“Hey honey, I’m still at the airport but I thought I’d give you a call. I’ve been waiting about 2 hours for customs so far, can’t imagine they’ll take much longer, I hope….”
Jileesa and I had just arrived at Ho Chi Min airport after leaving Glasgow well over 25 hours ago. After submitting our paperwork for approval from customs we became quite disheartened once overhearing old American mate behind us on the phone to his wife.
Last week we spoke about the paperwork you need to apply for before attempting to enter Vietnam. Once you have applied for and received this finalized paperwork, this alongside your passport and a small fee are to be presented to customs in the airport for them to review your status, and to hopefully grant you entry into the country.
We couldn’t have been sitting for any longer than 5 minutes before our names were called to come to the collection window, alongside another Australian couple. “Have good stay” the official said pushing our passports now with stamped visas through the collection slot, pointing us towards the exit. As we turned to leave the people that had been sitting and waiting in the lounge before us all gave quite a sour look. Old American mate wiped the smile from his face, briefly paused his phone call and gave the sourest look of them all. I held my passport in the air shrugged my shoulders and walked towards the exit, it must be that being Australian helps you in this situation. All I knew is we were one step closer towards getting in a taxi that would get me to a bed, any attempt at sleep on the plane was hindered by crying children so the thought of a good nights rest was very much welcomed.
Asian traffic is completely and utterly beyond belief.
Is it crazy? Yes
Is it dangerous? Yes
Does it work? Believe it or not, yes….
With the amount of people that use these roads, the conventional rules and driving practices we know in Australia wouldn’t necessarily work here. As a passenger in a taxi experiencing this place for the first time, the car ride can be quite the stressful one. ‘There’s going to be a head on, oh we’re going to run over that guy, woah are they going to stop?’ some of the many thoughts that cross your mind while someone is hopefully taking you to the place you’ve booked into for the night.
Cars are very much a luxury item in Vietnam, so unless you’re a taxi driver most locals (no matter how wealthy or poor they are) will exclusively stick to scooters. They use them for everything, getting to work, moving livestock, even as we saw on this day transporting a fridge.
In recent years Vietnam has begun to take full advantage of the tourists that flock here for the weather, by offering a number of mini bus tours that take you to visit very interesting attractions just out of the cities.
One tour that took part in was ‘The Chi Chi Tunnels’ a network of underground tunnels that Vietnamese soldiers created as a way of defeating enemy Americans.
Realizing they were too small and not strong enough to battle hand to hand combat with The Americans, these witty locals excavated kilometers of underground tunnels that would link up to hidden living and military quarters allowing them to flee and remain unseen the moment any enemy forces approached. Throughout this jungle, the locals placed many archaic booby traps, you could only imagine what would happen to your legs if you fell victim to a trap like this.
On average, the Vietnamese people are quite smaller in height and build than your typical American solider. So deliberately building the tunnels and their entrances incredibly small, meant even if an American came across a tunnel entrance they would not be able to fit through. Thankfully they’ve opened up some parts so now tourists can fit through, and temporarily experience a hidden life underground.
Eating out and having a beer in Vietnam is a very cheap experience, paying anywhere from 10 to 25 dong for a beer ($0.60 to $1.70) and 30 to 100 for a huge meal ($1.80 to $6.20). It not only lets your body take a break from the backpacker life of 2 minute noodles, but it gets you in the middle of it all talking with locals, sharing stories, and experiencing the local way of life.
Vietnam is a country with many stories to tell. From their poor economic conditions, to their life recovering from a very destructive war, they’re a very headstrong people and it seems no matter what cards they’re dealt their tenacity is still so strong.
Is it a strange place to visit? Completely, and that’s why we need to continue this blog into next week’s edition. Swing back as I’ll begin to talk about some incredible highs we encountered here, as well as the lowest of lows.
Being in a place like this and experiencing these things is what traveling is all about, and I can’t wait to share more with you. Thanks for popping by, catch you next week.