Getting off in Ho Chi Minh City from the airplane was like stepping into a steamy shower. Just the change in humidity was a telltale sign that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Toto wouldn’t have liked it either, they eat his kind here.
A short ride to the hotel revealed this is a bustling city with new skyscrapers edging out the old buildings. The vision of quaint Vietnam with oxen pulling carts was quickly replaced by flocks of scooters weaving their way through traffic. My Rambo reference showed just how out of time I was.
We were given our mission booklets and set loose on the city. Our first stop was a coffee shop, a two birds with one stone endeavor, Vi got her much needed coffee, but for 40 points we spoke with a local couple to get answers to some questions in the book. We chose them because of the Dorito bag – no easier way to bait and catch Americans.
The conversation drifted and what I walked away with is that young adults are full of optimism. There are jobs and the economy is growing. The fact that they are communist and other political parties are illegal didn’t arise.
We walked to the local market and tried lychee, dragonfruit, longan – three fruits for 25 points all for less than a dollar (Which another local said we overpaid for). The lychee and longans once peeled kind of look and squish like eyeballs for those of you looking for exotic fruits for your next Halloween party.
The streets were lined with the concrete slab buildings expected in developing countries, plus modern skyscrapers, and sprawling French Colonial complexes. This was a French colony for almost 100 years and the world has the banh mi sandwiches to prove it. Grilled pork, pickled carrots, cilantro and cabbage on fresh french bread…tasty!
Another mission was to find a cobra. Done.
Jetlag set in and we dragged ourselves to the top of a skyscraper for a view of the city. And then we hired a cab to get a panoramic view of the city from across the Mekong. Sounds boring until your cab gets pulled over for driving in the wrong lane! And if you saw how they drive in this city you’d find yourself questioning if there are any traffic rules. Surely scooters can drive the wrong way up on a sidewalk weaving through pedestrians if the direction of traffic doesn’t jive with where they want to go. Red lights, optional at best. Getting pulled over should have been worth a load of points as it seems almost impossible to accomplish.
We had some pho for 25 points. Giving me credit for eating pho is like giving me credit for breathing. We were exhausted, but while dragging ourselves back to the hotel we stopped in for a massage (gimme points for Vi). I got one against my will and regretted it. My masseuse might have been 4 ½ feet tall and weighed 80 pounds, but her name was probably Olga and her apparently only desire in life was to see if she could shove my cervical spine out my mouth. Only then would there be enough room for her to push the back off my skull out between my teeth. My cries for “Go lighter,” were met with “No English” as she went back to torture. Now I know why there are so many towels around, I needed them to sop up my tears. Yes, it was a head and neck massage but my feet hurt afterwards from curling up my toes in pain as she did jumping jacks on my clavicles.
Break 18 ribs. (50 points).
Can’t wait for tomorrow.