Saturday, 8 March 2014

First Port: Ho Chi Minh

Day 1, March 6th

We arrive in Ho Chi Minh at 7am, with very little sleep and a few strange meals in our stomach's from the flight. After getting our visas sorted we find a taxi to take us further into the city; the airport is already pretty central. I immediately realise that everything you hear about the traffic and driving in Ho Chi Minh is true, and Mark and I giggle nervously in the back seat all the way to the hotel. There is no order, just honking and swerving.

After dropping our bags off we head into the city with no idea where the best sights are or what to expect from the city. Our street is crowded with street food vendors and scooters and we spend much of the walk dodging one or the other and hopping over tree roots! Its noisy, smelly and humid.

We bravely cross the road making a beeline for a park and somewhere cool to sit. Nearby an older Vietnamese lady is doing some sort of gentle exercise which consists of wiggling on the spot and shimmying her arms back and fourth. A man is fishing in the lily pond.

Later, after a long nap, we stumble into the backpacker district for happy hour cocktails and n*sync in the rooftop bar. We find out more things are true; the beer is cheaper than water, and the pho really is about £1. Around 11pm the traffic dies down and we finally sleep.

Day 2, March 7th

We wake up rested and eager to see more of the city. We grab a taxi to Notre Dame Cathedral which is beautiful. Around the square 3 separate brides are having their wedding photos taken with their new husbands. After our first delicious iced coffee and a little breakfast we mosey to the lovely Tao Dan Park past the Reunification Palace.

Then more iced coffee and scooter watching before planning out how long we might survive based on the days spending and another bowl of pho. We spend the afternoon in the War Remnants Museum which is sad, shocking and so recent for many of the other visitors.

Cheering ourselves up, we saunter down the pretty boulevards towards the river front, passing the Ho Chi Minh statue, fountains and designer shops. This really could be Paris and we soon realise the restaurant prices are similar. Its a beautiful part of the city though.

Staring out across the water, the eastern bank is empty except for a small church. Its green and quiet. I start to look forward to seeing our new home in Tan An.

We head back to the backpacker scene for dinner, discontented with the idea of paying more than £3 for a meal, and treat ourselves to some of the beautifully decorated cakes from the bakery near the hotel.

Day 3, March 8th

After a disturbed and restless sleep we are awake before 6am. Isn't it strange how couples do that, feel each others feelings, be it not sleeping, wanting something or thinking something together.

This day is more relaxed. We pop for morning coffee and a pastry, I nap for an hour. Then we buy our sim cards and visit the awe inspiring Xa Loi Pagoda, a Buddhist temple. The air here is filled with incense and Mark and I must use separate stairs to reach the entrance. Its a moment of stillness in a city of chaos that I wish I could bottle and carry with me down the busy street. I say a prayer to myself then visit the shrine to the many Buddhist monks who have sacrificed themselves through self-immolation including Thich Quan Duc.

In the afternoon Mark gets to nap,  and is excited about the Southampton game he will be able to watch later that night.