I was surprised that the flight time from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh felt shorter than a trip to Bangkok (2 hour flight). The trip to Saigon took just 1.5 hours. It truly felt like the plane was descending just a short while after it took off. There was no time to watch a movie or read a book, which is fine with me as I don’t like plane travel. The trip to Hanoi would be double the duration though as it’s way up in the cooler part of ‘S-shaped’ Vietnam, in the North.
I always feel tremendous fear (hope we don’t crash) followed by elation (when we land safely) and excitement about stepping on the grounds of a new country. I have never been to Vietnam before and I was enjoying the anticipation of how the country would blow my pre-conceived notions of the country, out the water. No matter how much you research I believe travel is very personal and each individual has their own unique experience. To me travel had almost a spiritual quality to it. I don’t know how to explain it but I guess travel shows us that we are all part of one humanity – one world – which should ideally be borderless.
When we arrived at the airport we had to contend with a slow moving queue and when we cleared customs we were greeted by a frenzy of people. B explained that it was a big thing for relatives to take a trip in Vietnam and they were often given a huge send-off at the airport. There were so many people carrying signs that we almost missed our airport transfer as our sign was easily missed among the hundreds of others.
Once we got onto the shuttle, we were amazed at the honking cars, taxis and tons of motorbikes, some with whole families including babies on them. Most of the people wore masks to protect themselves from the pollution. We only realized how polluted it was on the last day of the trip when we had allergic sneezing and red noses from all the dust.
It was worth the trip though to see the friendly and vibrant people who left a wonderful impression on us. This city is so alive, and I am glad I got a chance to experience it during Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year which happens to celebrate the year of the Cat instead of the rabbit). This unique chance comes only once in 12 years and I am glad we accidentally (we were not aware of it when we booked the trip) got to enjoy it.