Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Vietman (Part 1)

Hello from Ho Chi Minh,

Just wanted to let you know I made it to HCMC in one piece and have started my class. 

Singapore was delightful.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm really glad I chose to use it as a bridge between Thailand and Vietnam.  It just felt like a little oasis of calm and serenity and the First World here in the midst of mostly poor, mostly Second World Southeast Asia.  In some ways the pace is quicker, but in others it really is, to quote their tourist board's slogan, “uniquely Singapore.”  It's very British in a lot of ways, obviously, but it has a completely different feel than Britain.  It has a lot of American and Australian influence, but it isn't quite America, and although I haven't made it to Australia yet, I doubt it's quite that either.  It's uniquely Singapore, and I found it to be an intriguing place.  Very restful.  They get laughed at for being a "nanny state" but it sure is a safe place to spend time, and there's nothing wrong with that.  They have manners and actually use them, and we could use a little more of that in America, if you ask me. 

I think I'll really enjoy my class as well; today we learned some Filipino and Vietnamese phrases and got to have that "shoe on the other foot" feeling that our students are experiencing.  Of course, I've learned languages before, and having spent thirteen months and counting in Southeast Asia, which is still mostly incomprehensible to me, it wasn't an entirely new experience, but it was still revealing and interesting.

For the moment, I'm staying at the Sunshine Hotel.  It's pretty nice, the owners are fluent in French, which is fun for me, it's cheap, and I can use my laptop, although not in the room.  So I'll probably stay put, although I haven't decided for sure.  If I move, I'll let you know.

There's a website at if you want to check it out.

It seems that I can get a sim card for my cell phone that will work here, so I should have a phone again before long.  The number will probably change -- I think it's tied to the card -- so when I get a chance to set that up I'll let you know.  I may have to get a new phone anyway; mine has been dropped a few too many times, most recently when I was on my way out to the tuk-tuk who was taking me to the airport on Saturday morning.  That time knocked the plastic face right off and it's lost somewhere in Thailand.  The rest of it isn't in much better shape.  It may be time to trade it in for another used one and just hang on to my Thai sim card to pop in when I get back to Chiang Mai.  At any rate, I'll be reachable by email until I get all of that straightened out. 

I actually had Vietnamese food for dinner tonight – drum-roll please! -- and I enjoyed it!  Sadly, I have no idea what it was called, since there was no menu and the only person who spoke English in the little joint where I ate didn't seem to understand when I asked her what it was called, so I don't know if I'll ever get it again.  But it was a good meal -- pork and carrots and onions in a noodle soup.  And cheap -- 23,000 VND, which is about $1.45.  Still getting used to the Vietnamese dong, I have no notion as yet of the conversion rate, but I'll get there. 

My first impressions of Vietnam?  Less chaotic than Bangkok in some ways, more in others; just as hot; slightly different scenery; an intriguing place.  The cars are like ours, that is the steering wheel is on the same side, so in theory they drive like we do, but in practice the roads are terrifying.  No rhyme or reason whatsoever and an endless stream of cars and motorbikes.  I'm really afraid at the thought of crossing the street.  It's miles worse than even Bangkok.  No tuk-tuks, so not as much noise; even the motorbikes aren't as loud.  Less grime.  Less Buddhist temples, at least that I've seen so far.  I've noticed more staring than I do in Chiang Mai, so far; I think that's due to the part of town where I went to find dinner having no foreigners but me anywhere in sight.  I doubt that'll hold true in other parts of town.  More things I'm interested in getting out and doing, certainly than in Bangkok; there's a history museum and a zoo both within walking distance of where I'm staying that seem worth braving the heat for.

That's all for now.  I'm off to take a shower and head towards bed; I've got to get up early in the morning.  French food is a nice incentive, however.   

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