I plugged in my headphones and ironically Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones started playing as the bus drove along the paddy fields. It totally got me zoned into what it must have been like during the war.
I see smiling children waving, woman wearing paddy hats cleaning, shirtless men smoking and water buffalo grazing. It’s hot, humid and fascinating. Welcome to Vietnam.
It is a two-hour bus ride from the Port of Phu My to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and I feel blessed with what I have when I see how the people live. That proverbial ‘one dollar mistah’ really can get you far here.
The guide says something about the excellent coffee they export but all I smell is the anticipation of actually getting to walk around the city.
I exit the bus and the first character I see has an expression on his face that gets me reaching for my camera quicker than the sweat drops are running down my face.
Many people have warned me about walking around alone and tell stories of how bag snatchers will take my stuff without me noticing it. Then I just remind myself I am from South Africa. I feel safe and I open myself to whatever comes my way. Unlike in Indonesia, if you get hassled by people selling cheap shit, if you tell them to go away they do.
I buy some coconut drink from this lady and she immediately thinks I am from the USA. I find it rather interesting that she drops the price as soon as I show her on a world map where I am from.
The organized chaotic flow of the traffic is an experience on its own. If you think that whole thing of looking left then right then left again is going to help you cross a road, then think again. Then I suggest you think again and then, think again. I watched a cop stop all the traffic so that a granny can cross a semi busy road. I am not surprised when I learn about the shocking amount of road deaths caused by motorbikes in Vietnam, especially in the rural areas.
Dong Khoi Street.
The people wear masks everywhere they go. I am tempted to dress up like these ninjas but cant imagine how hot it must be
I end my day in Saigon by buying a beer from this Viet girl. While I am waiting for my bus in front of the Ho Chi Minh main Post office, I crack the beer and as soon as I start drinking, a police officer approaches me. I remember thinking to myself now I am in trouble for drinking in public. He asks me: “ How much did you pay for that beer?” $1 I say. “Be careful, that lady just ripped you off!” He laughs at me. I let slip a cheeky smile because I know this whole experience is priceless.