Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vietnam - Saigon Day 1

On February 21, 2011, at 6 am, Ryan and I left from Will Rogers Airport on our first trip to SE Asia.  It was my first trip to Asia, period, but Ryan spent a month in Russia  few years back, so he had already been.  (As a side note, one of my life-long goals is to step foot on each continent, so this was huge for me!  Now I'm only lacking Australia, Antarctica, and South America.)  Anyway, our first flight was delayed, which really freaked me out, since we were connecting twice, and I really wanted our flights to go smoothly, since we used AA miles to travel.  We had been saving our miles for years, and cashed tons of them in to fly first-class, which was AWESOME!  I mean, I could never afford the $14,000 price tag to fly that way otherwise, so this was such a special treat!  Eventually, we left the airport, and made it to Chicago, with just enough time for us to grab a bag of Garrett's popcorn (cheese and caramel mix, of course) and hop on the plane.  

And oh my god.  The seats were awesome!!  Here is a shot of us in our pods - Ryan's was beside mine, with a divider in between us.  As a side note, right after this pic was taken by the nice man in 5A, we were told that this was a violation of FAA regulations, and we'd have to put the camera away!  Eek!  After having made it with the delay in OKC, I did not want a freaking camera to get us booted from the plane.  Luckily, they were okay with it and didn't confiscate my camera or anything - hehehe!

We each had a "guest seat" so that someone could join us for dinner or to play cards on our huge table, or to conduct business, whatever!  I used my extra seat as a footrest.  I mean, I was very busy catching up on Oscar-nominated films.  On the flight from Chicago to Tokyo, I saw Black Swan and The King's Speech.  Loved them both, but that's neither here nor there.  When we sat down, we got champagne and our menu from which we could order our dinner.  (!!!)  The flight was smooth and perfectly comfy, and we made it into Tokyo on time.  We then boarded our JAL flight to Saigon, and even though it was a 7-hour flight and we had business class seats on that flight (free bento box!  sushi!  sake!), we both passed out cold and slept the entire way there.  Apparently watching every movie available on the previous flight had been a bad idea!

We made it to Saigon on time, and were immediately blasted by an inferno when we stepped out of the lovely air-conditioned airport.  MAN, was it ever hot there.  We left a frigid Oklahoma and arrived in the jungle.  Awesome!  And we were easily the tallest people there.  I swear, when we walked out of the airport, there were 170,000 people there to greet us.  The airport security made people line up, like girls on the sides of the tunnel at a rush party.  It was insanity.

Our friend Tony and his cousins were there to greet us, and since we only carried backpacks with us (that's right, my husband is one of those creepy ultra-light travelers, and insisted that I do the same for this trip - which actually turned out to be just fine, but don't tell him that) - anyway, since we only had the backpacks, we jumped right on the backs of Tony's cousins' scooters!!!  Just plopped a helmet on the ol' noggin and off we went.  It was such a good way to see the city - the majority of people travel by scooter, and cars are definitely not the norm.

This is the parking garage at the airport.  Scoots only!


These next two pics were taken the next day, but it kind of helps to see the extent of scooters and the traffic in Saigon that we were instantly exposed to.  There is really no way we could have prepared ourselves for this madness since 1) we live in Oklahoma and 2) America is definitely not as big a bike culture as Vietnam.

The scooters kind of "absorb" the cars while driving.  We eventually figured out that everything is just fluid in Saigon driving.  There is a strict hierarchy, and once you figure it out, you are free to go!  Here it is:  pedestrians are the low man on the totem pole, and they watch out for everything.  Bicycles trump pedestrians-scooters trump bicycles-cars trump scooters-buses trump cars-buses watch out for semis-semis rule the road!  It sounds simple but it's so very true.  Everyone just kind of goes with the flow - there are no major traffic jams because people keep moving.  Where Americans view driving as "owning" their lane, the Vietnamese really have no personal space.  There's no "hey, that asshole cut me off!" because if you weren't going as fast as him, and he had room to get in front of you, he just did.  People aren't mad and angry - there's no road rage.  Just people who need to be somewhere and want to get there ASAP!  

We made it to our hotel after a 20 minute ride or so.  The hotel was nice, but was SO cheap.  Literally, $20 per night - we had a queen size bed, and a bathroom, and it WASN'T a hostel, so I think it was quite a good deal!  Here is our room:

It was totally comfortable, and worth every penny!  They even had laundry service, which was insanely cheap as well.  I think we got 2 pairs of jeans, 4 pairs of shorts, 5 t-shirts, 6 pair of socks and 6 pair of undies washed for maybe $3.00.  This was literally the cheapest place I have EVER been.  I cannot stress that enough.  It was worth it to visit.  Like, literally worth my money to go to Vietnam.  Okay, off that soapbox!



  1. This is so amazing!! I would love to take a trip like this someday. For now, I guess I'll just live vicariously. Can't wait to read more!

  2. Jen, wow that is so cool! I would love to go there! Love your blog!

  3. YUM! Love everything about this trip! Maybe if you all want to go back...we would be down for that...

  4. Wow, Vietnam, that looks awesome! Now I want to go! Thanks for sharing :)
    (isnt it crazy how you can get such cheap hotels in other counties!)

  5. I would love to visit there some day. Vietnam is for sure on my "list"!