This post is dedicated to a reader/friend who asked me this morning, “What’s going on over there?” So here’s exactly what went on all day.
As I write this, some guy is banging mercilessly away on his poor laptop. Some keystrokes sound like the force you’d use to swat a mosquito if trying to jab it to death with your fingertip. Here, I’ll sneak a pic of him:
I guess heavy-fingered typing is old carryover from stiff typewriters from the olden days. I wish you could hear him – he’s really going at it, “Pop-pop! Chugga-chugga BAM!” Get that keyboard! TEACH IT A LESSON!
I came here to Sozo (mentioned in this post) after I scored a new pair of contacts from this place:
I’ve been going through contacts like Pez; no idea why. Between specks that won’t rub off, to tears/snags here and there, I’ve got 3 left from the 2 boxes I got in Singapore. So I stepped into this random store on Bui Vien (backpacker area) and got these for $11. My favorite thing about them is the “not for individual sale” on the packaging.
After that, I came over here to Sozo for a snack and iced coffee I forgot to photograph. Vietnamese coffee is thick and chocolatey tasting. I usually add a bit of water to mine – otherwise it’d last about 3 swallows. I really like it; it’s not wildly different from coffee in Singapore.
Here’s some pics I took while listening to ol’ hammer fingers beat his keyboard to a pulp:
Then I took a motorbike ride to Saigon Square to pick up some shirts for work. We can wear whatever we want – my boss wears a t-shirt every day. I just want to wear something other than my slobby vacation clothes.
The conversation with the motorbike driver went like this.
Me: “Saigon Square. 20,000 ok?”
Me: “No, 20,000.”
Me: “No, it’s really close. 20,000.”
I wasn’t lowballing him. I just have an idea of how much it costs to go certain distances. To come home from work – a 15-minute ride – is 30,000 ($1.50.) Saigon Square is a 5-minute ride. Here are the two best pics from that ride:
Here’s crazy Saigon Square (again) and my haul:
Total for the 4 tops was $18.70. (390,000 VND). Thing is, I have no idea if I got a good deal or not. The tags on the 4 shirts are: twentyone, American Eagle, Banana Republic and one that’s blank. Presumably, the name brand ones “fell off a truck” and are actual items you’d get in the US. But who’s to say someone didn’t get ahold of a few thousand Banana Republic tags and just attach them? But for under $20, I don’t really care. These are the last clothes I hope to buy here. You’re now looking at my entire workplace wardrobe.
Here are the two best pics of my ride back. This driver agreed right away to my 20,000 VND. ($1 US.)
After observing traffic from the back of a motorbike for about 2 weeks now, I think I’m starting to understand it a little. People on foot, on motorbikes and bicycles, in cars and taxis, and even in wheelchairs can all be headed toward one another from different directions and somehow all pass one another without incident, at surprisingly high speeds and close distances. I’ve inferred 3 guidelines so far: 1. Stay smooth; no sudden movements. 2. Keep moving 3. Never backtrack. Forward movements only.
The biggest factor that allows for this chaos-driving: no one cares if you cut them off. Someone cuts you off, you let them. Need to cut someone off? Go ahead. As a Westerner, this is probably the most foreign aspect for me here, traffically speaking.
Motorbike driver #2 dropped me back off at Bui Vien St., a short walk back to my hostel. I’d been wanting a pedicure, so when one of the many girls handing out fliers gave me one, I actually looked at it. Holy crap. 50,000 VND for a manicure and pedicure together? That’s just $2.50. So I did that, and afterward got a 1-hour massage for 110,000 VND ($5.50.)
There was a small catch afterward. She gave me a slip of paper that said “How was your service? Excellent = $5 (100,000 VND) • Good = $3 (60,000 VND).” I only had about $11 on me, so they got that. Here are the pics I took: (Btw, that’s not a huge blanket or tablecloth draped over my legs, those are my pants!)
It’s almost 8pm and I’m so hungry. Sophie just got in so I’ll drag her out. Tomorrow we both have to move to the 5-person dorm room upstairs for 2 nights because we didn’t reserve our single rooms in time. Starting tomorrow, Long Hostel’s going to be totally full. Wednesday I start my 2-week sublease close to work (so no more motorbike commuting for me!) French guy I work with and his girlfriend are going to Frahnce for a month and I’m renting their place.
And that’s what I did today! Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Saturday. Here are two pics from the backpacker area from today:
What is the language situation like there? Do shopkeepers speak English, is there pointing and charades, or do you look up all the Vietnamese in some book?
Everyone seems to know just enough English for what they’re doing: selling clothes, working at a restaurant, contact lens place, etc. The menus have English next to Vietnamese, so pointing works great. The guy who opened my bank, the family who runs this hostel and a random person here and there all speak English quite well. Everything else is all Vietnamese which, it may sound strange, but really isn’t a problem.