Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
As you can probably guess from my previous post about my experience flying, I’m having a pretty good time so far. I wouldn’t say it’s a good time because of how “fun” it is, but rather a good time because of how “new” it is. With nothing being within the norms of my so-called “comfort zone”, I’m travelling on the path not travelled, seeing the sites never seen, and meeting people never met. When this happens, in anybody’s life, they typically have a good time from the start, and I’m no exception.
The second plane ride, which travelled from Tokyo, Japan to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, wasn’t nearly as pleasant for me as the first flight was. It was the same airline, and perhaps even some of the same flight attendants, however the experience of flying was far different the second time around. Truth is, having been only a mere hour and a half since I got off a big plane, I didn’t exactly feel pumped to get on another. The food was just as good, and so were the movie choices, but Hang and I were really starting to feel tired, and were getting pretty sick of being cramped up on airplanes. Luckily, this flight was only five and a half hours long, and we arrived safely in Ho Chi Minh City by 9:30pm (May 26th, local time).
The city was very pretty at night when viewed from above. The vast array of oranges, purples, blues, greens, yellows, and reds made it quite clear that the large city Ho Chi Minh was a place that never slept.
Upon landing, Hang and I made our way through the seemingly deserted airport and over toward an area on the far side of the place with the sign reading: “Landing Visa.” There, I presented my Passport and approval letter for the Vietnam Visa, and after 20 minutes or so, paid the $50 fee and took my Visa through baggage check and down the stairs to the front of the airport. It was at this point that I knew the airport wasn’t deserted at all… it was actually a very… very… crowded place.
It reminded me of a rock concert for Bon Jovi or a similar big name. The big glass doors opened, and revealed hundreds of people waiting on the other side of a roped area (like a crowd looking at a crime scene over a police line). The people were loud and holding up big signs with names, looking for those that had arrived from afar. The heat was evident right away as well, being far hotter than I had imagined it would be for being night time. If I had to guess, I’d say it was 82 degrees Fahrenheit… and very humid. If the heat is like this at nighttime… I can’t really think about how it will be in the day time… Wow.
I followed Hang through the roped area’s cleared alleyway, and we quickly found her parents. They looked just as they did in the photos. Hang told me that people don’t really shake hands here, and I was told that I should give a small bow to her parents and say “chào bác”, which is like saying “hi” formally with respect. This didn’t really happen as planned, however, because her father immediately came over and reached out to shake my hand, saying “Hi.” I could tell just by looking at Hang that she was even surprised by this. Her mother gave me a hug and handed me some flowers as a gift as well. Overall, it was a very warm welcome to Vietnam.
We loaded luggage in the van, and proceeded immediately to head toward a restaurant for some Phở, a delicious traditional Vietnamese meal with beef, noodles, bean sprouts, and various other ingredients. They all knew I liked Phở already, so it was just someplace they wanted to take me to start things off in Vietnam, which was wonderful gesture. The restaurant was small, a bit dingy, and used small plastic stools for chairs… but it was still a great time and I liked it.
After the meal, we headed across town through traffic (which I’ll explain the insanity of that later), and pulled up to Hang’s home… It was time to get some rest and finally start my Asian vacation.