Sunday, June 30, 2013

saigon's unexpected surprises

We only spent four days in Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City, but each day was filled with exploration and adventure. Here is a list of our favorite experiences from our time spent in southern Vietnam.


XO Scooter Tour
At first, we planned on renting two scooters to get around the city. It took approximately five seconds of driving in a taxi to realize that was a.bad.idea. The traffic in Saigon is unlike anything I've ever seen/experienced. While yes there are stop lights and intersections with stop/yield sings, literally no one pays them any heed. Scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, food carts, cars, trucks, buses, etc. all compete for space on the road and it is absolutely insane. So instead, we carefully practiced crossing the road and booked an XO Tour to get to see more of the city. The company is composed of women who pick you up at your hotel and proceed to scoot you all over Saigon, including the wealth, poor, and expat districts, and feed you local food. The tour lasted three hours, from 6-9, and was a complete blast.

Mekong Delta 
We bused south and spent a day floating along the Mekong Delta. Sean held a really big slithering python and I rowed a traditional boat down river wearing an awesome straw hat. Basically, it was a really fun if not somewhat touristy day.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk
At least three times a day, Sean and I would stop in at a cafe and have a cuppa joe. Vietnamese cafes are very different; you walk in and are escorted to a table. Then, a menu is brought with a million coffee choices (mostly in Vietnamese) and then you choose one of the options knowing it's going to be tasty as hell. You wait a while and then a large cup filled with ice and a long spoon are brought out along with a miniature coffee pot that's still brewing. You wait until a server comes around, checks the pot, and then pours your amazing coffee creation. You lounge around for at least an hour, order more than one coffee, and people watch. It's fantastic and one of my favorite experiences in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City Botanical Gardens
Wanna picnic?
Wanna watch a traditional Vietnamese wedding?
Wanna get caught up in the middle of a dance competition?
Wanna get away from honking horns, zooming scooters, and people, people everywhere?
Then the botanical gardens is the place to go!

We had a great time strolling through the park, looking at all the flowers and locals, and found ourselves enjoying quite a few kebabs while relaxing on the plentiful benches.

Truthfully, when we go back to Vietnam, we will most likely skip over the south and fly into Hoi An so we can scoot the mid and northern parts of the country. That said, I am not sorry we spent some time seeing the Mekong Delta or enjoying Saigon. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Moving day, Taiwan style

What a traumatic week:

Grades are due by Friday.

We're flying to Vietnam at 5a.m. Saturday morning and thus far only have our ticket to Saigon.

Oh, and we're moving to off campus housing.

You see, we live in a dump.

There's really no other way to describe it.

The outside of the building looks worthy of condemnation.

The inside....?

Well, that's even worse.

And, quite frankly, we simply cannot take it any longer.

Our kitchen stove and sink are held up on bricks, every creature imaginable has infested our place, and black mold grows along the walls.

It is long past time to GO, so earlier this year once we knew who was staying another year and who was leaving, I talked to the school's admin and got permission to take over our friends' apartment once they leave for Doha, so during this last week of school with a trip to Vietnam looming, we are packing up all of our things in black garbage bags and the two HUGE red suitcases we moved to Taiwan with all the while wondering: how does one move apartments in Taiwan?!

You see, I've never seen a Taiwanese version of a U-Haul, and all we own are two adorable scooters.

Then, in a moment of genius, I asked to borrow our friends' car, and stupidly, they said yes.


Then I told Sean that he would have the honor of driving said car.

He was not happy to put it mildly because, well, driving a scooter in Taiwan is intense.

Driving a car? Damn scary.

Plus, there is this small fact that we don't actually have driver's licenses.

Minor detail.

So here we are scooting and driving all of our belongings (which have somehow multiplied in the last 12 months) across Hsinchu City.

We are dead tired, we feel like idiots for doing this now, but despite the craziness of the week, it is totally worth it to move. Our new apartment's backyard is a beautiful lake, there's a Family Mart one block away so anytime an ice cream craving hits we're ready to go, and the apartment itself is cozy, cute, and not disgusting.

We're heading to IKEA soon to get a few pieces of furniture so once the place is dolled up I'll post pics.