How do I begin to write about one of the best vacations of my life. Hmmm well I guess stepping out of the airport air conditioning and experiencing the Hot 91*F weather with 90% humidity. That truly was a blessing coming from the dark, cold and dry weather of Warsaw. On my trip with me were my close friends the Schwartz family with Ken, Rhonda, Kat, and Cole
as well as our dear friend Dawn. We all were reunited once again after they had left Warsaw for new teaching destinations.
Getting into the taxi and driving to the Saigon Bee Hotel was the first of many amazing experiences to happy to us. There were thousands upon thousands of scooters weaving, dodging and jetting out in front of cars and people. I was told there are about 8 million people in Ho Chi Minh City and about 5 million scooters. Most of which have anywhere between 1 person to 5 people on one scooter. Yes you read right. On December 15th the Vietnam Gov. had passed a law that all people must wear a helmet while riding a scooter. People i met named Denny and Jess from Colorado told me that on the 14th no one was wearing a helmet and the next day they were everywhere. In a city like this with so many cars and lack of respect of traffic rules I would have thought that everyone would wear something on their melons to keep them from cracking on the pavement.
Now we did arrive safely to without an accident but I can't say the same for Dawn. Her taxi hit a couple of people on a scooter and did a little damage to the taxi but no injuries. With my backpack loaded and on my shoulders I make my way across the street to hotel from where the taxi dropped me off. It was a human "Frogger" for those of you who know the 1980's video game. But unlike Frogger, you must move slow and walk at a steady pace otherwise the traffic cant swerve from side to side to miss you. Oh yeah, forgot to mention it is at 11 o'clock in the evening.
We were kindly greeted by an amazing staff at the Bee Saigon Hotel. With my main man Chau as the manager who did so much for us over the 12 days in HCM City. If you are in HCM City and need a great place to stay in the center of the city contact these people. You will not be disappointed. The service, food and overall friendliness is everything the traveler needs.
The next morning we opted to stay in Saigon, as the locals call it, to chill and walk around the city. We first went off the find the Ben Thanh Market. This was going to be one of my first experience with the local foods, flavors and aromas. People everywhere shouting "Joe...Hey You...John" just trying to get my attention. There were more clothes, shoes, knick-knacks and food than you could imagine, not including the people everywhere. When you visit and go to this or any market make sure you negotiate the prices. They are over-inflated for the tourist and it is totally expected to get deals. My first deal was not as good as the rest that is for sure. The exchange rate to the ever dropping USD is about 16,000 Dong to 1 US Dollar. So that will give you an idea of where to begin. You can get anything and everything you want here. So work on a deal and walk away if you don't like it. The price will drop drastically and you will get what you want for the right price. More to come about Vietnam.