After 15 hours of flying, with a layover at Incheon, I finally made it to Saigon safe and sound at around 10:40pm. The ensuing 24 hours was eventful to say the least.
My uncle, Bob (Cậu Bao in Vietnamese), met me at the airport and we grabbed a cab. The feeling was surreal and dreamlike. I have been thinking about this trip for the last two and a half months. So as we were exiting the airport, I rolled down the window and breathed it all in: dim street lights illuminating unmarked lanes; motorbikes zipping by and honking in passing; the low level chatter and laughter of locals drinking beer on the sidewalk in the background. To say I was excited is an understatement. I was ecstatic and enthralled to be living my dream.
However, first order of business: pho. Of course. Unfortunately I was too delirious and brain dead to take a picture of the meal. It was awesome though. I’ll have to come back there again to snag a picture with the location. I’m still new to this blogging thing and consequently will have to be more diligent about taking pictures and writing down the places I visit.
Since I refused to sleep on the five hour flight from Seoul to Saigon, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to explore.
I took a taxi to my uncle’s office in district 1, the downtown area of Saigon. Since my iPhone unlock didn’t go through on time, I got an international Nokia phone for about $25 and a sim card for $10. This will be useful when I travel to Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. I spent the rest of the day walking around Ben Thanh Market and the backpacker’s area with no real purpose or agenda.
While navigating around the street venders hustling sunglasses, fruit, and lottery tickets, I came up on a nice little place serving bun thit nuong cha gio, which is grilled pork over vermicelli with egg roll served on top of a heaping pile of fresh lettuce and herbs. And the price? A whopping $2. I’m in heaven!
When nighttime arrived, I met up with an old friend, Don Ho, for drinks at some restaurant in downtown. He was accompanied by a friend who just moved from Cambodia to Vietnam. Both of these guys work at venture capital firms, and so we basically talked startups, institional money in Vietnam, and bitcoin for the next couple rounds of brews.
At around 10:30pm, we left the restaurant and headed out to Lush, a pretty cool electronic and hip hop dance club with two dancing areas and a garden patio. Tuesday night is ladies night, so admission and drinks are free until midnight for…wait for it…ladies. When we arrived, the main dance area was so packed, we had to move to the smaller dancing area where the DJ played hip hop for the night. I’m pretty sure people were weirded out by my Bay Area dancing, but whatever. I had a blast :).