I can hear the wheels turning in your head. Probably saying, See? Traveling solo is not safe, Vietnam is dangerous. But before you go gung-ho on me about the pitfalls of traveling, let me clarify things.
It’s not the place; it’s me. I’ve had a rotten luck of putting myself unintentionally in unfortunate circumstances, and yet coming away unscathed most of the time. Totally oxymoronic.
Upon arrival, I was about to take a nap, but sleep was elusive, plus I was hungry; I explored the city right away. After getting lost (which I’m quite adept at, plus it was hard to ask directions because most people don’t speak English), maneuvering my way around hordes of vehicles, and bargaining at the market, I’ve decided to call it a day. However, earlier that day, I’ve met some expats who invited me to different parties that night. Ho Chin Minh city was bustling because of the holiday. I was ready to settle for the evening, at 7 P.M. only to realize few minutes after, how foolish I was. So I’ve contacted them and accepted the invite. I told them I was too tired to party and I would rather have a relaxing evening: have some coffee or a glass or margarita, great but not so loud music, and great conversations. “We know just the right place for that,” they said. Since I didn’t know my way around town, they assigned someone to pick me up.
When I went down to the lobby, I noticed a tall, good-looking guy with gorgeous long hair holding a helmet (I am loyal, doesn’t mean I’m blind), asking, “Lo?”. So I smiled sheepishly and replied, “Oh yeah, that’s me!”
I could not help but stare at his gorgeous long hair. You had to excuse me; I could not help it. Before flying to Vietnam, I decided I didn’t want to worry about my hair, so I had a perm. Unfortunately, it went haywire (no pun intended). A, before I left Cebu could not help but tease me(at least he held the laughter). I looked like Jennifer Lopez on crack having a bad hair day. Although I was flippant about it, stating, “It’s just hair (which I believe most of the time)!”. A moment like that, where a guy had better hair than you did and your hair looked like you were electrocuted; Whew! My self-esteem could only take as much.
Upon seeing the motorcycle, I commented, “Please don’t kill me.” He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. Although, it’s weird that every time I drive around with my girlfriend, she always gets into an accident; six times”.
I looked at him and exclaimed, “Is that supposed to make me feel better! That you almost killed her six times?”
“No, she was not riding with me. She was driving her motorcycle. That’s why I pick you alone”, Z explained. Oh gee, that was a relief. It was a bit disconcerting to see all these motorcycles coming everywhere, but I was enjoying the ride at the same time.
We met the group at a local hang-out. I had a fantastic time, but around 3 A.M. I was about to conk out. Before driving me back to the hotel, they told me that, “If police stop us, we don’t speak English and let’s talk in Spanish.” I asked why. Z replied, “To pretend that we don’t understand if they ask for money. ¿Claro?” I replied, “Claro que sí!”
We were 5 minutes away to my hotel, about to turn left when suddenly out of nowhere, a vehicle carrying pigs, was barreling towards us. I didn’t even get to shout a warning. All I could think was, “I’m going to die among the pigs.” In that few seconds, I prayed (I am agnostic). Then Blam! The vehicle hit us but somehow missed both our legs. I wasn’t sure if it was the prayer or just plain luck. Coming from the Philippines, I thought we would stop; people were going to get angry and shout at each other. No shouting, nada. We just continued like nothing happened. Must be an ordinary day-by-day occurrence. Even in crossing the busy streets, you just cross, the motorcycles just sidestep around you and no one’s yelling to ask if you are trying to kill yourself.
When we arrived at the hotel, still a bit shaky, I bid adieu, but they wanted to wait until I could get in safe. But just my luck, the gate of the hotel was closed. I had to bang the gate and shouted a bit for them to let me in. After 10 minutes of banging, I was finally off to la la land.
After that, somehow things gets easier, and my remaining days in Saigon, I spent sightseeing, eating and walking around the city.
Things I’ve Seen in Ho Chi Minh City
Cu Chi Tunnels
Please make sure to pronounce it correctly. I mentioned Chu Chi tunnels to the Uber driver who could not speak English; the 30-minute ride became an hour ride, not to mention the cost. Since the cost of going there was exorbitant because of my mistake. We ended up riding a public bus going back to the city. It was fascinating to see all these vegetables and motorcycles inside the bus.
Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), a.k.a Reunification Palace
By the time we arrived here, I was already exhausted from walking and also from the heat.
Saigon Skydeck: Bitexco Financial Tower
Other Fun Things to Do in Saigon
- walk in the Park
- play shuttlecock with the locals
- eat street food
- cross the streets
Staying in HCMC for three nights was enough for me to appreciate the place and not get tired of it. So I was ready to move on and go to my next destination.