Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy New Year, Vietnam!

At this moment, I wonder what compelled me to travel to three countries in nine days.

My trip itinerary:
  • December 28th: Fly to  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • December 29th–30th: Explore Ho Chi Minh and await the arrival of Mike.
  • December 31st: Visit various points of interest in Ho Chi Minh
  • January 1st, 2015: Leave Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • January 2nd: Tour Angkor Wat
  • January 3rd: Leave Siem Reap for Bangkok, Thailand
  • January 4th–6th: Visit various points of interest in Bangkok
  • January 7th: Fly back to Okinawa
If you have just read my itinerary and wondered if I needed a vacation from that vacation, the answer is "Oh my God, yes!"
On the 28th, I left my tiny apartment and I made my way to the highway bus terminal in order to catch the 111 bus to Naha International Airport.  At the airport, I checked into China Airlines and boarded a short flight to Taiwan and then another relatively short flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

Waiting for the bus

 This was where things got a little crazy.

A travel visa is required for American citizens to enter Vietnam, which meant that I needed to apply online for an acceptance letter into the country. I also needed to fill out an application where they would review my information and issue a visa. The application process was around $42 and  I was previously warned by a friend to pay in U.S. dollars because they supposedly increase the price if you pay in another country's currency - even their own!

Off to places unknown
The entire process took a little over an hour, but I received the visa and passed through customs. Because I was asked to check-in my carry-on in Okinawa, I proceeded downstairs where I failed to locate the conveyor with my luggage. I talked to Lost and Found and, luckily, they quickly found my luggage. Crisis Avoided!

With my luggage in tow, I walked outside to the bus stop in order to catch the 125 bus to my hotel. On my way there, I was approached (and borderline harassed) by men asking me if I wanted to take a private car or taxi to my hotel. No thank you!

When I was a few yards away from the bus, I saw what I assumed was the bus driver and another  woman. Upon spotting me, they boarded the bus and closed the doors. Then, the women opened the door for a moment, said that they were done for the day, and ordered me to "go away."


I was a bit taken aback by her rudeness, but I walked back to the taxi solicitors, found the cutest Vietnamese guy, and negotiated the price of a private car to my hotel. It seemed a little sketch, but I had no other option. To be frank, it was the scariest 30-minute car ride of my life! Sure, I could have possibly been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery - exaggerated I know - but it was their driving that had me praying to ALL the saints. It was bat shit crazy! Thousands of cars and scooters shared the road where traffic lights, lanes, and turn signals did not exist! I wasn't in Okinawa anymore!

That traffic though!

The following morning, I decided to venture further into the city via bus. This was a huge mistake! I boarded the correct bus, but people hailed the bus as though it was a taxi, so I couldn't tell if the bus had stopped at an actual stop. I spoke to the conductor (not the driver) and told him my stop hoping he would help me find my way but after a while, I was asked to leave. The reason? I had missed my stop and couldn't travel any further. You've got to me kidding me! I was officially-mcticially lost in Ho Chi Minh City and I had no phone to help me navigate back, so I hailed a taxi and paid a ridiculous amount of money to return to the hotel. I was scammed for sure.

After a nap, I explored the vicinity near my hotel using various stores as bread crumbs back to the hotel. I found amazing cafes, beautiful historical sites, interesting communist propaganda, and some of my favorite Korean make-up stores. I also found this gorgeous park in the middle of the city, where I struck up a conversation with traveling manicurist. She did my nails for $2 and told me stories about the war.

Let's fast forward! I was eventually joined by my then boyfriend, Mike, and on his first, full day we went to the War Remnants Museum.

Letting the pictures do the talking, it was interesting to see Vietnam's view of the war.

Vietnam and Cuba alliance during the war

Like good Catholics, we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral where I feel in love with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

So, if you were wondering about the drama that occurred on this trip, it happened this night. I had to decide whether to continue the trip or fly back to Okinawa. I thought to myself, "What would make the future me happy? More importantly, what would Beyoncé do?" I knew that I would eventually regret canceling a trip of a lifetime over a guy, so I continued the trip yet ended the relationship.

 The next day, I visited the Jade Emperor Pagoda, a Taoist temple with an interesting walkway and a small pond filled with turtles.

Dopey shisa

So many Nappi-poos! (My turtle back at home is named Napoleon lol)

Since there was no urge to celebrate the New Year, I quietly watched a firework show from my hotel window and replied to New Year's messages from my family and friends.

Happy New Year, Vietnam!

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