Much like I left for the land of Aus- I sort’ve just woke one morning felt a pulling energy towards exploring a new place and booked.
This journey was different though. It would be one of so many firsts. My first time truly backpacking. My first Asian country. And many other firsts that I did not even see!
My last days preparing for my trip I spent panicking over how one packs for three and half months into one 55 L bag and two small backpacks. Disclaimer: I did not succeed at this as I am a chronic over packer. If I could do it over I would do it so different. I will post on this later.
I started my journey in the south, the city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh). I had read bits of what to expect but I don’t think anything prepares you- other than simply doing. After some hold up at immigration I was through the gates and left to boggle my three oversized bags. I tried to stick to the basics- the things which would make me feel most secure heading into this new city. I got a ridiculously large SIM card package. Exchanged AUD for Dong. And booked my prepaid taxi with the recommendation of my hostel. Song Viet taxi which I surprisingly got for a lower price than expected 180,000 and ($8 USD). I was relieved to see that a female would be driving me. As I looked out the window my jaw gaped at the mass of people, stalls, and traffic. The roads were gridlocked mainly with motorbikes, buses, taxis, and the occasional car.
When we arrived my heart skipped a beat to see that she dropped me on the opposite side of the road. Crossing the road honestly felt nearly impossible. Motorbikes whizzed in every direction incessantly honking. Crosswalks exist here but they don’t function. There was some sense to the maddness- organized chaos I will call it. But I didn’t see this in the moment.
While I was standing in the middle of the lane with traffic blaring past me I thought about getting back in the taxi and catching the next flight home- or to anywhere but here. But to my dismay the taxi was long gone- so I decided that I would be upgrade to a private room on arrival too frazzled to face humans in the dorms- haha!
My first days in HCMC were overwhelming. Everything about the experience was over stimulating. By the time I walked out of the alleyway I was drenched in sweat. The fears of my mother rang through my head. I paced the markets and streets for hours before settling on what food I thought wouldn’t make me sick. I found myself taking in the city in small doses- bribing and rewarding myself with naps and Lindt chocolate after pushing through the discomfort of feeling so foreign in a new place. I made a promise to myself from the start to expect to have these moments of fear, anxiety, and discomfort but to remain mindful that as always this intense energy would pass- and it did and continues to.
Day 2 is when I knew I would be okay. I spent the afternoon sitting in the local park planning to people watch. But I was soon surrounded with a group of young adults who were eager to practice English. I felt at ease having someone to chat with- especially locals who were so kind to share advice.
I began jotting down experiences in the first week deemed “misfortune for growth” here are some of the highlights
-Getting lost in the middle of the city and all having all back up safety plans fail-the phone died, the cord to the portable charger was sitting on my hostel bed, even managing to loose my journal in the park with my address written inside. This left me in a far away district of an already foreign city not even knowing where I needed to go 😉 A lovely anonymous bloke from UK- flagged me a taxi, paid for the taxi, and walked me all the way to my hostel steps. Fellowship at it’s finest.
-Braving the back of a motorbike for the first time- and not falling off
-stumbling around desperate and anxious for food just to be given chopsticks…. which I can’t use. Foreigner can’t help but try to comes over to attempt to help sort out tangled shaking mess of my fingers. Staff joins in- no success- finally a fork is found!
-Giving so many wrong Dongs because all these zeros are overwhelming and always getting my 100,000 back and being shown the correct 10,000.
-Falling down the hostel stairs- maybe my nerves got the best of me?
Reflecting on this 4 weeks later it’s really mind shattering to realize how much more comfortable I now feel and this isn’t even the half of it which is proof in itself of the reason I embarked on this journey.