Yes we made it!!! Yes we are here!!! YES!!!!
We got through all the painful stuff of packing, selling, saying goodbyes, quitting our jobs (oh that actually wasn’t that hard I must admit 😀 ). After 30 hours of traveling through Gold Coast in Australia, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, we finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh – the capital of Vietnam. Our journey was more than OK – but good to mention that our flight at 6:15 am from Nelson to Auckland was cancelled. But luckily we had more than 12 hours reserve and my hero Steve took care of it. He called up to Air NZ and managed to get even better flight at 9 am (no waking up at some ridiculous hour) for the same money! Yep, he is the best, I´ll keep him! 😀
Another little stressful hiccup started when we supposed to check in. How you already know, this trip is a bit different to the others we have done before. And the biggest difference is, that we don´t travel with 75 litres packs + carry-ons any more. This time we have a 40 litres backpack each and one backpack for camera, lens, drone, tripod and GoPro. So all up 3 “smaller” packs. Well it isn´t a secret, that our flights cost $270 NZD each. Oh yeaaaah – damn cheap flights, right? Well that means cutting down on some comfort and bonuses, though. So for starts, the checked in baggage costs $70  and the carry on must be obviously under 7kg – ehm… you don´t even wanna know, how much our packs weigh. Well lets say, it is well over 7kg. And we have got 3 of them. Well, lets get stress resistant and push the borders of carry-on baggage, shall we? We manage to go to the check in desk without our main packs, as we had whole day in Auckland and put our bags into the Luggage storage. Yeaaaaah, good advantage, right? Surprisingly, no one is suspicious, not even a little bit, that we have no baggage. We probably got them distracted by our Visa to Vietnam that we could´t find at that moment (obviously we forgot it in the main pack – but could´t tell them :-D) in the end we found it online on our phone and that was enough for them to let us go with our flights in our pocket. I was truly still quite worried, because I saw how they were weighing all the baggage of other passengers. They didn´t leave anything alone. They even forced to put handbags on the scales and made them pay for checked in baggage even it was like one kilo over the limit. “We are screwed, Steve… I think they will pull as out before boarding, as we have soooo much stuff!!” I was so stressed. My stomach didn´t enjoy that pressure. But HEY!!! We are going to travel for 8 months – and every $ counts! Well lets pretend that we have tiny light packs by folding the straps behind our backs (yeah it isn´t the most comfortable thing in the world), you wouldn´t believe how much it helps to make the pack look much smaller. And what about the third pack? Oh well we got creative. Steve put the drone and tripod bag on his shoulder as a personal item. And I pulled out my magic “mega handback” – some cheap disgusting thing from supermarket and squeezed the folded backpack with the camera and lens in into this monster and with a big smile on my face pretended, that is the kind of handbag fashion I wear every day. And you know what!?!? We made it on the plane without any weird looks or issues. (Now we have to do the same in Gold Coast and Kuala Lumpur and we are sweet as!!! 😀 )
Our flight from Auckland was at 8 pm and the biological clock helped us to sleep through almost all our flight time. It truly never happened to me before. But I welcomed it with pleasure. Especially because there were no TV´s or food included in these flights (well $270 is the price we payed).
Everything went smooth. Even all other boardings. We always pulled out the most amazing smiles (even we were tired with huge swelled circles under our eyes. It always worked!
And here we are – finally arriving in Ho Chi Minh – the main city of Vietnam (many people still unofficially call it Saigon, which was name of this city before 1976. (Funny how deep in people´s minds must be this name even 40 years later). We sorted our Visa online from NZ. So the only thing we have to do here is to pay $50 (Ohhh yeah – American! ) for them to put a huge sicker into our passports. Yaaay and another stamp in our collection. And we are ready to make our first step towards new adventures. We get some Vietnamese DONGs out from the ATM 😀 😀 😀 and get out from the airport into the humid and hot weather, air soaked with all weird and very strong smells. We pass through crowd of people towards to the yellow bus we knew is going to the centre. Our 45mins journey costs us 20.000 VND each (which is something like $1.23 NZD – $0.87 US). Oh yeaaah we are millionaires here! 😀 We are trying to ask the employees of the bus company where to get off the bus to get to our hostel. Their English is very poor, but they are trying to help. Well lets try our luck!
Our bus departures almost immediately after we sit down. It is quite fancy bus with AC. And I am finally feeling like my “travelling myself”. The girl with eyes wide opened, turning my head around so I don´t miss anything. Bouncing with excitement on my seat – with happiness of the child. Ohhh where have you been, my “traveling Leni”, I missed you so much! I don´t mind that I am extremely tired and that I sink for miles. (Didn´t have shower for at least 40 hours). I AM HAPPY!!! I am here, with my man, exploring the world!
