Ho Chi Minh City – Melbourne
Alarm wakes me up.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
One, it means that I was actually asleep, and two, I still had the ability to actually wake up.
So, how do I feel?
I feel woeful.
I’d given up on hopefully feeling better, but I hadn’t expected to feel this much worse.
Although, having to spend half an hour on the toilet at 3.30am, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised.
A quick shower, and I force myself to go downstairs for breakfast.
There’s plenty to choose from, and it looks magnificent!
Pho, rice paper seafood rolls, other assorted delicacies, fruit.
There’s just heaps of it, and, appearance wise, it’s probably the best we’ve seen.
But I just can’t stomach it.
The thought of eating any of it just makes me feel sick.
I hate that.
I hate that I feel this way.
The guy who helped us with our bags yesterday is here in the dining room helping the other guests with their breakfast.
He greets us as we walk in.
“Good morning”, he says, in the most cheerful of ways.
And with the most cheerful of expressions.
And with not an ounce of insincerity.
Gee, I envy ‘morning’ people…..
“Please, would you like to try our pho?”
“Good morning……..ummm, no,……….sorry……..no,…….I can’t……. thank you”, I somehow stammer out.
“Okay, what about our rice paper rolls with prawns?”, as I pick up a slice of bread.
“I’m really sorry, I’d love to, but I just can’t…….. I don’t feel…….”, I try to reply.
He doesn’t really want to hear, ‘no’.
I don’t want to actually say, ‘no’, but I don’t have a choice.
I hate that.
I place my bread in the toaster.
I’m having toast for my last breakfast in Vietnam.
I just can’t believe it.
I’m so frustrated. And I’m so disappointed.
It was never meant to finish like this.
I feel like crying…..
I force myself to eat my toast with strawberry jam. It’s hard work.
The breakfast guy comes back.
“Would you like Vietnamese coffee?”, he asks, with his same cheerful manner.
“Uhhhh,……I…….ummm, I can’t. I’m really sorry……., I just….. can’t. I don’t feel well…..”.
I can’t believe it. I can’t even stomach a drink; not even a caphe sua da; a drink that, apart from beer, I have enjoyed more than any other drink while we’ve been here.
I just can’t believe it.
He gives up on me.
I suspect he thinks I’m one of those people that are too scared to try something different. Only interested in eating the same things they eat at home, and not prepared to experience something new.
That hurts me. But I don’t blame him if he does.
He just seems so passionate about his job. He was the same yesterday.
He looks so happy; always has a smile on his face. Nothing ever seems to be too much trouble.
But I think I’ve broken him.
And I really, really hate that.
The agony finally comes to an end, and we head back to the room to complete one of the jobs I least like doing; packing for the final time.
Once done, we head back downstairs and leave our bags at reception.
We still have two hours before we need to make our way to the airport, and as much as I really don’t feel like going outside, I really feel like I need to salvage something from our remaining time.
We head out and make our way up to Tao Dan Park.
The park was also on my list of things to do and see. Mainly for the bird café, but as it’s now 10.00am, I suspect we’ve missed that.
It’s already incredibly hot, which isn’t helping with the way I feel. Walking the wrong way at one point, just adds to it.
Finally, we get to the park.
It’s nice. It’s a little cooler, and it’s kind of calming.
I’m not sure why I think that; maybe it’s just because we’re in HCMC and it’s nice to get away from the traffic and the noise.
Not sure I’ve ever felt that way in a park before.
There’s not too many people around, in fact there are quite possibly more park workers than visitors.
They really do spend a lot of time and effort on keeping their parks looking good. And there really is something about a freshly swept lawn.
We eventually get to the bird café, and yep, as expected, there’s no one really there. Damn it, missed seeing it.
We head back out on to the streets and make our way down to the Bui Vien area for one last look. We also need to find another place that sells those neck pillows.
I can’t go back to the same place from yesterday.
Swallowing food at the moment is an issue; swallowing pride would be worse…..
On the way down, the usual sights come into view, as well as the familiar smells that waft around you from time to time.
While in the past I’ve found them a little unpleasant, I notice that they’re actually making me feel worse, now.
We get to Bui Vien and drop into a Circle K to get a couple of Cokes. Yep, so many other options, and we end up with Coke…..
