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Good morning Vietnam….

I tried, without success to sleep during my rediculously long transit in Singapore airport last night. If only they would have dimmed the lights. sleeping on a hard tiled floor surrounded by plastic chairs in fluorescent lighting had a bit of an institutional air about it…

My singapore bed.

Good Morning Vietnam….

It’s not very often one gets to say that honestly, but this morning as I flew into Vietnam from Singapore, watching the sun rise through the smog and the clouds… I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one on the plane thinking it…

Good morning Vietnam.

Now here I am. Over tired, a little strung out and to be honest with you a little on the drunk side.

When I landed in Vietnam at 9am this morning, the world was fresh and new, and after a difficult taxi ride – and being ripped off, I lost my sense of humanity for a moment. I was tired, having not slept for over 24 hours, and faced with a new country, a new language, and a crazy big asian city – I just… well, lost my footing for a moment or two.

 I booked into my guesthouse/backpacker/hotel and tried to get some rest, but I was too over tired and too restless. So I showered, pulled myself together and escaped into the heart of Saigon with my camera around my neck and sweat rolling down my back… I was determined for my first day not to be a waste.

try crossing THIS street...

I ventured out onto the busy street and  promptly got lost, my stellar sense of direction wasn’t really tuned too well in a new city clouded by exhaustion, frustration and a hint of fear. i turned the wrong way down a busy street and didn’t end up nearly where I thought I would. Instead got confronted by traffic that puts Bandung’s Jl Cihempelas to shame. there are really 5 million motorbikes in Vietnam, and I think they are all in Saigon.

There is nothing quite like the traffic here, its insane. Millions of cars and bikes crowd the streets and you just walk, the same as in Bandung, like a little frog, hopping in between zooming vehicles and praying for the best. so far, no problems. you just step out, take a deep breath and move quickly. There were a few times today that a kind man took my elbow and guided me across the road – smiling at the fear plastered across my glaring white face.

I eventually wove my way through traffic and got my bearings and made my way to the famous market in Ho Chi Minh, known as Saigon to everyone except the government, called Ben Tahn Market, famous because it has existed since the French occupation in the 1950s. As exhausted as I was, I couldn’t really focus much on the aisle after crowded aisle of merchandise on offer. Everything from coffee to shoes, from dried fruit to animals – you name it you can buy it at Ben Tahn.

market snacks...

I was starving so I picked up a crusty baguette filled with meat and salad – it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, and even now, I can’t stop thinking about it and I’m excited about eating another one tomorrow. I don’t know what the meat was, and knowing Vietnam it could have been anything from Pidgeon to Dog, but I don’t care, it was delicious, and I will eat it again and again over the next week.

I had a beer at a Go Go bar and chatted with a French Photographer who was looking for inspiration in the streets of Saigon. And then, I made my way back to my room to try to get some sleep – again to no avail.

Drinks on the street in Saigon

The evening rolled around and at 5 or so I went back out on the street in search of food. I wondered lazily in the heat of the end of the day, being yelled at by vendor and driver I smiled and waved them off politely. I turned a corner and then was asked to join a group of guys sitting drinking beer at a makeshift stall on the side of the road. So I stopped. And the night went from there. Beer after glorious Saigon beer, I sat with a group of local men and an American boy celebrating his 23rd birthday, we talked of politics and human rights, we laughed and we made fun of each other, and the locals kept insisting on buying us beer. So we sat and we drank, we ate cold prawns from a bowl and later we headed off to Asian Kitchen, a resto with Vietnamese food and cheap beer. After a big bowl of Pho I started to feel human again and tucked in whole heartedly to the local beverages with my new friends.

Vietnamese shotgun anyone?

After dinner we moved outside again and set up a makeshift alfresco dining area out of crates and a card table outside of a closed garage, where we shotgunned local beers from the can and ate soggy peanuts bought from a particularly sad looking hawker. I held a pantsless sleeping baby on my lap for a while his soft pink lips against my shoulder and his dark mop hair tickling my face. His mother asked me for money, I offered my arms to give hers a rest. There is nothing like the smell of a baby’s hair, fresh and clean, new and full of possibilities, innocent with a whole life waiting for them to claim as their own.

Eventually, exhausted I decided it was time to make it back to the hotel, where I sit now, still to over tired to sleep, excited about a new day of adventures tomorrow, and wondering what this intricate complex city has in store for me…

Barefoot solo, but never quite alone, hungry but satisfied.

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