Vietnam -- First Impressions

I step off the uncomofortable 19 hour plane ride to familiar musky, humid air that reminds me I am home.

Vietnam is a beautiful country that you seem to fall more in love with the more you understand its quirks. When I first arrived, I had a lot of skepticism for people. It’s difficult not to be with all the online warnings about scams and misdirection within this country. And immediately after you step out of the airport, these warnings come alive with the abundance of “taxi drivers” who flock to the backpacked foreigners urging them to take their cab.

For somebody who’s not used to this type of hustling, it becomes overwhelming and you grip your money bag a little tighter. “Mailinh” and “Vinasun” I remind myself. “I’m looking for a Mailinh taxi,” I exclaim to the hustlers. They immediately understand that I’ve done my research and back off. A dude with a green tie approach me and points to his driver ID. I couldn’t immediately see that he was indeed the Mailinh driver I’ve been seeking so I kind of push pass him, but on second inspection, I notice the logo and slowly walk back. He smiles and offers his help in putting my girlfriend’s luggage and mine in his trunk. Smooth.

I was still skeptical. I pull out my phone and show him the destination. I then open my Google Maps and follow along as he drove to make sure there weren’t other shenanigans. There wasn’t.

Vietnam has changed a bit since I was last here 8 years ago. They now have 3G across the country, which makes exploring exponentionally easier and preparing for certain cities better. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the boons either as 3G seemed to work well even when I was on a strange island which seemed to harbour only local natives. 3G is indisposable here and it’s only $5 for the entire month. Amazing.

We get off the taxi in front of a dark alley. He points over and mentions that my Hotel should be inside that alley. We peek inside and it’s a dark alley with some neon signs that remind me of a scene out of Sin City. Skepticism rising. I pay the guy and make my way towards my hotel. It’s 3am at this point and I feared my hotel would be locked up ( some of these budget hotels lock up after a certain time). I did send an email to the host a day ago mentioning that I’d be arriving really late but it’s looking like she didn’t heed my message. We get to our hotel and it’s now gated and locked. We stand around for a bit contemplating. I then bang on the gate a bit before ringing the bell. We can see inside through the slits that there were about 4 local boys sleeping on the living room floor. One of the boys eventually wake and shows us to our room. Skepticism is still a high at this point but luckily for me, this looming defence eventually dissipates throughout my trip as I learn to understand the hustle and love my country.

Alley of Death