First impressions of Vietnam

First impressions of Vietnam.

It was a fairly long trip in getting here (well for me quite possibly at any rate) I think that I have been spoiled with my regular trips to bali, I have gotten fairly used to flights only being about 3.5 hours.

The trip itself was quite pleasant, I was seated next to a Russian Kiwi and we spent most of the flight exchanging travel stories and tips, he was on his way to Thailand for 9 days to begin his three months off work and to meet his mother who was going to fly from Russia.  The budget terminal in Singapore hasn’t changed much, I had forgotten how cheap the “expensive airport” food / drink was which made the 4 hour stop over quite bearable, which was a good thing given how wrecked I was feeling from not sleeping.

The flight to Vietnam was uneventful I actually managed to get a bit of sleep which was quite surprising, I remember heading for take off and the next thing was the captain announcing we would shortly be landing in Ho Chi Minh City, so definately a pleasant flight and allowed me to feel not quite as ruined when hitting Vietnam.

The immigration staff seemed surprised that I was prepared, I handed over my passport, letter of authorisation to travel and obtain my visa there and a completed landing card and he hande me the form to fill out and I pointed to the already completed form and he smiled.  Afer about a 20 minute wait I had my visa to enter and exit vietnam multiple times up until the 25th of September and it was off to get stamped and pick up the baggage.

In terms of customs there was no forms to hand in like many countries and drop he bags through a scanner and out the door process took less than a minute.  I have seen a reasonable percentage of the world thus far and it never ceases to amaze me just how serious our customs are compared to all the countries that I have visited around the world, with the only potential difference being the multiple security screenings and checking for liquids that takes place in Indonesia.

With the entry protocols out of the way I headed out the front door to get my first taste of Vietnam to be greeted by a cloudy day, a reasonably warm tempreture, mild humidity and a very loverly breeze.  Any humidity and me doesn’t always mix well and especially given I was ladended down with a heavy backpack and my camera gear I figured I would grab something cool to drink and enjoy the breeze.  I headed to what appears to be a local coffee chain, they had a range of beverages from 40,000 – 80,000 VND so the “expensive airport prices” equated to AU$2 – 4 for a drink, quite reasonable actually.

Ordred myself an iced mocha and sat down to enjoy the mocha, typically I expect my mocha drinks to taste within a certain range based on the variables of the coffee beans used, the chocolate type / how much is used and the local variants of milks and what came out was nothing like I was expecting at all.  Surprise at the taste aside the drink was positively awesome tasting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Armed with a lower core body tempreture and feeling refrehed it was time to grab something small to eat before heading to catch the bus, I figured I would be lazy and western as there was a burger king right there so went bugger it and decided on a quick whopper.  I was just after a burger and thought the price of 110,000 VND was quite steep just for a whopper, but then again similar to home and somewhat to be expected.

I don’t think I properly communicated what I wanted however as what came out was some form of meal deal, it had 2 whoppers a huge serving of chips and a large coke, so in hindsight it was actually extremely good value.  Unfortunately however I was not particularly hungry so the second whopper and chips went to waste, would never say no to a cold beverage so I had a smoke, drank my coke and just generally took in the scenery around me at the airport.

There were two points of note thus far: Burger King was selling beer and their breakfast ranges were crosswiches which looked like really thick crossaints.

After that was out of the way I headed for the bus, the fact that I was so tired was a testament to the point that I didn’t notice when I got on that the door and driver were on the “wrong side” to what I was expecting.  It wasn’t until about half way through the trip that I realised that we were on the right hand side of the road and that the road rules here appear to be based on the American system of driving on the right with the driver being on the left.

The big thing that struck me was the amount of traffic that was on the roads, after travelling to Jakarta I have seen some crazy ass traffic and more scooters than I thought existed on the roads but I think Ho Chi Minh is actually on par if not a little worse in regards to the sheer volume of traffic on the road.  The other thing that struck me when looking out the windows is for the first half pretty much every female that I saw outside the bus had a bun in the oven, I don’t think I have ever seen such a large number of pregnant ladies in such a small sample size before.  Perhaps it is a good thing that I am a. Male b. It’s not safe to drink the water *grins*

We got dropped off at the bus station near Ben Tranh Market and subsequently near where I am staying and it was at this point that I seriously had my comfort zone tested.  Ordinarily I am not a fan of crowds as they make me feel incredibly claustrophobic  however I am able to suspend this when I travel as I understand it to be part of the experience and I simply alter my mental state to accommodate   Usually in the crowded places that I have visted though there is usually a constant ebb and flow of the crowd and it is never usually stagnant so it is not too bad to deal with, and usually I don’t have the zone I consider to be my personal space impeded upon.  Very different at this bus port, I was boxed in with people on all quadrants and no movement and to top it off the tiny bit of space that I did have there were people using to get to another tiny bit of space.  It was rather off putting but I did ok.

The next thing that I learnt is that I am going to have to relearn my concept of crossing the road, zebra crossings here don’t mean any thing and there is not a great deal of traffic lights where I was going to be crossing, and even the one intersection that there was the traffic turning ensured a constant 100% flow of traffic.  After about 5 min I decided to tag with a local, scooters will go around you as you are crossing and for cars you stop and let them go past you before again proceeding.

So the moral of crossing the road here appears to be, take a deep breath and walk out into a constant flow of oncoming traffic, ok then lol.

As I am staying in what is considered to be the backpacker area I expected a large number of people pushing their wares / services but I as pleasantly surprised here, the number was actually quite small and they were the least aggressive of the places I have visited thus far and even the cyclo driver didn’t mind a bit of a chat after I said I wasn’t interested.

There was this one woman that appeared to have a street side cafe that was offering me beer, beer beer as I was walking past and was very surprised when I kept on saying no lol.  I don’t mind a beer but it was not even lunch time yet, and even when travelling I have a general rule that I won’t drink before lunch lol.

Got to the hotel and checked in.  I was not sure what I was expecting checking into a place that charges $17 a night however it managed to take all my expectations and blow them out of the water.  The rooms are not horribly big, however not the smallest I have stayed in either, probably about the right size for what you want out of a small room.

There is a large double bed, about a meter gap with a wardrobe which also has a mini bar in it, a small desk / dressing table next to that and then the door into the ensuite.  In front of the bed there is not quite as much space but still wider than my backpack and a small tv up on the wall.  The only way I would see this room size being a downside is if you had a large number of reasonably sized suitcases.

the ensuite is not large but even me a quite large guy still had plenty of room to move down to the shower, and plenty of room to move about within the shower as well which was good.  In regards to the rest of the rooms features, simply decorated but clean / tidy looking relatively new the bed is quite comfortable and the shower had high pressure and was capable of getting very hot.  Oh and good aircon, got the room quite cold just how I like it.

All in all for $17 a night I am really really impressed, and I would happily stay here again.

I pretty much went straight to sleep and got a good nap, however now it is time for me to see what is around in the local area / have dinner and obtain some more smokes and water.

Overall first impressions of Vietnam:
– Burger King sells beer & their breakfast menu is based on croissants
– Everyone automatically seems to assume that I am American and are surprised when I say Australian
– There appears to be a large number of pregnant women
– I really need to relearn how to cross the road

Thus far things are positive, I am awake and ready to wander the general area  more from me later.

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