, but the photos were enough. We then walked around the city for a bit, stopped for a drink and then got dinner at the same Indian place I had gone the day prior. When we left dinner it had started pouring down rain and we hurried back to my hostel and went to the rooftop bar to hang out for a bit before she headed home.
The next few days I spent doing the hard touristy things that I force myself to do. I went to see the War remnants museum as well as the Chu Chi Tunnels, which I’ll write into a separate blog for you all to cry over. You’re welcome.
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