We said our goodbyes and see you laters to both Thailand, and Abigayle and Maddi, at the Chiang Rai airport. The girls had opted to travel north in Vietnam (Hanoi) and we were going south to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I was surprised how teary I felt saying goodbye to Abigayle, but I suppose that’s bound to happen when you’ve been so close for two months.
Our first flight took us back to Bangkok and another stop over at Don Mueang Airport before heading to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). The flight was just over an hour but with the various stopovers and needing to be at the airport at a certain time etc. etc. it was a long day and we didn’t arrive in HCMC until sunset.
Luckily we had no problems getting a taxi driver, who thankfully knew exactly where we were hoping to go. We’d booked a place through Bookings in District 1, which is in the heart of the city.
It was quite the drive, I tell ya’ If we thought there were no road rules in Bangkok I don’t even know where to start with Ho Chi Minh. The city, itself, gave off a feeling that it was cleaner and more modern than Bangkok – keep in mind this is an impression, not a fact. But the traffic – ABSOLUTELY HANDS DOWN NUTS!
We had been warned that motorists in HCMC constantly and continuously honk their horns for no apparent reason. This is in fact true and the noise just adds to the craziness of the rows (at one point I counted the row as 6 deep) of scooters travelling as if in packs. There were no noticeable traffic lights and like I said no general traffic/road rules – well at least ones that we were privvy to! It was complete chaotic, yet organized mayhem.
We arrived at our destination – well not exactly our destination – it was on the other side of the road to our destination when the taxi driver stopped – right in the middle of the roaring downtown traffic. Our driver was lovely and certainly gracious enough to help us cross the street, which involved him stepping out into traffic with his arm out indicating that he wanted to cross. We struggled to stay right beside him, dragging our backpacks behind us – none of the cars or scooters stopped!
Not surprisingly we had absolutely no idea where we were going – none – nada – nothing – we were completely trusting this stranger who was leading us down a narrow, dark, and I have to say a little, okay a lot, scary alley in the heart of HCMC. It couldn’t possibly be right. Couldn’t possibly be what we’d booked. It didn’t even look remotely like there could be an Inn anywhere between the pokey, tiny doorways we were brushing past. It was actually incredible to think that anyone could live in these small, squalid spaces but they did – whole families.
It had to be at least 40 degrees as we followed along, flyblown and stunned. For the first time on our trip I actually felt unsafe and a little anxious. A kind of foreboding that if anything bad were going to happen it could be here.
What was most incredible was that we were in the right place – or at least according to the address – the only thing matching was the street name and number – it didn’t look anything like the place we had booked on line. It only took a split second of standing outside The Saigon Inn for Tony and I to look at each other and in unison say, “we are not staying here!”
Thankfully it was our one and only Bookings fail. Somehow we managed to find our way back to the main street. Tired and shell-shocked we stopped at the nearest half-decent-looking hotel and though they didn’t have any available rooms, they were kind enough to let us rest, use their wifi and have some water while we continued to search for a place to spend the night.
Again, even though we had learnt our lesson, we were in the position we had found ourselves in on Railay – no available rooms. It took several attempts and several hotels before Tony found us a place. Luckily it was just around the corner and we didn’t need to cross the street. Also if we had wanted to, we could book the room for just two hours – classy huh?! I am still amused that we stayed in a hotel in HCMC where you can rent a room for 2 hours at a time. Non-the-less the room was clean and we had a place to leave our bags and go out into the big, wide night life of a new city.
dark alleys –