2019, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Vietnam Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon Sunday September 22, 2019

We landed in Hong Kong very early in the morning, just in time for sunrise. The Hong Kong airport is gigantic and also quite nice. Not a ton of stuff was open because it was so early, but at least we could walk around. And it’s all glass so the views on one side are quite spectacular. We wondered why we hadn’t planned on spending at least a night in Hong Kong and the only thing I could come up with is that my cousin no longer lives there, so hotel prices would probably be exorbitant.

Our next flight was extremely short in comparison but there was still time to watch a movie, The Darjeeling Limited.

My experience as a Canadian visiting countries which have “weaker” passports (in the sense of being allowed visa-free entry into fewer countries) is that immigration and customs is usually a joke. So it was in Vietnam, as we got our passports stamped and got waived through customs with only our carry-ons getting scanned.

The drive to the hotel was a pretty instant reminder we were no longer in Canada, as there were palm trees and blaring horns. Saigon is one of the loudest cities I’ve ever been to – it could be the loudest.

We got to the hotel after observing the terrifying traffic and our room wasn’t ready yet – as it was 11 or so in the morning – so they sent us up to the rooftop pool, which we promptly fell in love with. (We would visit it at least twice at a day for the rest of the trip.)

Pool at the Northern Hotel in Saigon (HCMC)

The custom in Vietnam is to welcome your guests with a drink. And that’s great. But welcoming us by allowing us to use the pool before we checked is something I could get used to.

Once we got in the room, the plan was for Jenn to take a nap and then we’d go sight see. Well, that’s not what happened. First Jenn fell asleep and then I did. At some point she woke up but I didn’t. It was evening before we were both awake. In my defence, it was a 15 hour flight followed by a multi-hour layover and a 2 and a half hour flight and it’s an 11 hour time difference. But still, I felt like the trip didn’t get off to a good start.

So we walked around downtown Saigon and eventually found a Pho place. It was a change, we later learned, but we were jet lagged and it was tasty enough. At this chain we discovered the incredibly cheap cost of food which would become a theme throughout trip. And I think this meal would be one of the more expensive ones we’d have on the trip, though I don’t remember right now.

Afterwards we walked to the main promenade, which is closed to traffic sometimes, and walked around until Jenn spotted “cheese ice cream”, which is either Japanese or Korean. I was skeptical but it’s pretty tasty.

It was Grand Prix day so we went to a fancy store to look for beer and I found Coopers! Coopers!!!

Perhaps an explanation is in order. I didn’t drink until university. And when I started drinking, I didn’t like the taste of beer. It took a couple of years until I could even stomach a beer and then I only drank it because it was cheap and because I could drink more of it than wine or liquor while I was drinking. When I lived in Australia in 2003 I didn’t like beer yet. But while in Australia I had one of those experiences you have in life, where during a particularly memorable moment and you eat or drink something that resonates with you more than it might otherwise. That was Cooper’s Sparkling Ale, the first beer I ever had that didn’t taste like generic “beer” to me. It was the first craft beer I ever drank and the beginning of my long journey to becoming a gigantic beer snob. But I haven’t had a Cooper’s product since 2003.

It never occurred to me that there would be Cooper’s in Australia, but we were able to buy both the Sparkling and Pale Ales from this store to drink while we watched the Grand Prix. I’m happy to report that the Sparkling Ale is still a unique beer, as it is extremely carbonated for its style. The Pale Ale is less good, but it’s still drinkable.

It’s been weeks so I don’t remember how the race went, but I don’t think it was particularly good. (I know the one a week later was shitty, so maybe that’s the one I’m thinking of.) But it doesn’t matter as I fell asleep during the race.

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