I am currently taking advantage of my hostel’s free internet here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I arrived here at roughly 12:30am HCMC time (that’s 1:30am Manila time), sought out a hostel based on my research, and after walking around in circles, I found the Duc Vuong Hotel. I was put up in a Standard room for the first night at $22.60 (a 20% discount from the original $28), and today, I was transferred to a Mini-room (their cheapest) for the next three nights at $18 per night. The fees already include a breakfast buffet. Anyway, after I arrived here at the hotel/hostel, I conked out and went to sleep.

I woke up just before 7am to take a shower, then head downstairs for the breakfast buffet. It was awesome. They had assorted fruits, bread and butter, sausages (Vienna sausages, anyway), bacon, mini hash browns, fried rice, and beef stew. Yeah, apparently, beef stew is now a breakfast dish. Not that I’m complaining; the food was really good.

From there, I decided to explore the city… Except I had no idea where I was going. I was trying to interpret a relatively vague map I had and tried to find the market, but apparently, I was interpreting it wrong, because I ended up going in completely the opposite direction. I went back to the hostel, took a closer look at the maps I had, and found out just where the market was. From there, it would be much easier to seek out the rest of HCMC’s tourist’s attractions.

To make a long story short, in the hot, hot heat, I managed to find the Binh Tan Market, the famous statue of Ho Chi Minh himself, the Rex Hotel, the City Hall, the Reunification Palace, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Pictures to follow. Heh.

And the heat was HOT. It was a relief to go to a local ice cream parlour for a bit and have some coffee ice cream and cold, cold iced house tea (it’s pretty much the same as the house tea served in Chinese restaurants back in the Philippines, but ICED).

Anyway, after switching rooms, I headed out, had lunch at Pho 24 (a local Pho restaurant; they have a branch at Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati), and tried to explore the city some more.

And then it rained. And HARD.

The good thing about living in the Philippines is that you’re used to these wicked shifts in weather here in Southeast Asia, and I was more or less prepared for it. Unfortunately, you can never really, truly be prepared for extreme shifts in weather, so while I was struggling to put on my rain jacket, I was getting drenched. The jacket itself didn’t even seem to provide much help. I dashed to the nearest coffee shop I could find. I entered Highlands Coffee, dripping wet. The lady approached me, stared at me for about a second, then we both burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. She handed me some tissues to wipe myself dry, and without meaning to, I ended up taking my merienda there.

Thank goodness for small comforts. I was also wearing some quick-drying convertible pants, so my pants dried quickly and I changed into the shorts to dry up my legs.

When the rains had stopped, I decided to explore the markets, then go back to the hostel. I must have took a wrong turn somewhere because I ended up walking around in circles. It was crazy. I got back to my room and took a nap.

When I woke up – about an hour ago – it wasn’t raining yet. I decided to fix up a bit, and by the time I was ready to march out again… It began to pour. Hard. Again. And so I’m here at the internet kiosks blogging about my day so far.

Other interesting things about HCMC so far:

*The motorcycles! They’re everywhere! I thought it would be tough to cross the street, but it’s much easier than I thought it would be. It’s so much easier to avoid an oncoming motorcycle as opposed to an oncoming car, and they can also avoid you much more easily. I like to think of them as pedestrians on wheels… really, really fast pedestrians.

*I slipped into a bookstore as a respite from the morning heat. Almost all the books they were selling were Vietnamese translations of popular books. Does anyone want a copy of a Vietnamese “Twilight”?

*I feel like I’m too Asian to be pegged by the Caucasians as a tourist, and too… Filipino to be pegged by the Vietnamese as a local. Heh.

*I did encounter a couple of Filipinos on the way home. They yelled out “Kabayan!” and asked “Pilipino ka ba?” It must have been my shirt that gave me away: It has a map of the Philippines on it.

*Salespeople at the market can be very, very pushy. They would actually GRAB YOUR ARM and try and force you to look at their wares. It was very disconcerting.

Anyway, the rains seem to have abated. I’ll go check out what HCMC is like at night. I’ll try to post again ASAP. See you all soon!