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Day 1/2

July 07, 2013  •  1 Comment

*** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***

I'm not planning on posting every single day of my trip...or give a blow-by-blow account of everything I see and do. This isn't intended to be a diary, and seeing what I eat for breakfast for the next 50-odd days is going to get pretty dull pretty quick! Instead, I'd like to share anecdotes and images about the things that grab my attention along the way.

Today is Day 1/2 as I haven't been on the ground for a full day yet. I left Doha on flight 602 at 2am this morning for Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC aka Saigon). Qatar Airways were very nice to give me my very first upgrade so I arrived well rested and well fed. They also kindly arranged for my bag to be the very first one off the plane...this NEVER happens to me! I'm usually the poor soul standing there till the very end with dread in my stomach praying to the baggage God for my bag to appear on the belt. So far so good. No queues leaving Doha ( was strangely empty of people), no queues at HCMC (also a little eerily quiet), and plain sailing through Immigration and Customs. Then I have to do the first two things I hate when arriving into a new country: (1) change money and (2) get a taxi to the hotel. Rates are always bad at the airport so I don't usually change too much money - just enough to survive the first couple of days. But today the rate was better than I had researched - bargain! And I'm a millionaire :) (USD100 = 2,125,000 VD). Now for the taxi....

I couldn't see the official taxi rank straight away and got sidelined by a tout {stupid me!}. My travel instincts were a little dull and before I knew it I was following this old guy - who looked a little like Yoda with a toothless smile and gait like Smeagol (Lord of the Rings) - off into the car park with a promise that 300,000 Viet Dong was a good price {yeah right!}. When I saw that his car was more decrepit than him I beat a quick retreat declaring that this was a VERY bad taxi. They let me go after a few minor protests and I then jumped into a metered cab and got into town for half the price...not the 'more expensive' that they were trying to persuade me with. It was a good reminder to do my research ahead of time and don't be so 'green'. They were all very nice about it though. I've certainly had far worse experiences with reneging on taxi deals in other countries, and so far Vietnam has been very friendly with plenty of smiles.

Checking into the hotel was a breeze and by coincidence I'm in room 602. I hope this is a lucky Vietnamese number :) A window would be nice though, but I think this is quite standard in this city where buildings butt up against each other for support. Space is a premium. I'm staying very near to the Ben Thanh Market in District 1, which is filled to overflowing with fake everything. I'm more interested in the photo opportunities and I'll go back at night to see what I can capture.

After promising not to tell you about every meal I eat, I have to share my first day food story. I actually don't know that much about Vietnamese food, and I certainly don't know the language. After hunting up and down looking for restaurant number 63 Ref A3 on the Lonely Planet map I gave up and chose a place with a BBQ out the front. They had some food pictures posted on the wall, so I figured I could safely point and shoot {silly me}! The menu had English translations written underneath (and no pictures to help me out) and after browsing past "Social Fried Goat Peppers", "To Embed Leaves Little Bowl", "Contact Minced Goat Cake", "Pearl Positive Potential Medicine", and "Portrait Porridge" (I thought this last one could definitely have eyeballs in it), I settled on the innocuous-sounding "5 Spice Grilled Goat". It was really good...I just didn't realise I had to cook it myself on small table-top coal BBQ they brought over. And I'm not sure about the big chunk of ice they put in my beer to keep it cool...and the lady at the next table drinking her beer with a straw just wasn't right :)

First impressions: friendly; helpful; only mild traffic chaos...nothing like Bangkok/Cairo/Delhi like I was expecting; clean

Good night Vietnam...


Pam Grider(non-registered)
Hello from Texas! I've never been to Vietnam so I'm looking forward to seeing it through your lens! I'm so glad you're blogging!
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