Good morning, Vietnam!
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City last Tuesday, after a long but pleasant flight in from San Francisco. I admit that apart from the country report written by our GiveYourGap intern, I had barely read or prepared myself for this part of the trip. Thus, while walking around Ho Chi Min (aka Saigon), I found myself largely sans bias, expectations or disappointments. (Except, that is, for the lack of great pho).
I spent my first couple of days taking it slow. Very slow. I was returning from back-to-back flights from Bangkok-San Francisco, San Jose-Chicago, San Francisco-Saigon. I slept little and badly while I was home (and in fact haven’t been sleeping well since Nepal). So it was high time for rest. I checked into a hostel on Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker’s district, and did almost no “tourist-ing” whatsoever. I forced myself to go shopping only to find an outfit for the Vietnamese wedding I would attend the next day (that’s another story), but otherwise sat at a Highlands (Vietnam’s equivalent of Starbucks, it seems) and drank copious amounts of vietnamese iced coffee all day. I caught up on emails, Skype chats, hell, I even wrote in my journal. Day #2 at Highlands start and finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
And then, the rest of the girls arrived. It amazed me how much I missed them and how excited I was for our reunion. It had only been about two weeks, but I suppose after spending every waking and sleeping moment with them for the past few months, attachment creeps up on you! Anyways they had taken a bus in from Phonm Penh, and I hung out around the station until they came in (about 6 hours late). There was quite a bit of jumping up and down and yelling each others’ names in elation. I am not ashamed J.
The girls were even more exhausted than I. We met up with our couchsurfer, a Sri Lankan executive and resident of Saigon for about 13 months now. His apartment was located in District 1, the poppin-mainstream district of the city. He set us up in excellent digs, which we used to comfortably catch up on sleep and stories.
Saigon was not all sleep, though! We lived vampire-like lives, going out at night to the renowned lounge Xu and the club-bar Apocalypse Now! (affectionately named Apo). Three nights in a row. Yes. Three. Luckily we were all craving a few good nights out. We are now thoroughly satiated.
I write you now from the Reunification Express train, en route from Saigon to Da Nang, a central Vietnamese beach town. See you again soon!