Apr 142011

Guess what! I made it.  But you weren’t worried, were you? I didn’t think so.

I was met at the airport last night by Betsy (a fellow rider) and a guide from Yellow Field Tours.  Of course I walked right past the woman who was holding the sign with my name on it because I had already recognized Betsy in the crowd.  The flights over weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be – watching 5 movies and eating occupied my time.  I managed to stay awake for most of the trip so I hardly feel any jetlag today – although I did take a nap this afternoon.  :)

I’ve met some fun people along the way.  Two older (American) men sat with me in the airport in Seoul.  One guy was a fisherman from Alaska who also raises dogs for dogsled racing.  The other was a retired military vet and oil rigger.  He was coming back to Vietnam for the first time since the war.  He was pretty excited and that was nice to see.   It was comforting to be able to talk to someone after 15+ hours of not understanding any conversations.

Betsy and I are sharing a room at the Siagon Hotel about a block from the waterfront.  We woke up this morning, ate breakfast and then wandered around the city.  We traveled over to Ben Thanh Market first – weaving in and out of the stalls.  You could find anything from sunglasses, lighters, shoes, and purses to dried mango, coffee (I hear they make excellent coffee here…) and pig ears.

Walking along the streets is quite the experience.  There are motorbikes everywhere and they all want to take you places.  The words “Madam! Madam!” have never been heard so frequently.  But everyone is very friendly and quite capable of communicating in English.  I do feel bad I don’t know more Vietnamese words though.  “Thank you”, “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “My name is…”, and “yes/no” is really the extent of my vocabulary so far. 

Betsy and I were given some bits of advice on the way from the airport.  1) Vietnamese is very hard for english-speakers to learn.  An example as given of an English man who married a Vietnamese woman and wanted to say “I Love You”.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Apparently not.  Apparently, it is spelled exactly the same as something much less desirable with the only difference being a specific accent mark and the tone of your voice. eek.  That didn’t go so well for him. 

2) If you want to cross the street, just walk out. They will dodge you. —  I was a little nervous about this one.  There are a few intersections that have “walk” signs.  But that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t motorbikes and cars driving through.  Luckily, this advice was good advice.  The drivers here actually don’t drive especially fast and so dodging walkers is not that hard.  I will never find me attempting this in New York City; that is for sure.

3) Siagon never sleeps.  You can hear honking and talking through the whole night.  I wouldn’t know this if I wasn’t told, but this girl really enjoys her sleep.  With that being said I’m off to my room to rest up for tomorrow.  I’ll get to meet my group in the morning and pick out my bicycle! 



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