Wooow!!! You should see this! The traffic is like a jungle! Ohhhhh wild and unforgettable jungle! A million of scooters (and yes I AM NOT OVERDOING THIS NUMBER!) They are everywhere! It is like monstrous waves of unpredictable chaos. They are almost touching each other. You can see beautifully dressed ladies in high heels with diamants, young man in suits, old men with heavy loads of boxes, big bags, fruit, dogs in big cages, someone is even holding a huge door, fridge, and… oh well anything you can think of!  Sometimes you cannot even see the driver. We are just staring out of the bus and pointing our fingers with big laughter full of amazement. (We found out a bit later that pointing fingers here is rude – like crossing your arms, resting your hands on your hips and all other interesting stuff).
Traffic lights in this city are only for some kind of “recommendation” I believe. Because nobody is even bothering to follow them. The flow of the traffic just keeps coming – this is traffic HELL!!! We manage get out of the bus at the right spot (surprisingly) – we were lucky, that we asked one lady on the bus – as we would get easily lost. We were left on a little station full of little green buses. My “man the hunter” is ready with his phone in the hand, which surprisingly works even on airplane mode. So the mighty Google Maps lead our way. And here we stand – in front of wide road full of crazy drivers, no pedestrian crossing (like it matters). And yes, we have to cross it! We are hysterically laughing and with fear watching the never stopping mess. When Steve grabs my hand and pulls me behind him. Hahaha he saw two old local ladies – who just started fearlessly crossing the street like a masters. He got us right behind their backs (oh yeah, we were almost touching them). I burst out in laughter, when I realized what he´s done – haha so creepy – but it worked perfectly! Well and that was our first street crossing in Vietnam. I believe there are bigger adventures upon us. 😀
We walked through tiny streets, they stunk so bad – the air was full of odours of meat and seafood, which was too long in this hot temperatures. And here some herbs, and mysterious fruit, veggies, and here some shellfish, crabs, shrimps… I feel so good, I feel so great, I feel so excited!!! This is what we came for! Unknown! (Haha I am weird, I know! But there is some magic about these moments!) I feel eyes of everybody on myself – true – I am obvious tourist here. Blond hair, blue eyes and my big backpack… I am giving everybody my huge excited smile, some of them even smile in return. Above our heads are millions of wires going from pole to pole – it feels like some kind of shelter.
We find our hostel easier than he could even wish for. We take off our shoes by the entrance – that is how it works in here – and walk bare-feet to the reception. We have to wait for 1 hour till our room is ready. But we don´t really mind. Steve buys us some cheap cold drinks, sits next to me on the floor leaning against our bags and connecting to the hostel´s Wifi – life feels so easy at this moment and nothing is a problem. Our room is tiny with 3 double banks. We have an AC!!! Yaaaay! Little lockers, but that will do! Shower is cold, but we don´t mind in this heat. Only the beds are rock hard, which is a bit of disappointment. But we have done worse and I am afraid we will… We don´t even shower, but get out to get some local food. I got some recommendations from the reception. So we took a paper map and Steve was leading us to find this place. (I would get lost in a few minutes – ehm seconds:-D). We are finding our way to cross these crazy streets. Just “GO” and don´t look right or left. Hold the same paste, so the drivers can go around you. WOOOW SO SCARY!!!!  We walk around street barbers. Yeah – just a mirrors standing on some old tables, leaning against the wall. And the masters of hair cutting are doing an amazing job in the middle of a pavement and hundreds of parked scooters. I would be able to stand there and stare at them like at some street artists. But hunger is stronger than me…
When we find the place we got recommended, we rather checked the name twice … it looks weird… truly I would never walk in by myself. It is a little kitchen, the food doesn´t look inviting. But we are trying to be fearless and decide to sit down by one of a little tables. Lady is very nice and smiling (obviously seeing “rich” tourists). She is staring at us, we are staring at her and each other. Haha menu written on the wall is pretty useless, as we have no clue what is what. No pictures – damn, this will be fun! When she realize – we have no clue about what is happening, she pulls out some card with single picture and talks about pork, spring rolls, rice noodles and veggies. “Yes! That is what the girl at the reception was talking about!” I shout happily and with a bit of relief. The food is here within a few seconds. Looks good and surprisingly tastes GREAT! Yum! Lunch for $6 NZD for both of us! Yeaaaaah! We can do this!
Walking back with happy tummies. I buy some amazingly looking fruit in a little shop on the way. Having a refreshing cold shower in our cool room and getting dressed into the clean clothes feels more than great. I lie on the incredibly hard bed and fall asleep almost immediately. I don´t mind it is only 2 pm… Today is a day of sleeping and eating! Tomorrow is another day. And we have other approximately 240days to go! No rush! No rush at all! 😀

 Steve is ready to go!

 Tired – after 30 hours of traveling…

 Our first Vietnamese meal