I am in trouble. It didn’t take long, only about 10 minutes and there I was. We were unpacking last night and Lilly pulls out her hair straightener. I walked right into the fan blade, “why did you bring that? You can’t use that 120 volt thing here!” I can too, you brought the converter, right? No actually I didn’t…and there I was. But being male, I had to give her the nails to my coffin too, “Do you REALLY need to have that thing here?!” I probably should not have said that…It was suggested that I fix the problem.
Fine! Tomorrow I’ll trolley on over to Walmart and pick up a 220 volt one, I need a watch battery anyway…Silence…She finished unpacking, using my name in vain at least 5 more times. Apparently this hair straightener thing matters to her.
When one is in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), one apparently goes to the Ben Thanh Market to find everything. Sounds perfect, we’ll go there. At the front desk, I ask for directions. Ok, Go 4 blocks this way then turn right for like 6 blocks and you can’t miss it. Anything else I need to know? Um, yeah, when you’re crossing the street, be bold, don’t stop, show no fear and never back up. I’m like seriously?, I see crosswalks, stop lights and, I mean, how really hard can it be? He smiles, Good Luck! After crossing 3 streets, I have learned the following things:
Thing 1. Motor Scooters rule the streets of Saigon. It’s the family car and they are everywhere in massive numbers. There appears to be no limit on the amount of passengers, I’ve seen 3 people and the family dog whipping through traffic on one scooter.
Thing 2. Anything can be attached to a scooter, restricted only by the creativity and imagination of it’s owner. Why sure we can haul that washing machine, just bring me the rope. You need that 14 foot 2×4 taken to the house? Get the duct tape. I kid you not.
Thing 3. Stop lights, crosswalks, traffic lanes and well basically, traffic laws, are more like “suggestions” than anything else. Personally, I think they earn bonus points and a prize for plowing you over and boy are they in it to win.
Thing 4. Rule number three also applies to buses, cars, bicycles or whatever contraption they’ve created to get from A to B. I’m convinced the word “yield” does not exist in the Vietnamese language.
I am going to die in Saigon, this actually crossed my mind after about the third street crossing. I am going to die for a hair straightener power converter (which upon reflection, I remembered the hotel will loan to you upon request) and a watch battery.
We finally arrive at the Market, which is actually an indoor-outdoor kind of Bazaar. It’s complete and total Chaos. Picture a covered swap-meet, with about 50 million people and every kind of product you can think of, confined in an area the size of a football field. I love the look on Lilly’s face, that feeling like your trying to take a drink from a firehose.
You cannot come to Saigon without coming here. EVERYTHING is here. From seafood to fabric, it’s here. You squeeze down tiny “alleys” between vendors to find even more items being sold. While your eyes are trying adjust to the dizzying display, your ears are going tone deaf over the constant barrage of people trying to get you to stop at their spot. I say “spot” because that may be all the space they have. It may only be 5×5 but it goes floor to ceiling.
I was able to get the battery in my watch replaced for the bargain price of 200,000 dong ($8.80). No hair straightener power converter though, opted to give the hotel a chance and they later came through.
After about an hour we found our way out (we should have used GPS) and decided to come back and do this again tomorrow. You just can’t do it justice in one visit.
I’ve also attached a picture of myself so that when the bus, followed by the 6-8 scooters and a bicycle, plow me over, the doctor will have something to work from to know what goes where. With that, Happy Travels