top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Xin Chau Vietnam!

Stepping into the unknown

After spending a month in Bali, it is time for the next step of my travels. Vietnam, out of my comfort zone and across to a country I have never visited and actually know very little about. Overcome fear, and experience different things. That is what makes you grow and enlightens the soul I always say. Well, it certainly is instilling a little fear in me, going to a country with 97 million people, with a language I know nothing about, a new currency, an unknown culture, and a way of life. As usual, I have not studied enough about this country before I left. That's true to my personality, spontaneous and a little naive. Just do it. Maybe this journey will teach me differently. So, what has led me to Vietnam for the next leg of my travel journey? I have applied to teach in a school in the North of Vietnam, Sapa. A school for disadvantaged, Ethnic minority children. It will I am sure be a wonderful experience but before then I have decided to see a little of the country before I start teaching.

My first stop is to be in Ho Chi Minh City. Jumping in the deep end hey. The largest city in Vietnam with a population of 3.4 million people. After arriving in the country late in the sweltering hot evening, navigating around the airport, and getting the visa to enter Vietnam organized, that was daunting enough for me, and by the end of all that I was hesitant to even exit the airport.

I had booked a few nights' accommodation right in the center on Bui Vien walking street. I exchanged a small amount of money for the Vietnamese Dong and found where to take a bus to my hotel in the city.

Heading down walking street dragging my suitcase with already one broken wheel, my head felt like it was spinning., and how sweet was that a little Vietnamese man who stopped me and began to oil the wheels on my luggage bag? The 3 remaining PLASTIC wheels, for 50 000 dongs, because as he could see that plastic needed oiling and it would work better. You have to love that. Eventually, after googling my way up and down the streets I found my hotel and headed to my room, closed the door, and took a deep breath. Ok, I have survived day one. I had arrived, safely, exhausted, and with what felt like a total sensory overload. I did it and I am feeling proud. I remember that in these situations of wanting to do things that are out of our comfort zone, it is only reservation and fear that stops us. And so, fear is not necessarily a bad thing but in ways good for us.

Over the next few days, if I would still have the courage to venture out of the hotel, will be a simple plan. Get a feel of things and perhaps try to see a few places I have listed close by. The Ben Thanh market, Tao Dan Cultural Park, The Notre Dame Cathedral, and the iconic Sai Gon Central post office. After a few days here I will find my way down to the Mekong River, My Tho. So, what are my first thoughts of Ho Chi Minh on day one? Loud, fast, busy, motorbikes, lights, music, a total overload of electrical wires, and Banh Mi carts. There are so many people, I have never seen this before in my life!

One great tip to give would be that a hotel in Hi Chi Minh, middle of the walking street on a Saturday night, maybe isn't the best idea. But I did manage to sleep eventually, through pure exhaustion, amidst the next 6 hours of very loud Vietnamese karaoke which is common all over Vietnam

Did I find the country in the first instance safe? Yes indeed, the people were so lovely and helpful in all aspects when I needed. Catching public transport was easy, and of course, now that we have google maps that changes everything. There was always someone to ask when I was unsure. Not all are fluent in English, but certainly many were, and if all else fails the good old game of charades helps a treat to get to where you need to be.

"Never let fear stand in the way of the things you dreamt you wanted to do"


bottom of page