The last few days have been really manic and I’ve only just had a chance to sit down to write. I say manic, truthfully the days have just felt very short because jet lag means I’ve been going to sleep about 4am, waking up past midday, doing loads and then it gets dark at 6pm.
Things have improved significantly since the first night. That first evening was a bit of a nightmare, made even worse by the realisation that my job doesn’t start until Friday. However, half hour after I’d moved into my proper room, the telephone rang. I hesitated and panicked; I had no idea who would be phoning my hotel room, no one knew where I was! Nonetheless I picked it up and was greeted by the owner who mumbled something about other teachers and then passed me on to a Scottish voice. Turns out there were 4 other new teachers staying at the hotel and Mr Van Trang had told them I’d arrived, flashed around my passport (embarrassing!) and they’d rung to say they were going out for lunch and to explore and did I want to come. Perfect! From then on I’ve had a great time. There are two other girls and two boys, all from the UK and all very nice.
That first day we went for lunch, where I discovered it’s nigh on impossible to eat rice with chop sticks, unless you want to spend 2 days eating grain by grain. After that we decided on an impromptu massage. It was about £3 for an hour long body massage. A very tiny Vietnamese lady took us all to a room, and they massage your back, neck, head, shoulders, arms, legs, hands and feet. At one point I thought, ‘wow this lady is so strong’ because she was really digging into my back, then I realised she was actually stood on me! The even massage with their knees! The strangest bit was afterwards where they tell you to sit up and they wash off all the oil with a wet towel, I felt like a little kid being dried off after a bath! We then proceeded outside where we were fried alive by the combination of sun and the remaining stubborn massage oil. The whole episode reminded me of a holiday to Turkey I took with my friends involving Turkish baths, except there was less giggling this time!
In the evening we met up with one of the girl’s friend, who was already a teacher at our school, she took us to this 5* hotel roof top cocktail bar that had a live band and incredible views. We all felt a tad underdressed in flip flops and shorts. We’ve planned to get tailored suits and return with made up back stories about high flying jobs and riches. After that we met some other new teachers and went to a few bars. Like loads of touristy places you get grabbed outside every bar by staff wanting you to come in, I’ve got used to having blinkers and just shutting it all out. Although there are a lot of really young children selling everything from chewing gum to cannabis on the streets, even at 1am, which is really sad. On Monday (I think it was Monday, I don’t even know what day it is anymore) we went to the famous Binh Tanh Market and the night market. Despite my original worries, turns out I’m OK at haggling and have already developed a reputation as a good bargainer! The markets are crazy, like with bars and restaurants you get literally grabbed and pulled into stalls and cajoled into buying a plethora of tat. We had some dinner there as well at a tiny seafood stall, I had noodles and vegetable soup but it took a while to get across that I didn’t want any meat or fish in it. At the night market I also had coconut water, which is just a coconut with a straw in it and costs about 30p.
Another important development in the last few days has been my road crossing technique! The roads are like chaotic, electric arteries cutting through all of Saigon. Many people (cough cough Mike and Jes) seem to think I am incapable of crossing roads and they always try to hold me back. However, here my haphazard, dangerously committed and short sighted road crossing technique is, literally, the only way forward. There aren’t really any crossings or lanes or even directions, just hundreds of scooters and cars going in every direction across 6 lane roads. The only way to do it just step out and go for it, the bikes go around you, if you hesitate you’re more likely to get hit. It’s a bit of an adrenalin rush and I feel like giving myself a little high five after every time I successfully reach the other side. Take that Mike and Jes!
I’ve also moved hotel, again. I’m now in a highly recommended guest house with the two guys, we moved this morning and it’s so much nicer. I’ll be staying here until I sort out long term accommodation. Trying to find it was a bit of a mission however, we decided to find it last night but ended up in a Vietnamese cul de sac of grey mini-houses, tiny alleys and some Buddhist shrines. The best bit was that I saw two cats, they didn’t really want to hang out though and ran away. Talking of animals, last night a huge lizard entered my room. It was definitely at least the size of my arm, or maybe my hand, or perhaps my finger. Anyway, he was a fearless little thing, he must have been to make it 6 floors up to my room. I named him Peter. Alas,’ twas a fleeting friendship as he soon disappeared into a hole in the wall, which made me a bit frightened that there might be some sort of huge lizard/dinosaur breeding ground in the wall. This was a definite possibility in my sleep deprived mind at 5am last night.