Within 2 hours of arriving in Vietnam, I was enjoying a bowl of pho at a restaurant frequented by Anthony Bourdain and packed with locals. I had dropped my bag off at my hotel and was told I couldn’t get into my room for another 3 hours, so I stopped to purchase my favourite electrolyte drink of all time, Pocari Sweat, and headed to the little park across the street.
Asking some locals where this pho restaurant was that I desperately wanted to visit, I was told that at 2km away, it was too far to walk. With time to kill, two feet, a heartbeat, and pho in my future, I set off and was handsomely rewarded for my efforts. 30 000 VND ($2.10 CAD) and some happy slurping later, my goal for Day 1 in Vietnam was complete.
Feeling refreshed and energized by the hot air, warm breezes, palm trees and general bustle of the city; a stupid happy grin plastered to my face at being returned to my natural habitat of chaos, I kept wandering and found myself in the old French part of the city, with the Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral both looking resplendent in the midday sun.
Standing in front of the cathedral, I was suddenly a celebrity. A giant in Vietnam at 5’7″, two separate groups of Vietnamese kids (in their late teens I would say) asked to have their pictures taken with me. The second group decided to friendly kidnap me, and made it their mission for the next couple of hours to be my friends. We talked, I helped them say ‘bookstore’ properly, they helped me learn a few words in Vietnamese. We shared fruit they had with them and they bought some drinks for us to share. One of them serenaded me with a song, I reciprocated by singing along in English to the music on their phone. They even bought me a bracelet, as a reminder of our afternoon!!!
After our goodbye, with promises to keep in touch, it was time for this tired traveller to head back and get some rest. A much needed shower and a quick foray to grab some steam buns and Tiger beer for a take away dinner, bed time was 8pm last night.
Still exhausted, I feel refreshed, invigorated and more alive than I have in months…the desire to explore and experience the new and different stronger than ever before. These three weeks will be fleeting, a reminder of a past life, so I better get out and get going!