Day 25: Ho Chi Minh City
After picking the sleep out of my eyes, I go back to the little drink cart where the Vietnamese lady had pointed me in the direction of accommodation yesterday. They make me a coffee and the chatty lady brings me a baked potato.
I stroll the city. A market shows off live fish in shallow pans of water and scatterings of ripe fruits and veggies like bulbous confetti.
The Russian Market is a big building full of strange clothes where I buy a dress and swimsuit before going back to my hostel. I take a few hours to bask in the air conditioning on my bed, glued to the wifi. It’s become a rare treat to do nothing. Flo has responded to my cool reply of YES I WANT TO RIDE A MOTORCYCLE ALL OVER VIETNAM WITH YA and will be arriving the day after tomorrow. We have a solid motorcycle shopping date scheduled. (!!!!!!!!!!)
Finally extracating myself from the chilled room, I continue my market-themed day at one a few blocks away with shoulder width walkways. A lady mixes shredded rice paper with spices and dried shrimp and peanuts and other things of an unknown nature. She puts it in a plastic bag and tops it with a quails egg. It’s fantastic. The vendors laugh as I shove it into my mouth with chopsticks.
“You like!?” They all ask.
When every stall becomes a repeat of the last and my feet crave motionlessness, I sit down for dinner at a table with a street view and chat with the group of Aussies next to me. I join them to the night market which is a dark, outdoor version of all the other ones I’ve been to earlier. The highlight is scooting around on some futuristic segway that is missing the handheld part and steers you around by the movement of your feet. It’s like standing on an electronic board with wheels and the magical part about it is that I don’t even fall on the pavement and scrape up my body from north to south.
Eventually, I lose the group of Aussies in the alleys of the market and go back to my nice little refrigerator room, curling up for a night of hibernation.
Day 26: Ho Chi Minh City
At 9am I open my eyes – the latest I’ve slept in thus far. Of course, coffee is priority. On almost every corner is a cafe selling Vietnam’s famous iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk so sinfully good it hurts my teeth. Cambodians drink iced coffee too, but the Vietnamese know how to make coffee. The way my hands vibrate after every cup is a dead giveaway. I sit down at a cafe half a block away and connect to the wifi. Flo has messaged to say he is already on his way to Saigon!
I try to book another night at my hostel, but it’s full and so I pack my bag and check out.
I sit in the covered patio to catch up on some writing, awaiting the arrival of my snake-hunting, cave-climbing, rock-throwing biking companion.
“Hurry up,” I type to him. “Your frog legs are getting cold.”
A couple hours later, a tall blonde German appears in the doorway, backpack and guitar slung off his shoulders and a smile the size of a watermelon wedge perched on his freckled face. We catch up over a beer, sharing tales of Malaysian scams and overpriced laundry services.
Figuring accommodation is something to factor into the day, we pound the pavement in search of an inexpensive dorm room. The next two hostels have no vacancy.
But it’s hot and now we cannot move forth without nourishment. We eat curry at an Indian place while surfing Hostel World for somewhere to sleep. Around a corner and down an alley we find one with a straight-faced staff and a mountain of shoes on the front step.
After checking in, we sit on the bunks and chat with our dorm mates, then move to the rooftop on the eighth floor, trying not to fall off the tire swings as we warble out some songs on the guitar.
Flo hasn’t seen much of the city yet, so after a bit we cut the chords and go into town where a group of students studying English employ us for half an hour, pelting us with grammar questions. We wiggle away finally, veering around a dark corner where a little stall sits. We buy two cans of beer. The lady sitting there is eating dinner. She points to her plate.
I grab a piece of deep fried something, and so does Flo.
“What is it?” I ask her.
But she doesn’t speak English and just repeats a couple Vietnamese words. I examine the something further. It’s some kind of leg.
“Oh my god, Flo. It’s a fucking FROG LEG.”
The challenge is on. I bite into it and like anything deep fried, it’s already got a good thing going for itself. But the meat; I mean, who knew a frog leg was so hefty? It doesn’t feel like amphibian, and it’s damn tasty. We slurp off the last bit of frog and toss the jumping bones to the side.
There’s a park in the middle of the city, dotted with benches and a pond. Sitting on one of these benches, we have a front row seat to the night habits of city rats and urban bats. Our stories float in the space somewhere between the sewer scavengers and cave cohorts.
And then we scamper back to our lair for some solid shut-eye.