This year hasn’t been filled with travels yet, so we decided to change that and booked tickets to go to Vietnam for a week. There was no plan and no list of things to do, for the first time we decided to take it as it goes and just hopped on a plane with the whole country in mind but nothing in particular.
Firstly, our plane was delayed 4 hours, which made our arrival pretty much “arrive to the hotel and go to sleep” but there definitely are worse things in life.
We decided to pack light and take only backpacks, therefore I decided to take only my Fuji X100T and a film camera PentaxK1000. I took a tripod as well just in case, but the opportunity to use it didn’t really present itself. I knew, that we are not going there to do my favourite type of photography – landscapes and city scapes, but rather to do a bit of streets and perhaps a few portraits.
One good advise that you can easily find on the Internet but still we managed to fall into the trap – count your money always! The exchange office of the airport managed to forget to give us a few thousand dongs, which is really easy and confusing because there are a lot of thousands and millions that fall into your hands and it feels very overwhelming. Then, don’t take the taxi unless it is the official Vinasun or Mailinh, install Grab application and always use that one. We were naive white people to take a taxi suggested by the guy at the taxi stand of the airport and paid 6 times more than we should have.
It is somewhat annoying that in the South the Vietnamese people will try to rip you off with every chance they have, but for them we are white people with cash… as soon as they hear you speaking English, they will do anything to get your money out of you. It’s not much money most of the time, but still kinda spoils your mood.
So after arriving and taking a good bunch of sleep, we went to explore the streets of Saigon//Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a pretty loud and always buzzing place with tons of people everywhere all the time. When we got out of the hotel, the weather was somewhat nice and sunny.
Instead of breakfast, we decided to plug into the culture right away, and a had a big tasty Pho for a meal… when it started raining. It was raining, and rainng lots.
We found a refuge in the botanical garden and spent 3 hours looking at streams of water pouring down, running around rats and soaking Vietnamese people on their bikes.
Eventually we got tired of waiting for the rain to stop and decided to go spend the next hour in the War Museum. The museum should rather be called “Shame On You Americans” museum, as it is portraying everything in that way. A lot of interesting and horrible photographs and war pieces to see… a lot of lives lost in vain like in every war.
I saw this passport photo of someone outside of the war museum on the grass… wearing a pajama with “I love you” writings on it… really wonder what is the story of this photo.
On the famous bar street of District one, you will find a lot of dirty places full of questionable entertainments that we didn’t partake. Decided to just walk around and choose somewhere to rest our restless bums, we chose a restaurant poorly. The waiters kept telling us that what we want on the menu is not available, but then we kept seeing other people having it… the question remains – if they didn’t want us there, why did they let us in in the first place?
It is curious to see that Vietnamese people for real wearing the famous hats, and tourists buy them in bulk as well (probably to be never worn again). But they seem quite useful against the rain and the sun, and look very nice as well. Definitely add a lot to the snaps for all the tireless street photographers.
Crossing the streets in Vietnam is an interesting sport. Nobody ever stops, even when the light is red so you have to manoeuvre around the traffic, trying to get to the other side of the road. It feels very intimidating at first, but you kind of get a hang of it in a few days. The busses and trucks seem to never stop at the intersections and instead of even checking the surroundings, they beep. Everybody actually beeps. All the time. And you get used to this after a while. The rule of crossing the road in Vietnam seems to be – do not try to cross in front of cars and bigger vehicles, and just confidently walk when the bikes are there, they will go around you.
That seemed to have worked just all right for us.
Saigon can get pretty tiring after a few days of being there, so we booked two tickets on the sleeping bus to take us to the beach side of the country. The next stop is Mui Ne.
But that is a story for another day.