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Travel Log: Vietnam, Part II – “The Arrival” (15 October 2009)

November 25, 2009

Click here to read Part I, “Farewell, USA”

15 October 2009

I realize that I didn’t keep you updated on my adventures in Vietnam.  Well I did send some tweets, but it is not like I forgot about you or don’t love you. I just decided not to post anything without pictures.  They do say a picture is worth a thousand words… Anyway let’s start at the beginning.

Somewhere over Southeast Asia

After an eternity, which is roughly 22 hours for those not in the know, I finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh City.  Knowing that Ho Chi Mihn City (HCMC) is Vietnam’s economic center, I was surprised to find that Saigon’s international terminal was empty.  The terminal was essentially a ghost town, except for the few passengers from my flight and three employees that x-ray your baggage upon exiting the terminal.  My only concern was if my fraternity brother, Loc, forgot me.  All of my plans in HCMC relied upon him and the small fact that I visiting him for his birthday.

I walked up and down the large windows in the airport terminal looking for Loc, I finally found him, and with confidence I stepped out of the airport.  That is when it hit me, my first impression of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City… it is freakin’ hot! I was instantly covered in a layer of sweat from the heat and the humidity.  It felt like a welcoming hug from a shirtless overweight man who just finished running a marathon.  At first it was uncomfortable, but you quickly get used it. After awhile it becomes a comfort and a reminder of where you are.  From the morning until you go to sleep you are embraced by the fat man who is HCMC.

Ho Chi Minh City

A typical scooter cluttered intersection

The heat was constant and didn’t let up throughout my stay in HCMC.  There were sudden rain storms in HCMC, it seems like the locals can tell when it is about to start.  Watch the street, you will see a sudden decrease in motor scooters.  The rain does nothing to alleviate your suffering. You just go from hot and sticky, to hot, sticky and wet.  You can literally be completely soaked in a minute.  It happened to me once and I was in the middle of nowhere with no place to escape from the rain.  I was already soaked so I said screw it and walked back to Loc’s.  I lost a good pair of Puma’s because I was caught unprepared.  The best advice I can give is to duck into a coffee shop and try some of Vietnam’s famous coffee or a bia hoi for a cold beer until the rain passes.  Just take that time to relax and to plan out the rest of your day until the rain stops.

Quick but heavy tropical rainstorms empty the usually scooter-packed streets

The Vietnamese alternative to a cozy fireplace on a rainy day

Jumbled power lines, an example of Vietnam's rush to catch up with the modern world

HCMC is a developing city; evidence of a quick unplanned growth is everywhere. It is the center of Vietnamese economic activity, and you can feel the energy of the city.  The city is trying to update itself and the noise of construction mixes with the traffic of thousands of honking scooters and millions of people going about their day. New and old are thrown together everywhere in no specific order.  HCMC has a long ways to go to be a modern city, there are freeways with on ramps that lead to a dead end, but it has definitely started its course.  Ho Chi Minh City’s charm is that despite all the chaos, it seems like a controlled chaos and the chaos has a life to it that is infectious.  I am sure things will be unrecognizable the next time I visit. I plan to go back even if it is only a couple of days to visit Loc.

Check back for Part III coming soon…

One Comment leave one →
  1. A fan permalink
    November 25, 2009 12:26 PM

    I enjoyed reading of your days in HCMC, especially your creative description of the heat! Can’t wait to read about your other Vietnam adventures and see the pictures of the beautiful country.

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