30 June 2016
A familiar ringing sound floated through the air. I force my eyes to open and immediately jumped up in anticipation of what’s to come. Today is the day we leave for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for our family vacation. It has been awhile since we last had a trip together. I can’t discern if it was Ipoh/Pangkor, Singapore or Penang but either one was at least five years ago. I got on with my morning ablutions and checked my bags again; Didn’t want to forget anything important. The airport taxi should be arriving soon.
Mr Norihan had been waiting for us to get ready and leave the house. He had come early as he wanted to beat the traffic from where he lives. Rihan was quite a talkative person, as well as being very compliant. Always ending his sentences with “Sir.” At first I wondered why, but he then revealed that he was in the army for 23 years. Twenty three years! No wonder he has the protocol programmed in his ways. Rihan dropped us off at the airport shortly after.
Breakfast at Burger King was even less than disappointing. Overpriced airport food and the lack of quality choices. Either way, we had that and proceeded to the Departure hall.
We entered the International Departure hall. The Immigration screening was rather simple and self-serviced, at least for Malaysians. I was so fascinated by how the things work. Automated e-Passport detection and biometric verification. X-rays to observe luggage contents. Everything was so new to me. An entirely new experience. Mind you, this is my first time travelling abroad (Singapore doesn’t count because lol) and the second time I’ve been on a plane. So the wait to boarding began. Our flight was delayed by approx. 20 mins.
The boarding gates had finally opened as the plane is ready. The Airbus was rather snug (read: Cramp) but it’ll do. You get what you paid for, I suppose. Being on a plane was so exhilarating, especially when it’s preparing for take off. As the plane sped down the runway, the cabin crew demonstrated the safety actions. I was intrigued by how they were all moving synchronously. As the plane took off, my heart was racing, as was my mind. All I could think of, between marvelling at the vast greenery of Sepang, was how amazing humans are. To think that we as terrestrial creatures have devised a way to take to the skies with such mass and velocity. What a miracle it might have seems to the Wright brothers so long ago. The clouds were so beautiful and looked like puffs of cotton candy filling a bright blue sky. I shut the window as it was too bright and closed my eyes.
Vietnam is one hour behind Malaysian time (GMT+8). We arrived there safe and made our way off the plane. Malaysians will always be Malaysians, I thought as the other passengers squeezed through and fought their ways to the front. We purchased data SIM cards (100,000 VND* for 5GB of data! Fucking incredible!) And took a cab to the hotel. The feeling of sitting in a left-side driven car on right-sided roads was entirely strange.
*Our rate of conversion at the time MYR:VND was RM186 to 1,000,000VND
Sofitel Saigon Plaza. That’s the hotel we’d be staying in for the next four nights. I was very much surprised that we would be staying in such an upmarket five-star establishment. The lobby oozed grandeur as the doormen helped us with our bags. The room was big and spacious with a huge bed (but not enough to fit four grown adults, of course)
We took a shuttle bus, courtesy of the hotel, to Ben Tanh Market. The market is supposed the equivalent of KL’s Central Market. In the sense of it being a tourist attraction with people desperately trying to get you to buy their trash. Nothing was particularly attractive to me as I do not care for ethnic souvenirs and the like. At least I took pretty photos** (haha) We also tried some “authentic” Vietnamese food such as grilled pork rice, Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette), Pho Bo (noodles in beef broth), a duck broth noodle and fresh (raw) summer/spring rolls. None of them were extraordinarily amazing, but I think that’s because I have eaten hawker food for almost half my life so eating this didn’t strike a sense of novelty. I can imagine white tourists, or people who hardly ever ate out, going nuts over the “intense flavours” that just make them go “mmmmmmhhhh so good” (a la travel vloggers). The motorcycles. THE MOTORCYCLES! They were EVERYWHERE! And not just that, they were also ruthless and just went along with their heart wherever they wanted to go. It was quite scary, and at the same time impressive. Walked all the way back to the hotel from there after having a drink at a corner lot cafe, quite good actually. Rest.
**Photos to come later.
Mom and I went on a little food hunt, to much dismay as we did not find much food. Other than a dozen Japanese outlets, we finally settled on a Grill and BBQ restaurant called De Salita which had a pretty good meat combo of pork and chicken and a rather strong yet affordable Gin&Tonic. In my simple terms, dinner was a success.
Walked with Ruben to a convenience store to buy things. Turned in for the night. Long day ahead tomorrow with a visit to the Mekong delta as well as some other outdoorsy activities. Pen off.