We find a souvenir shop a little bit further on, and sure enough, they have neck pillows.
A total of 200 000 Dong for two of them, is agreed upon.
So yeah, a good deal, in the end.
Was going to have to pay 180 000 Dong yesterday……
We continue down Bui Vien and then start making our way back towards the hotel. But this time, seeing as we still have a bit of time, we head back the long way.
And yep, once again, the map lets me down. Different city; same result…..
Kind of ironic, in a way. Finishing our 40 something day in Vietnam, just like we did on our very first day in Vietnam 18 months ago, by getting lost.
Yep, even though we’ve come a long way, some things never change……
Map, and or, map reading skills, finally come good, and we find our way back.
The air conditioning in the hotel foyer hits you in the same way that the heats does when you go outside. Only difference is that one helps the recuperation process, and the other doesn’t.
We spend the next 20 minutes just relaxing and getting our breath back, while watching the comings and goings of hotel visitors.
Including the local guy wearing a lovely pair of pink shorts, with matching pink shirt. Along with a pair of very unattractive sunglasses.
He looks a million dollars.
Well, he thinks he does…..
Finally, the time arrives, and we ask our bubbly doorman / breakfast guy to arrange a taxi for us.
He obliges with a smile, as I’m sure he always does.
I always dread this part. The leaving bit. I hate it.
But this is a bit different. I just want to get it done.
While I’m absolutely dreading the next 15 or so hours; and I mean seriously dreading; to the point of being scared; I actually want to leave.
And I really, really hate that I feel that way.
It worries me, too.
I actually wonder if this will be the last time I visit Vietnam. Will I return as I always thought I would.
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
And I hate that, too.
We bid farewell to quite possibly the friendliest hotel staff we’ve encountered, with the final bit of advice that the taxi fare should be no more than 150 000 Dong, and we’re on our way.
The traffic is both madness and quintessential HCMC.
It’s fun, but also a little frustrating.
I spend the whole time soaking in the sights, but also wondering if this is the last time I’ll experience it.
Geez, I’m pissed off……
I start to see familiar sights, and quickly; which is a little unusual for me, particularly today; realise we’re coming up towards the bridge that goes over the canal, that we stayed opposite just two weeks earlier.
I think about texting Pierre and telling him to wave to us as we go across.
We should be easy to spot; we’re in a Vinusun taxi!
If you know the bridge, and the traffic, then you’ll realise that I am well and truly being facetious.
There seem to be three types of vehicles that use that bridge; motorbikes, Mai Linh taxis, and Vinusun taxis.
I end up not bothering. I can’t type that quickly, and I’m not sure I can look down for that long, anyway…..
We finally get to the airport, neither scammed nor overcharged, and make our way inside.
The check in for our flight has not yet opened, so we sit and wait. And wait….
Lisa’s happy; she has a book.
I don’t. Not that I’d read it anyway.
Instead, rather than sitting there doing nothing, I decide to go and sit and do ‘nothing’ in the toilets.
I am seriously worried about the next 15 hours, so much so, that I’d even go so far as to say that I was sh*tting myself.
But that would be a particularly bad pun…..
Finally, there’s movement at our check in counter. Mainly on our side of the desk, though, as the queue continues to grow.
Lisa then remembers how much quicker it was when we left Melbourne, after checking in on line prior. She then proceeds to do the same on her tablet.
Check in complete, queue avoided, bags dropped.
Hmmm, knew there was a reason I brought her along….
We make our way to smiling, happy people, that are immigration, and then head off to the departure gate.
I’ve never left Tan Son Nhat airport from the international terminal before, but it seems really busy. A little chaotic, even.
A big storm has just hit, and I suspect that that may have something to do with it.
Lisa sits; and reads; as Lisa does, but I can’t.
Aimlessly, around the airport.
But aimless walking around an airport has nothing on aimless walking around Hanoi.
And once again, I wonder if I’ll ever do that again…..
I can’t believe I’m thinking that, and I can’t believe it may well be a possibility.
I’m so pissed off.
Eventually I tire of the sterile nature of the airport, along with the overpriced souvenirs marked in US dollars, and head back to annoy Lisa.
The plane due at our boarding gate before our flight, has only just arrived. Which is just wonderful…..
Sure enough, a call comes over moving us to another gate.
Just getting better…..
