Apologies for the cheesy title, it’s 1am here and I’m struggling to think of anything more original. I’ve reached the end of my third day in Vietnam, although in some ways it feels like much longer since I boarded flight VN 50 that brought me here. I’m not entirely sure what I expected from my first few days here, but I think I did think I’d meet some fellow TEFL course-mates, which hasn’t happened yet since I’m an early arrival, so I’ve been a little lonely and am very excited for the welcome dinner tomorrow when a group of around 15 people will be forced to endure my company. Yay!
In all seriousness, I think I’ll feel a lot more at home in this city once I’ve made a few friends. Whilst I am going through the culture shock, I did so much research that there haven’t been many true surprises yet- although I’m sure they’re on their way. I’m certainly glad I knew about the crazy traffic, because otherwise I think I would have cried over the task of crossing the road (a nice Vietnamese man did assist me on the first go, but I was okay at it after that). I haven’t found the courage to brave a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) just yet, but I’m slowly warming up to the idea (sorry parents). I do enjoy watching the Vietnamese on their bikes- girls riding side saddle as though they were on a fairytale horse instead of a moped, parents wedging their children between them, people carrying waaaay more cargo than a two-wheeled vehicle should ever hold and even one woman riding biking in a suit and heels.
As for the food, there’s been so much to take in that I’ve more been eating out of necessity rather than anything else, but it’s all been positive so far- and no illness yet! Food here is incredibly cheap, so much so that when I paid £3 for a meal and drink in a shopping mall food court today, I felt guilty for spending so much!
I don’t feel like I’ve done a great deal since I’ve been here. I spent the first day trying to sleep off the jet lag and exploring the district I’m staying in, Gò Váp, then I ventured to the War Remnants Museum on Friday. I don’t know huge amounts about the Vietnam War, so it was good to learn some more, even if the details were absolutely horrifying. I assumed that, since the Museum is one of HCMC’s main attractions, I was in District 1 and so spent the rest of the day wandering around, only to discover later on that I’d been in District 3 all along. The plan for today was to go to District 1 for real and see some of the attractions such as the Notre Dame cathedral and the Ben Tanh market, but some seriously heavy rain stopped this from happening. Foolishly thinking the rain was letting up, I got an Uber to the centre at about 4pm, but the rain worsened again and so when my driver dropped me off I sprang from the car, ignored the cathedral completely and ran to the nearest coffee shop- only a few metres away, and yet I was still completely drenched by the time I made it inside. After sulking there for an hour or so, until after the cathedral and market had closed, I accepted that the rain wasn’t going to let up and bravely legged it to a nearby mall, where I cheered myself up with a bowl of hot pho and window shopping at makeup stores.
I realise how negative a lot of this post has sounded, but I’m not regretting my decision to come here and, homesick though I am right now, I haven’t booked my return flight just yet. I’m happy to finally be seeing some of Asia and I know that branching out alone is ultimately a good thing for me. After speaking to some friends back home (trio shout out- I’m just testing whether you read this or not) I feel a lot better. I like it here, I’ll just like it even more when I’ve found a few drinking buddies.