Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh – the first 48 hours

It was smooth sailing to Vietnam. Managed to get my sports luggage through as normal checked in baggage and no surcharge. There was an hour delay taking off but what is another hour on a plane when you were going to be there for eleven anyway. Can’t fault the flight or service of Vietnam airlines except for the dodgy inflight entertainment system which kept pausng itself and had limited options anyway. I watched a couple of films, played some games and before I knew it we were almost there. Best airline food I’ve had too.

The daytime flight made it pretty hard to get any solid sleep. Just naps here an there.

The Connection
We landed in Hanoi at half five local time. My connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh left at 7. I had to clear immigration in terminal four which took 45 minutes, grab my luggage which was dumped on the floor by the belt at this point and figure out how to get from terminal four to terminal one. As I ran out I saw a group of four security guards. One pointed outside and right so I started running. There was a t3 and t2 clearly sign posted but nothing about t1. The side of a bus caught my eye. A shuttle to t1. Not a great sign if its so far it needs a bus but better than running with luggage. I hopped on. 8 mins transfer time. There was obviously no queue at the check in at this point. It was time to be at the gate. After a brief discussion at check in about whether or not I should have brought my bags or not it was decided I would run to the gate and they would deal with baggage. Security was fast. I have the x ray bit pretty dialed now. Despite the usual slow group who seem to never have used this before I managed to get to the gate just in time to board. Panic over. No problem sleeping on this flight.

Ho Chi Minh
A mellow connecting flight. No immigration to pass through and bags came out super fast. I walked outside and found my ride within 5 minutes. Perfect. The 20 minute car journey to the hotel had me grinning from ear to ear. All the stereotypes you hear about entire families on mopeds and guys transporting vast amounts of stuff. Bikes weaving in and out of cars and riding alongside each other so closely. So little margin for error, so much beeping. It was organised chaos and so fun to watch. I do not look forward to trying to cross the road. Zebra crossings mean nothing here.

Despite my body clock being at 4am I couldn’t sleep. I decided to go and explore my surrounding’s. Mission one was to get some cash. I withdrew a million dongs. First time I’ve been a millionaire. Turns out that is barely £40. As I cruised around the place is so vibrant and mad. I saw a nice coffee place but couldn’t quite see how to get across the road to it. The only option seemed one step above closing my eyes and running. I opted out and carried on walking. It wasn’t long before I found another cafe on the same side of the road as me.

My million dongs came in the form of two 500k notes. I felt a bit bad ordering a single coffee needing 450k dongs in change but you have to break a big note somehow. After wandering and exploring the heat kicked in so I grabbed an ice cold beer from street vendor. It set me back 40p. I carried on wandering and snapping. I loved the chaos of the mopeds and the mental electrics.

The lack of sleep was kicking in. I headed back to the hotel for a nap. A few hours passed. I showered and went on to find everyone else. The beers flowed freely. Dinner was good then it was on to a street bar. The atmosphere is vibrant. The heat and humidity add to that. The plan was to stay up late so I slept through the night. We called it gone midnight.

I woke up way earlier than I had hoped at half five. At breakfast I was reminded of this mornings itinerary – rent mopeds and race around the city exploring. Never having ridden a bike for more than five minutes down an empty country lane I was pretty nervous. Once we got set up (luckily no bike license or insurance required) and going it was nerve racking to start but I eased into it. Stu and I were the only two who hadn’t ridden before so we lost the main pack early on and made our own way. After a while I started to feel more at ease and enjoyed cruising about. It is not nearly as crazy as it seems from a car, though it is still bonkers.

We had agreed to meet up with the rest of the bike gang at the War Remnants museum – which was sobering. Grim to be honest. After that we rode out together and hit the old market which was classic. Before I knew it we were tearing around in a pack all wearing wigs. A sight to behold.

A shower then a bus to the factory for the festivities. The factory party was wild. We were greeted with a red carpet. We were joining over 1000 employees on their Christmas party. Three hours of eating and drinking later things got pretty merry with a load of dancing.

By the time we got the bus back to the hotel it felt like midnight but in reality it was barely gone eight. The group splintered off. I hung in the lobby for a bit then headed to dinner at a place round the corner in a smaller group. By the time I got back the guys from king of watersports had just arrived after being stuck in Dubai for a day. Having been cooped up for a couple of days travelling they were keen to go eat and drink. We had some drinks in the lobby before heading out for dinner at another place round the corner.Three dinners, as many hours sleep and over almost ten hours of sipping beers was catching up with me. Time to call it a night.

1 Comment

  1. Iain says: Reply

    Nice one Tom. It was a blast.

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