ELEVENTH MOVEMENT: VIETNAM
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Kiss me goodbye and write me while I’m gone,
Goodbye my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam.
I woke up today and tried my best to quietly get ready and pack my bags in the dark as my roommates slept. I then went downstairs and waited for my ride to the bus that would take me in to Vietnam today. At 08:40, the minivan had arrived at the hostel to take myself and two other guests to the bus; we drove through Phnom Penh and reached the side of the road where the bus was parked (this was not a bus terminal). We then entered the bus and found our assigned seats; after 09:10, the bus drove off, heading east and picking up some additional passengers along the way. During the entire bus ride we were treated to three Jackie Chan films (‘CZ12’, ‘The Karate Kid’, and ‘The Medallion) that were horribly dubbed in Cambodian – a female voice read the lines of each character with little-to-no change in her voice between characters. I mostly watched the action of each film, but was for the most part disappointed in how over the top it all was; I also, read the Book of Songs and looked out at the Southeast Asian countryside. After about three hours of driving, we stopped for a lunch break just short of the border (I just had iced tea); then we drove on to the Cambodian exit point and we were stamped out of the country; we then loaded back on the bus and drove to the Vietnamese entry point; here we grabbed all of our bags and waited for our passports to be stamped in (our bus staff collected all of our passports and the immigration official went through each one, then the bus company employee would call our names out as they were approved for entry); once I collected my passport, I proceeded to customs and had my bags scanned for anything illegal (presumably); I then waited outside with the rest of our passengers for our bus to be hosed down, rinsed of all the Cambodian dirt. We then loaded our bags and ourselves back in to the bus and drove through the Vietnamese countryside to the city formerly known as Saigon. In another three hours we arrived at the city bus terminal and I exited the bus, grabbed my bags, used the wifi on the bus to determine where I was, and then I walked the short distance to the hostel I had made a reservation with the night before. I checked in to the hostel, walked up the four flights of stairs to my room, dropped my bags off and grabbed my camera, and then headed out in to the bustling city.
I walked northeast toward Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, stopping at an HSBC bank for five million dong (236.13 USD) along the way (I’m a millionaire again!). I then reached the cathedral and walked around it, but since it had just past 16:00, I could not enter (closed to visitors); I then walked to the Independence Palace (also known as the “Reunification Palace”), which used to be residence and office of the South Vietnamese president during the war; this historical site was also closed to additional visitors due to the time of day. So I walked onward around the city and stopped at a Trung Nguyên Coffee shop (the largest domestic coffee brand in Vietnam), where I had a small portion of “Motherland” coffee, which was locally produced Vietnamese coffee with a ginger flavor – it was very delicious and I will have to stop at this coffee chain again in the near future to try their other products; it is also worth noting that Ho Chi Minh City is full of cafes and coffee shops (they love their coffee here, no wonder they’re a communist country, it’s just like in Vienna at the turn of the last century where all the revolutionaries would hang out in cafes discussing their grand plans to force everyone to “equality” – that is, everyone except the leadership who have the pleasure of being hypocrites in privacy). I then walked to a convenience store and bought a Saigon Lager beer and a bottle of Dalat red wine (produced in Vietnam and blended from Cardinal grapes and Dalat’s mulberry fruits). I then walked back to my hostel and worked on journal entries and the website while drinking my Saigon beer and Dalat red wine; the wine left an impression of a melee between different soft fruit flavors, each vying for dominance, but known able to distinguish themselves as I swished the wine around in my mouth ( . . . at least that’s how it tasted to my untrained palate); overall it wasn’t a complex or noteworthy wine and it left a bitter aftertaste, but it was quite drinkable. After finishing my bottle of wine, I left the hostel in search of a late night meal. I ended up at a Vietnamese Mexican restaurant and had rice cake rolls with grilled beef, fried noodles with beef, and two bottles of Saigon red beer. After dinner (and after becoming quite intoxicated), I then walked back to my hostel and went to sleep.