Finally, eventually……., finally, we’re on the plane and up in the air.
Only about 45 minutes late, but it feels so much longer.
But then the time watching begins. We only have a couple of hours stopover in Singapore before our flight to Melbourne.
Was all going reasonably well, until we ended up in a holding pattern over Singapore….
Eventually they found room for us to make our way down to the ground, and once again we were back in quaint little Changi Airport.
Because we’re a little pushed for time, we head straight to the gate that we need.
Much to Lisa’s annoyance…..
She wants something to eat, and when Lisa wants something to eat, well……
I’m happy to get something, even though I really don’t need anything, or want anything for that matter, but I need to find our gate.
It was a good idea. Well, I thought it was a good idea.
It turns out that it was at the other end of the airport. I’m not sure there were too many gates further on, after ours.
In fact, I think we were now closer to HCMC airport than the gate we landed at…..
Gate found, we head back to feed the disgruntled one. I also partake in some overpriced, and overrated, airport food.
We stop in at one of those airport shops that sell everything, and buy some ridiculously expensive almonds to eat on the plane as a snack.
Still cheaper than what they’d be charging on our low cost carrier service, however.
Almost didn’t happen though; the shop’s eftpos machine wasn’t overly enamoured with Lisa’s eftpos card.
That’s okay, though, I wasn’t overly enamoured with Lisa at that point, either.
The feeling may have been mutual…..
But seriously, it just seemed that everything we did today, seemed to take extraordinarily longer than it should have.
Probably starting at 3.30am this morning……
Finally, back at the gate, and just for good measure, a little more waiting, awaited.
And then!, the boarding call comes.
We let the impatient go, and then make our way up.
I go to place my wallet in a tray to be scanned, and the security guy tells me I can leave it in my pocket.
“Oh, okay”, I think, and walk through, slightly perplexed.
The metal detector alarm goes off.
The security guy comes up to me.
“What do you have in your pocket?”, he says, in a fairly serious tone.
Now just a little bit more perplexed, and wondering if I’m being set up here, I answer, “Ummm, my wallet……???”.
He asks me to take it out, and I then get a free ‘pat down’.
I want to tell him we could have saved a bit of time here, but I don’t.
Maybe he just liked me….
It just seems to continue how everything else has gone today, and, to be honest, I’ve given up caring.
Anyway, I actually found it quite funny.
Finally on the plane, finally pushed back, and finally in the air.
Apart from this last leg, the holiday is done.
The two and a half weeks; six months in the planning and thinking; is done.
I can’t believe it.
And at the moment, I’m struggling to remember much of what we’ve done.
I’m annoyed, actually no, I’m angry that something else came along and impacted my enjoyment of something that I’d been looking forward to so much, and for so long.
Yep, I’m really pissed off.
Fortunately, the flight goes better than I thought it would. I actually get a bit of sleep (with the help of my 100 000 Dong neck pillow) and also manage to keep away from the smallest room on the plane.
The other passengers have no idea how lucky they were……
We get home without incident; although Lisa was concerned that she should mention to the customs guy (who was surprisingly happy and pleasant), that the shoes that she wore in Pu Luong, ‘may’ have a little dirt on them, even though they didn’t.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed.
Which, like finding a happy and pleasant customs guy, was kind of surprising….
We get home by 8.00am, and within a few hours, I’m driving the boy down to play football.
So, how did the sickness pan out?
I hoped it would clear up after we returned home.
I put up with it for another week, before I relented and went to the Doctor’s.
He asked me what I had eaten over there, and where we had eaten.
The street food answer shocked him, and hearing about the snails appalled him.
I was happy with that.
He gave me two choices on how to treat it.
One – I could supply a sample and have it analysed.
I instantly dismissed that, as trying to ‘catch’ it would not only be problematic, it would be downright messy.
Or two – he could prescribe an antibiotic that would kill whatever it was that I had. He suspected that it was just a bug; traveller’s belly, or some such thing; from something that I had eaten. Not actually food poisoning, but some bug or parasite that I’d picked up.
As I wasn’t overly concerned about knowing exactly what it was; as well as not being remotely interested in getting up close and personal with what was coming out of me; I went down the antibiotic path.
A week later, and a fairly long week at that, I was pretty much back to normal.
Well, as normal as I can be…..