1. Bus Stops are more like “Bus Pauses”.
Buses rarely stop here. They slow down (slightly) with the doors open so that someone can grab you to help you on board. Keep up or wait for the next bus, I guess. On the upside, the drivers are really friendly if you make it on board.
2. Cross walks don’t really mean anything.
I remember when we arrived in Vietnam during my Semester at Sea experience. We were told the rules to crossing the road:
First, step off the curb at any part of the street or freeway.
Second, walk slowly and steadily without stopping.
Third, again, NEVER stop.
Fourth, close your eyes if you need to.
Miraculously, it works! Think of Moses parting the Red Sea. The thousands of motorcycles, cars, and buses, narrowly miss you and keep on driving. Take my word for it, it’s an experience you don’t want to miss in this lifetime. 🙂
3. You start sweating before you even step out of the shower.
Let me re-phrase that. I’m pretty sure you never stop sweating the whole time you shower, you just don’t feel it until the water stops.
*No picture with this one.* 😉
4. You can buy North Face backpacks for $4.
And they’re even genuine!!! Well, almost…sorta…kinda…ok, not really, but who cares! They just stitch on the logo and sell them for ridiculously cheap prices to the travelers coming through. Am I one of those travelers, you ask? You betcha!
5. You watch Korean soap operas nightly.
These shows have actually grown on me! I really enjoy guessing who’s cheating who, who’s killing who, who died and then came back to life, etc. Just think Mexican soap opera with more tears, less dramatic pauses, and much nicer clothing. The show is in Korean with subtitles in Vietnamese so I’m pretty sure I’m making up my own storyline, but it’s all good. 🙂
6. You can eat a full meal, fancy drinks included, for $2.
I’m sure it’s cheaper on the streets, but for food that is a bit more reliable, it’s worth the “extra cost”! Oh, and so you know, the food is AMAZING and second only to Cambodian food in my opinion.
7. You feel like you live in Panem.
I am currently living in District 9. Khiem lives in District 3. Downtown is District 1. Yep, I’m living in Panem.
8. Everyone is really kind and hospitable.
The Vietnamese people are wonderful and some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. I met the family I am staying with the last time I was in Vietnam while attending the LDS church services here in Ho Chi Minh City. They were quick to welcome me back and offer their beautiful home.
9. When riding with your friend’s mom isn’t necessarily safer than riding with your friend.
This one is totally from my limited experience of Vietnam, yet a “lesson-learned” just the same. Riding with my friend’s mom today was a “only-once-in-a-lifetime” experience. Meaning: I have already done it once and I’m not going to do it again. We’d weave through the tiniest of spaces between diesels, vans, other motos, and make our way between the traffic and side-rails of bridges. Yeah, sure, I had a confident face on, gave her a thumbs-up every few minutes, and acted like I’ve been on a million crazy motorcycles before, but inside I was shouting “Holy crap!” (as close to cussing as I get, folks) and hanging on to her waist.
As often as I reminded myself that she drives like this all the time (along with nearly every other Vietnamese motorcyclist), the little voice in my head kept saying, “What if this, of all days, is the moment her luck runs out and she actually hits someone?” The next second I’m laughing, living in the moment, (maybe on an adrenaline high?) and thinking, “HOLY COW! I’M IN VIETNAM!!!” Life really IS oh-so-good! 🙂
I will be adding more to the list during my stay here, so check back in. 🙂 It sure is good to be back in this wonderful country!