Friday, April 17, 2015

Vietnam - Day 2

The digital clock in front of me reads 6:50. I gave up trying to read about 10 minutes before we took our half hour rest stop, so I guess about 6? It was already getting too dark to read. Fortunately for us, the bus is equped with multi-colored lighting along the upper walls, and bluish-purple lights in parallel tracks over my center seat. And by seat I mean upper-level reclining sleeper thingy. Only my recliner back is broken, so I don't sit up. I just lay back and chill. Our best guess is another two to four hours of travel til we reach Da Lat coming from Ho Chi Minh City.
I look over at Randi, "Have we not even been here 48 hours yet?" Already knowing the answer but unable to believe my own math. Maybe its from the insanity of the traffic. Or all the walking we did yesterday. Maybe the countless times we've already said no thank you to hawkers and xe om drivers and shop owners. Even after 1 a.m. the street in front of our hotel was packed with people eating and drinking and selling and soliciting.
We have been bombarded since walking out the doors of the Saigon airport into a steamy throng of people hanging over barricades and waiting to greet somebody. That was just before midnight on Tuesday, and after a 20 minute taxi ride to the backpackers area of district 1 where Randi had reserved us a room we collapsed onto the bed. I say "the bed" because a double room does not mean two beds-it means one double bed. Regardless, at that point the clocks around us said 12:30 am, but all of our friends and family back in the states were just getting ready to eat lunch on Tuesday, since Vietnam is 11 hours ahead of EST. I have no idea how much I actually slept on the plane(s), though I managed to close my eyes on each of them I doubt I ever was asleep for more than 90 minutes.
Neither of us was tired though, so after a check in on Facebook we headed out to the street for some reconnaissance. We were looking for a place to grab something to drink. And I was hungry. And we were just looking. Looking at everything. Because its all so new and amazing. Traveling makes me look around in awe at how the most ordinary daily activities are performed, from collecting trash on the roadside to buying and transporting flat screen TVs. We made it to our room by 2 and maybe we were asleep by 3...but it wasn't sound sleep. And we were awake again by 8, our body's internal clocks still confused and uncertain as to what was going on.
We began our first day in Vietnam slowly, each taking a shower in our bathroom that I really meant to take a picture of. Since I have no picture I'll do my best to describe it. Removable sprayer mounted at shower height on the wall, just a few feet from the toilet. This means you can clean your body, your toilet and the entire bathroom much more easily. Love it. So after our showers and getting dressed for 90+ degree weather we set out our travel mats and did some yoga. Randi let me lead her through some asana, with only a few modifications necessary for her considering she has hurt her hand pretty badly. Oh yeah, how did I get this far without mentioning that when I look over at her she's generally holding her left wrist up slightly with a brace on it! She's using a soft one she picked up in the Tokyo airport while we do yoga, but of course as I write this she has a sturdier one on that the doctors in HCMC gave her after they x-rayed it and told her its fractured. But we didn't know that yet on our first morning as we practiced yoga and then did a short meditation before heading down to breakfast. By this time it was 10 and we decided to stay another night and explore some more without having to worry about our bags or checking out by noon.
We walked a lot that first day. We went to a clinic and for $37 got x-rays and a fancy brace for Randi's hand. She fractured her pinky metacarpal when her bag slipped off her shoulder boarding the plane in Chicago and the strap snagged just her little finger. We took lots of videos of the traffic as we rode around in the taxis, and even a couple while walking across the street, but the craziest stuff seemed to happen when no phone was out to record it, and the videos I made just didn't do justice to the absolute insanity that passes for driving around in Ho Chi Minh City. We visited a museum and then the post office, where after half an hour of attempting get some items packaged and mailed, I realized it would be simpler to cut up the debit cards that I accidentally brought with me and get new ones when I come home.
We shopped the market and got lost and got "massaged" by the blind (Randi said she mostly got pinched and I got petrissaged roughly and we both got lots of tapotement - less than $3 for an hour though) and we were acosted by university students who wanted to practice their English. We finished the night by watching the owner of a guest house across the street beat up a drunk/high white man who seemed intent on adding to the bruises he already had on his face. She was just pushing him away until he bucked up and tried to punch her in the face, then two younger (and much shorter) guys got him down one ground while she broke a plastic chair over his back, Triple H style. Cops eventually arrived and he was sent stumbling away with his shirt torn nearly off his body, the mess was cleaned up and everyone went back to drinking and chatting. After another young Vietnamese began using me for English practice, I decided it was time to head back to the room.
We tried to plan but never really got anything concrete together and ended up drifting off to sleep in the early morning again. Which apparently wasn't soon enough for our bodies, because they conspired to keep us asleep until a phone call from reception asked if we could be sure to check out by noon. I said yes. Maybe I went back to sleep? Then it was noon:30 and we were rushing to pack and get out of the room. After some apologies and settling our room fee - 2 people/2 nights for $40 - they pointed us towards a good pho stand and we shouldered our bags and headed out into the mid-day chaos.
Glad I didn't take a shower after about five minutes of being out on the street, we found our way to a bus station after our noodles and bought two $9 tickets for a 5-9 hour ride on a giant horn-honking machine into the hills of south-central Vietnam. The 50 minute flight only cost $45, but we were too late to get one and we'll be back in HCMC next week with Buds to Blossoms so it was time to go. We are the only two foreigners on the bus, so they just make all the announcements in Vietnamese and ignore us. Good night!

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