As of this writing, the author wants to slit her wrists for sending off her much-awaited-fit-to-boot ao dai to her parents cos it can no longer fit in her luggage back to Vientiane. It’s so damn difficult to find a pair for her size –and she did, and it looked great on her. Did she have to send it back to the Philippines?
Instead of going out and blowing candles, my 22nd birthday turned into a flight out from Vientiane to Phnom Penh then off to Ho Chi Minh City. I was waiting for my luggage at some carousel then I realized the passengers around me didn’t look familiar. I cannot afford to waste any minute because in an hour, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office – HCM (TECOH) will close and that’s the worst thing that could happen. As soon as it occurred to me that I was at the wrong carousel, I squeezed my way out of the Korean crowd; from afar, I saw my red luggage already fished out of the conveyor belt. With my rollie in tow, I aimlessly searched the crowd for my Welcoming Committee–where the hell are they?!— that I almost hit another passenger, as if my clumsiness hasn’t embarrassed me enough in this lifetime (I once tripped at the main intersection in Vientiane during rush hour, flat on my face). I then spotted my dad waving at me. Thank God.
Hello, Ho Chi Minh City, with a scary mass of motorists cutting one’s vehicle’s way. I really thought I was going to have stroke at that time –no traffic lights, rain started pouring and we only got an hour left before the consulate closes. This workshop, I thought to myself, is definitely something, alright . We went straight to TECOH, picked a number and waited patiently for my turn. In between my review of papers and payment and annoying bangs falling down my face, my parents and I had fun catching up. And they said the magic words: Pumayat ka (trans: you lost weight).
The consul was keen about my papers. I was trying to read her expression and all I can hear was What’s a Filipino doing in Laos, applying visa in Saigon to go to Taipei? I smiled at the thought and was ready to answer. But she just peered throguh her spectacles, and asked if I was really working in Laos. I showed her my ID and work permit, hot-off the presses from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. She asked her assistant to photocopy my documents, issued me a receipt and instructed me to go to the cashier. I can get my passport after two days –finally, my Taipei Workshop’s a go. A fantastic birthday gift, that is. With my visa being taken care of, I had my days devoted to myself and exploring the town. Project Vietnam is on the way!
Since I made a ginormous mistake of failing to take a picture of my ao dai, I would not want to talk about shopping. No–shut up—shusssh! There’s nothing to buy in Saigon except for the beautifully-made ao dai. There’s nothing special in Saigon except those delicately-embroidered bags and handkerchiefs. There’s nothing exquisite in Saigon except those wonderful handicrafts, trinkets and iridescent scarves. No shopping. NO! (Go to Cho Ben Thanh, it’s right across Saigon Square, a block next to Saigon Centre…And you didn’t hear that from me!)
I did nothing but eat in those three days. In Laos, pho is quite a staple. Why not try the pho from where it came from? Why not taste the fusion of Vietnamese spices with a Western twist? Why not smell the deliciously good aroma of Trung Nguyen Coffee and Highlands Coffee?
And with that, y’all…Welcome to Saigon!
Four days in Saigon, a 7-hour waiting time at the airport, flew back to Phnom Penh and then finally to Vientiane. It was mad! The following day, I was off to Taipei –and things have never been the same after.
Facebook is blocked in some parts of Vietnam. Some say you can access it using proxy sites, OpenDNS or whatnot…I accessed it through my phone. So yey, Samsung widgets! 😀