After our final Skype, we worked out that I would be arriving in Vietnam a whole 10 hours before Sharzy did. Essentially I won the pleasure of spending an extra day of wondering around, making friends and dying of heat.
As I said, I really didn’t have any expectations of Ho Chi Minh City. I didn’t even Google it to see what it looked like. Honestly, I didn’t really know much about Vietnam in general so after landing there, everything was like a huge surprise. The entire ride from the airport to my guesthouse was spent peering out of the back window with eyes of wonder like a child discovering buildings, people and transport for the first time. In some way, I had the guilty/naive thought that Vietnam would be similar to India but man oh man, was I wrong. Just because they are both in Asia, the fact they are completely different in their cultures, government and geographical locations – there is literally no basis for comparison.
I remember the first four things that came into my mind within driving for about 20 minutes.
- This city is seriously, almost ridiculously, too clean.
- There are far less people here than I had imagined there to be
- They have some really smooth roads (I think that’s just something only a South African would notice almost immediately)
- Its hotter than the Thar desert
I booked us in a guesthouse called Kim Hotel. It’s run by a lady named Kim, who is about the most beautiful grandmother I had ever met (she looked like she was about 30 years years old), also she speaks fantastic English and loves to talk to her guests. The rooms are bright and big, with an aircon and fan, an en-suite bathroom and windows that can open (trust me some places don’t care much for air). There is even a balcony right at the top of the hotel with a little garden and table. Its situated perpendicular to one of the most famous backpacking streets – so literally the location is about perfect for solo travelers because everything is within walking distance.
I was sitting in the lobby when Kevin, Rachel and Chris walked in with a guitar and some music equipment. Between the quick chats, I found out that that Kevin is a musician (if you’re in Ho Chi Minh, go check him live, he’s an awesome fusion of folk and country and rap). They were on their way to a bar in another part of the city for a gig. Naturally I tagged along and quite frankly, nothing quite beats the night life in Ho Chi Minh. Its a city bursting with talent, culture and fun. Its almost a fusion of East and West and its a kind of vibe that can’t really be described – I walked a large part of it between each gig and got to notice all the small things while on foot.
Keeping true to being the hungry friend, I ate some amazing traditional Vietnamese street food on the way to one of the gigs closer to the guesthouse. It was Rachel’s recommendation and I was not disappointed. For like 30 000 VDN we ate like royalty although we literally sat on the ground because street chairs aren’t really taller than 15 cm. But hey, when in Vietnam. . .
I absolutely loved tagging around with a band for the day that turned into night because they were an absolute blast; we drank beers, we danced and we sang, it was a perfect first day in a foreign country. After all this adventuring, I managed to make it back just in time to welcome Sharzy! Although at 11pm, the backpacking scene in Ho Chi Minh is still not close to closing.