Whether you’re an expat, curious about what living in Vietnam is like, or just trying to follow my travels, this post is for you. I want to help you see through my eyes what it’s like to pick up everything and drop roots in a foreign country.
Even if you’ve visited before. Even if you speak a little of the local language. Even if you have friends around. No matter what, it’s quite the wild ride! (Literally, if you’re going to brave a motorbike.)
I just arrived in the crazy city of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam on Tuesday, and these first two days have been the start of a new way of life. It’s not all fun and games, but I’m having fun with it. Sense of humor is vital. There’s a first time for everything, including:
- My first time moving abroad outside of the USA. This has been a goal of mine for years, but it hasn’t even come close to being realized until now. Speaking of realization, it took about 3 hours of walking around Ho Chi Minh before I even realized my dream had finally come true.
- For crying out loud! It’s even my first time moving outside of Washington State. (Thank goodness! No offense, Washington. You know I love you.) It’s odd, really, that I’ve always lived in the same state. I adore travel and always crave new experiences! But this moving to Vietnam took much preparation, so I guess the wait has been worth it. I know that now.
- For the first time, I slept for almost 15 hours in one night. And…well…within one day. That was the first day/night I arrived. Five hours of sleep on the plane, a microscopic teacup of coffee, and being up since midnight (Vietnam time) was a wonderful combination. That’s why I went to bed at 2:30 PM. I meant to get up for dinner, but I ended up sleeping til almost midnight. Then I woke up, watched a movie on Netflix, and passed out again til 7.
- By the time I finally coaxed my exhausted self out of the hotel room, it was time to get ready to meet my future housemates to secure my apartment rental. But I didn’t care. It was time for breakfast. To my delight, I discovered the amazingness of bún cá—a seafood soup originating from Central Vietnam. I just hope I can find bún cá near my apartment. I can’t believe I hadn’t eaten it during my last visit to Vietnam! Take a page from my book and try new things when you travel!
- My second day in Ho Chi Minh, I took a motorbike taxi. Although this is my second visit to Asia, I’d never taken one before. I’m not sure this time counts though, because I opted for Uber and Grab. These services alleviate the need to barter the price of transportation. Until I barter with a true xe ôm guy, I don’t think I had the 100% experience. Of course, putting your life in a stranger’s hands is…yeah.
- It wasn’t that bad, actually. I think it’s better to have a Vietnamese weave me through the traffic than to brave a nervously jerky drive through rush hour. (Yes, it was rush hour.) Then the sky opened up and it began to rain. This should have been expected, since it rains pretty much every day in Ho Chi Minh this time of year. This time, however, the rain seemed to take many by surprise, since it came about 2-3 hours later than usual. As for me, I had wisely worn a rain jacket, not realizing that it wasn’t enough. I got drenched in the face, dude. My foundation was on its last legs by the time I met my friends. Tons of eyelashes got loose and were all over my cheeks, too. I don’t know what that’s about.
- On the way back home from my visit to the neighboring district (or, quận) I made the mistake of giving my motorbike driver directions. As we entered my neighborhood, he veered to the left but I told him to turn right.
- Of course, I was wrong. (Do keep in mind that I’d been living here for exactly 8 hours and that everything looks different at night.) This resulted in the first time I have been chased by a scary (yet small) street dog. Make that two street dogs. They were running after our bike, and I was sure they were going to bite my heels. In retrospect, though, I don’t think they even tried to bite me. Call it paranoia.
- At the end of the street, I discovered my mistake. This resulted in my taxi driver saying in Vietnamese what essentially came across as, “I told you so.”
- Well, we survived getting past the dogs. As I was dropped off, I apologized for being a crazy foreigner. The guy didn’t laugh. That’s the first time a taxi driver made me kinda sad. Oh well, I believe he got a few thousand đồng more for my time-wasting ignorance. Does the money make up for it?
- After that exhausting whirlwind adventure, I expected to sleep pretty soundly til at least 6. But of course my body is choosing to smite me with reverse insomnia: I woke up at 3 AM today.
- You can blame the noisy roosters. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve blamed a chicken for anything.
Edit: A few days later, I came down with a bad case of hyponatremia–another first for me. And it’s since become a regular part of my life abroad. So I’ll take noisy roosters any day.