oh vietnam, you strange, noisy, mesmerizing place, you. vietnam, with your choking heat and cooling rains, your bright and lively flowers, your swarms of motorbikes, your streets lined with shops that spill their innards onto the sidewalks, peppered with price tags. friends and acquaintances tell me you have stolen their hearts. will you steal mine just as easily?
my first impression of Vietnam was from the air while flying in: an unusually dark panorama creeping in beneath us, with ghostly strings of bluish light, sparsely blotched with the aggressive orange usual in Western cities. For the most part, fluorescent light rules here. Our plane rolled smoothly onto the tarmac at Tan Son Nhat Airport and into our gate; from the first moment stepping out of the plane, I could feel the heat—strangely like the oppressive heat that overtakes Ottawa on certain (rare) summer days. passing through immigration and customs was uncanny in its ease; I’d expected more random hassles—or, at least, I’d expected them to talk to me. I wheeled my luggage out into the humid night, and surprisingly enough, found my friend Quynh—who I had thought was in Da Nang—waiting there, along with her brother Nu. they shepherded me into a taxi, which carried us through the chaotic streets and gave me my first glimpse of the notorious Vietnamese traffic. arriving outside their neighbourhood, I unloaded my luggage as we made our way down a prohibitively narrow and winding street, past thin, tall apartments with bars on their windows and doors, past a shop where, even at this late hour, people who looked about my age were working on sewing machines, making t-shirts (I instinctively felt some “western guilt” here). Arriving at a set of locked gates, Quynh and brother quickly unlocked them and introduced me to my home for at least the next month: a three-story-tall (four stories if you count the door that leads onto the roof) apartment with a steep staircase, which was a minor struggle to manage with my one bulging suitcase.
the first night in Vietnam was quick—my plane landed at around 10:45 PM local time, and I ended up in bed a little past midnight—so I didn’t have the chance to see much. rest assured, though, that the next few days were a positive whirlwind. read more soon—just keep an eye on this blog.