San Jose: we have landed in Saigon (HCM City)

Day 1,  SE Asia trip, Feb 2011
Saigon, Vietnam: day 1,

Our flight from Taipei, Taiwan arrived to Tan Son Nhat (SGN) airport around 12ish noon on Monday, Jan 17th, 2011. It was hot and humid and sort of unorganized as people are trying to make it through the check-in or is it check-out custom point?

We pick up the luggage from the conveyor belt (mom used the porter), even though I told her NO (because of numerous tips and stories told by friends before I left the US). On top of that, I don’t see the point of spending the money as I’m so used of picking up my own luggage from the conveyor belt whenever I travel in the US. But most of all, I don’t trust people handling our stuff and I had to be more watchful so it’s more work for me instead.

In addition, we have fellow flight companions that I just befriend with, and the guys had been so helpful with our luggage since we board the flight from SFO til now. Even though mom used the porter guy, but he’s trying to get as many customers as possible, so he’s been all over the place so it’s truly myself, and the new friends that got hold of our luggage.

We put everything through the Xray machine line (fairly short), since we’re the first group. When we were finally done with the Xray machine, security check into VN, almost done loading the luggage onto the car, then the porter bell shown up. He transferred everything from our 2 carts to 1 cart, we pushed the cart for about oh….let see, 10-15 stepts (just outside the glass doors, separating the arrival & waiting line (pick up), and he said give me the money…give me the money. I think mom didn’t hear it but I told her I guess he’s asking for the money. Mom gave him $5.00 USD which now I realized that’s a lot of money for VN. Imagine, he must make banks every day. Our taxi ride from the Tan Son Nhat (SGN) airport to home is about 10 minutes (very close by) and it’s about $3.50 USD, I think, since my aunt paid for the fee.

The infamous broken house stall (quán cơm tấm BA ghiền), introduced by nick BBNL from VF, was actually about 2 blocks from our home in Phu Nhuan ditsrict.

After a brief reunion chat, catching up moment and gift distribution (partial) as not everyone are home yet. I went a took a brief shower and asked my cousin (be’ Na) to be my tour guide. Asked her to take me to places and do things that she normally does. I wanted to see the real SG, the non tourist perspective as everything is so different and spanking brand new to me. She wanted to ride on the motor bike but I told her I’ll walk (I’m not use to the traffic, noise, etc.. .yet so I’m playing it safe at this point).

I asked my family if I needs to change as I was wearing a really thin casual tshirt (home clothing) and a boxer short since it was so hot. I felt like it’s as hot as a heat wave by my San Francisco Bay Area standard with the added sweat from the humid. My aunt said you’re fine but my uncle told me to change into a capri or something longer for pant. So I went and put on my cargo pant instead and a hat. I also gave my mom my money belts and passport, etc..before heading out. And asked her to give me some VN money instead. My aunt gave me 500,000 VND instead, which I think is about $25.00… VNmese allowance for the day 🙂

We walked about a block out toward Le Van Sy and it is so much closer than what I remembered from my childhood memory. It’s like 500 yards or felt like so. First stop, watch repair/battery stall. I need to have the battery replaced on my bracelet watch that I didn’t have time for service in the US. Paid 35,000 VND for it, he even polish, put on some sort of rubber band around the cap so that’s like under $2.00 USD. The exchange rate is around 19,000ish VND=$1.00 USD. Took like 3 minutes in waiting so I was a happy camper.

Wanted to get a massage and manicure and pedicure since I was sore all over from the long flight and the uncomfortable seats. I didn’t have time to get the mani/pedi done before I left for the trip so I’m just happy to spot the day spa. Mr. L always label me a massage and day spa junkie so I’m just so thrill that we spots a few places along our walk and I told be’Na to come back later on, after I’m done with my sighs seeing.

We stopped by 3 bells church (Nha` Tho` 3 chuong). It’s brand spanking newly remodeled but the architecture looks like a darn pagoda instead. Wanted to check the mass schedule but good luck with that. I was with my cousin so I felt like I didn’t have the alone time with God so I told myself to come back on my own some other time. Haven’t the chance to try the broken rice house out yet but did see it again on our way when walking to my childhood junior high school.

First stop: my childhood junior high school. The junior high looks much larger up close than how I remembered it from my childhood memory. I think they may have added a wing or two after my time there. I wanted to go inside the school and walk down memory lane but my cousin, be’Na told me school is still in session so they probably won’t let us in.

It was around 3pm ish, I think so it must be the 2nd session of the day. Unlike in the US where school is in session from 7 am or 8 am until 2pm or 3pm. In Vietnam, they have session from 7am to 12noon. Then the 2nd session is from 1pm til 5pm or so. Depending on your grade level, you may have the option of attending either one.

Took a quick pose with the messy hair. Did not blown dry or style or anything since it was too hot and our suit cases were still un-open so I had to made do with the situation. Next stop, my elementary school from childhood. The name is the same, but looks like they re-located the school to a different aisle across town (hẻm) so it doesn’t ring a bell to me at all. Still, snap a few pix for my own nostalgic reason.

Here is my elementary school, which i think they might have been relocated to a different location, although the name stayed the same.


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