Ho Chi Minh City
Out the main doors of the terminal.
Heat, humidity, crowds, noise.
Yep, no mistaking where we are.
The last time we were here (around 18 months ago) we were waiting to board a flight to Nha Trang.
We’d spent little more than a day and a half in HCMC, followed by a couple of nights in the Mekong, before returning to get that flight to Nha Trang.
To be honest, we weren’t overly sad to be leaving HCMC.
Little did I know at the time, I wouldn’t be overly happy visiting Nha Trang.
But anyway, I digress. Happens now and then…..
HCMC just hadn’t grabbed us last time. And at the time, it was those things that I just mentioned.
Heat, humidity, crowds, noise. Oh, and the smells. That was the other thing that stuck in my mind.
As well as my nose…..
But it wasn’t until we were at least half way through our last trip that I realised that we were judging HCMC a little unfairly.
Arriving after a very long night of very little sleep, into our first ever overseas city, well, it kind of hit us pretty hard.
Like being hit over the head with 10 sledge hammers. Or what I imagine 10 sledge hammers would feel like…..
We needed to see this city again. To see if we were right the first time, or to see if the place looks different, now that we are looking at it through eyes that have experienced four weeks of Vietnam.
Keep an open mind. Keep an open mind……
Now on the other side of those doors, scanning the many, many faces for Dirty Pierre.
Surely it won’t be difficult to spot him?
There aren’t too many in Vietnam that look like him.
And then a voice!
“That’s right! Just walk right past me!”
Ah ha! Found him!
Well, not really.
Very nice to see a familiar face.
And even better than that?
He has two cans of beer in a small plastic bag with ice.
It takes considerable power to resist the temptation to show over the top affection.
Fortunately, for DP, I do.
Exchange of pleasantries and we’re off. Next job; a taxi.
Ignore, or dismiss with the wave of a hand, all the taxi touts that seem to appear from nowhere.
Ahhh, that’s what we’re looking for! A Mai Linh taxi Marshall.
“Yes, a Mai Linh taxi please”.
And we’re quickly ushered into the familiar looking green taxi. Too easy!
Before too long, we’re out in the middle of it. Cars, motorbikes, buses. People.
Horns a tooting; constantly.
We’re back, I’m now fully awake (partly because the water from the ice is dripping down my leg) and I’m loving it!
I needn’t have worried about not feeling ready for it.
I kind of felt like I’d come home.
With the help of DP’s directions, the taxi eventually pulls up outside our accommodation.
Struggling out of the car, more interested in protecting my two beers than looking out for our bags, we make our way over to the entrance and take a seat on one of the two concrete benches out the front.
Two things enter my mind at this point.
One – why is it, after a day that began by sitting in a car, followed by sitting in an airport departure lounge, then sitting on a plane for eight hours, followed by sitting in another airport, then sitting on another plane for two hours, sitting at the VOA counter and then sitting in a taxi, and now, finally free of all that, and utterly sick of sitting, I then choose to sit down?
Doesn’t really make sense….
And two – is there another country in the world that makes harder seats than the Vietnamese?
If there is, I’m not sure I want to go there…..
We’re introduced to DP’s step mother Annette, who happens to be paying him a visit, and then one of the beers is finally cracked.
A better tasting beer than this? Probably, but I’m struggling to recall.
Lisa decides that she’ll have the other one.
For the first time in over 21 years, I question our marriage.
I then surrender meekly……
Beers done, we take our bags upstairs.
Robert, the hotel owner’s son, offers to carry our big bag.
“No, no”, I say, “It’s fine, I’ll do it”.
By the time I get to the third floor I regret my insistence on doing the job myself.
Lisa’s complaints about the stairs are falling on deaf ears.
Partly because she took my other beer, but mainly because she’s not the one carrying the bag.
Bag disposed of, it’s back to do the stairs thing again.
Outside again and DP is showing us around his neighbourhood.
Down a narrow, and very dark, alley, and then out onto a fairly deserted street. This is where the market is during the day, apparently.
Good! I love markets.
DP, who is taking his step mum to the dentist early the next morning, points out an area where he recommends we get breakfast from tomorrow.
Excellent! Mental picture taken.
On we walk, past small groups of, mainly men, sitting, chatting, drinking, whatever.
Most turn to see the three ‘strange’ westerners. Interested, actually probably more surprised, to see us there.
Numerous smiles and ‘hellos’ are directed our way. It’s nice. It’s comforting. I like the area already.
We get to a woman selling some kind of milky, desserty type thing with jellies and ice.
Ooooh, ice…….. Nothing like getting sick on the day you arrive…..
It’s a favourite of DP’s, apparently. No, not the getting sick from ice.
Actually suspect this was the reason for showing us around.
We all order one and sit down to chat and increase our sugar levels.
It’s nice. And quite refreshing. It ain’t beer, but it’s alright.
Dessert done, about the same time that I realise I’m done, and we head back to the hotel.
It has been a very long day and I’m spent.
Time for bed. The adventure begins tomorrow.