Last days in Vietnam

16 July 2012

The tour finished at breakfast, so I had Saigon to myself for the day so to speak.  I took a walk around the area near the hotel and found a little park.  In one corner among the plantings a group of three or four people were playing jazz.  Under the pavilion on the middle a couple were playing chess, an old man was listening to some indian sounding radio station, and a couple of others were just sitting and having a drink or a rest.  As soon as I found it wasn’t a shortcut to my destination I headed back out to the main road, but it shortly became plain that it was going to rain, and hard.  I headed back to the shelter of the pavilion as there were no shop eaves to wait out the storm under, and watched as other people did the same.  One man stopped briefly to put on a plastic rain coat before continuing on with his trailer of goods, several people brought out umbrellas, and one woman ran under the shelter of the pavilion just as the first few spits turned in to a dense sheet of tropical rain.  The jazz players moved to the pavilion, and another walker stood under the eaves and appeared to be doing tai chi until the rain stopped.

I went on to buy some pho for lunch at what appeared to be a sort of Vietnamese equivalent of Starbucks, and watch people passing.  I ended up near the post office, so I went in to try and figure out how to post a parcel.  I wanted to buy something to pack stuff in as I had nothing of my own, but I couldn’t see anything.  I wandered around for a bit and noticed that there were a number of counters labelled things like stamps, packaging, etc, but everything seemed to be behind counters.  So I figured I’d come back with the things I wanted to post the next day and try and ask.

I walked back to the hotel via a different route and came upon another park.  It had some pretty cool shrub sculptures, and a variety of exercise equipment being used by the public.

One of a pair of dragons in the park.

That night I had dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I was the only customer in the room.  It was rather uncomfortable.  The food was okay, but not as good as in many other places, and I left as soon as possible to spend the rest of my evening watching movies in my room. 

17 June 2012

The next morning was my final one in Vietnam. My flight was due to leave that evening, so I paid to keep my room till 6pm so I could come back and have a shower before boarding the plan, for my comfort, and that of whoever was to sit next to me.  I made porridge in a cup in my room for breakfast and headed to the post office.  

I went to the packaging counter and was given forms to fill out - three for each parcel.  The man behind the counter took my forms and goods and wandered off, making me a little nervous, but he returned shortly with some flatpack boxes which he quickly assembled into boxes around my goods.  One form was cellotaped to the box as the address, the others I don’t recall where they went but I was then directed to the postage counter.  The lady took my boxes and filled out some more forms, then asked me for a small sum and that was it.  Done.

I then went to select some postcards to fill out, but before I was able to do that another lady came up to me and asked in English if I would mind coming and talking to her students.  She was an English teacher who taught students around 18-22 English on their weekends.  She brought them down to the post office quite often and asked tourists to speak with them.  So I thought ‘why not’ and wandered over to the group of giggly and slightly nervous looking students.  It was an interesting experience, trying to remember to talk slow enough, and think of things to talk about that they might know about and know the words for.  They were all very eager and friendly and we talked for 15 minutes or so before we ran out of things we could think of to say.  After a photo with the group they left me to go on with my tasks. 

Me and the English tutor at the post office in Saigon.

I had lunch and headed back to the hotel to pack, shower and get ready to go.
I was tired by the end of these two weeks, and ever so glad I hadn’t planned to do the trip through Estonia and Latvia straight afterwards.  The taxi ride to the airport wasn’t anywhere near as scary as the one on arrival had been, and the airport was a lot less empty and military than the arrivals area in Hanoi.  

Of all the places in Vietnam we’d been I think Saigon was the most western and modern. 

As I entered the airport I pulled out my hoodie for the first time in a fortnight. 


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