A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
It is 06:00 am. We’ve trundled through the night on another epic train trip. Our last in Vietnam. I had one too many cold beers staring out the window, watching the countryside slide by and wondering when or if I will get back here. The kids slept until we approach our destination and they have to be rudely awakened and herded off the train and wham! Saigon. Saigon traffic. Saigon smells. Saigon noise.
It’s notable when getting off a noisy rattling old train, on older tracks, actually leads to an increase in decibels around you. Vietnam is loud. We are a little dazed. We are a little confused. We somehow have a hard time getting a taxi in Vietnam. This is almost unthinkable in Saigon and surely not possible at the Train Station? There are dozens of taxis and each agency has its own representative outside the station like a Transport Maitre’d mixed with an inscrutable night-club bouncer. I suspect we were the problem and not them. We finally get in a cab. Even Saigon has a quieter time and the streets were relatively quiet. Relatively. It’s quieter than at the station.
We drop our bags at the hotel. It is only 06:30. We can get into the room in 4 hours.
Now we are properly dazed and confused. So off we go for a wander in the little streets around our chosen hotel; Hotel Nikko. Its away from the main tourist areas. The traffic is nuts by 07:00. We surf a set of barrel waves of motorbikes. A side street beckons. And like Alice we fall by complete accident into a wonderland of tourism free existence in some narrow back streets.
Every lane begets a small series of lanes. All shops and services are present in smaller and smaller premises. Not an english word in sight. Little kids totter about. Bigger kids head to the cacophonous schools. People young and old head off to their jobs on bikes and motorbikes or get busy at home. The pharmacy full of chinese medicines. The seamstress doing repairs. The featureless offices. The little street restaurants.
We wander. It is like we had stayed up all night at a party. There is a little exhilaration. A little more tiredness. Hunger too. Hunger! Beware hunger in the Less Baggage Family! For longer than usual we negotiate something vegetarian and eat. Half the world seems to potter by. Yet when we walk again it seems just as calm.
Down the longer narrow lanes we catch glimpses of the bigger streets. All is madness and fumes. All is dust and two stroke smoke. It lends an air of sanctuary to the tiny community we find ourselves in.
It is the little bits in between the bigger attractions that I enjoy. It is the journey from one temple to the next museum that provides inspiration. It is the finer details of everyday life that make me fall in love with Vietnam.
We were just killing time but it is killing me that we have one more day before we fly away.