Monday, December 31, 2012

Final Days in Vietnam

I should have known that going to a complete party city on my own for New Years would be a terrible idea. Granted, at the time, I didn't know how much of a party city Saigon was. But it's not in my DNA to party until dawn with perfect strangers. My ideal NYE party has me and my buds enjoying the night in and watching to ball drop on television, to be honest. Too many weirdos, too many people in general, crawl out of whatever rocks they've been hiding under for however long to roam the streets on New Years. That's not just Saigon - that's everywhere. It's like all of humanity's test-subjects only come out just a few nights a year.

Saigon was no exception to my "rule." And not only were utter weirdos on the prowl, but the streets were jam-packed with people and motorists. I don't even want to know how many people got run over last night. Crossing the street here already requires some finesse, but last night was pure insanity. I was getting claustrophobic. I was getting a non-stop volley of offers. And all I wanted was some relative silence. So I went home. That's right people. I rang in the new year all by my lonesome. I don't know what that's supposed to forecast for my year - perhaps a year of being true to myself. Lets hope. Last year I got tossed around by the whims of others, something I must take full responsibility for, and this year I just want to do that thing I do. No more bull. Hooray for potentially disappointing people

So how did I spend the first day of my New Year? Spectacularly! I started off early and got myself a real American-style breakfast at the Texas BBQ joint where all the racist old men hang out. Then I returned home, packed up my things and checked out of my hotel, leaving my luggage with them for the day. Then it was off to one of the swankiest hotels in the city for a little R&R by the pool for the cool price of $3 for the day (after about an hour wandering into some of the most elite hotels in Saigon and being told absurdly high prices). Just lounging and sipping on a variety of juices and eating by the pool - such is the life! The hustle and bustle of Saigon was no where to be found, thankfully; this city exhausts me.

I had a lovely - and filling - dinner of sushi (yum) quite early, so I had time to kill. i walked around the mall, which is really strange because it's scattered across several different building and blocks and has all sorts of upscale stores. I think te store employees all thought I was going to steal something because they followed me everywhere and occasionally I would see them watching me, crouched behind the bookshelves. It was really strange.

After the mall, I went to check out the night market to spend my last couple 100,000 dong, but it still wasn't open. Luckily, across the street was a makeshift performance hall set up for the New Years celebrations. At the time I encountered it, it was a dancing and singing performance done by children. Although I don't speak Vietnamese, I caught the gist - something about how flowers grow, complete with a bee "pollinating" the flower dancers with glitter and a "Singing in the Rain" type number. I stuck around for the hula goop performer, a real hit with the crowd. The children got a couple claps; this last had everyone "ooh"ing and "aah"ing and shouting for her.

Frankly, I was bored of watching the old woman perform tricks I learned in 4th grade P.E., so that's why when I was approached by a group of three people asking if they could practice their English, I acquiesced with only a little hesitance. Before I knew it, I was chatting with a crowd of about ten Vietnamese people, both of us learning about each other. They were mainly interested in slang words, so I taught them a few that occurred to me: hit on, chase (a girl) and to chase her off, yolo, and then cholo (pronunciation mistakes make for interesting turns in conversation), awesome, cool, wicked, and a few others I've already forgotten. It was a good time and I ended up chatting for over an hour with them! I love the chance encounters that travel makes possible!

Finally, I got in some last-minute shopping to round out my last day in Saigon. of course, I wouldn't be me if I hadn't left some of my belongings scattered across the city, like my PASSPORT (left at my hotel, where it was probably safer anyway) and my sunglasses. Then it was off to the airport, to return back to Korea. So if you're reading this (that means you mom) then I am safe and sound, ready to board my plane.

It is strange to not be going back to the U.S. after a vacation. But to be perfectly honest, I miss Korea. I miss the relative safety, even if I never feel like part of the crowd. I miss being left alone on my walks places, not constantly being hounded by people trying to sell me something I don't want. I miss the fresh air and open spaces (did I seriously say that about Korea just now?). Believe it or not, I miss my hard, old bed and am looking forward to going home to my probably stinky apartment. It's been an amazing trip and I'll do a recap with all the things that didn't fit into the day-to-day goings-on updates I've been doing.

Love love love, from your (stinky) traveler.


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