02
Aug

8/18 Monday – 8/21 Thursday

At the baggage claim area at the Saigon airport, I saw a worker very enthusiastically helping travelers with their luggage. He climbed onto the baggage carousel to take luggage off for people. What good service, I thought. Is the airport providing this service? Then I realized he’s an independent contractor working for tips. Very entrepreneurial and I guess the airport allows him to do this. We got our own bags though.

E’s house only has air conditioning units in the bedrooms and office, not in the living room or dining room. So whenever we are in the house, we stay in our bedroom with the AC blasting. We actually spent quite a lot of time relaxing in the room, especially in the afternoon when it’s too hot to go out. If you want to lose weight, Vietnam is the place to be. Eat your meals without air conditioning or a fan, and you are guaranteed to eat much less. I lose about 5 pounds on this trip.

E’s house in on a busy commercial corner, lots of traffic, a Lotteria across the street, a Family Mart around the corner, an open marketplace down a block. The building next door was  gutted and workers were there day and night, literally, doing construction work. Due to the heat, their best time to work is probably nighttime, which explains why at midnight I hear them jack-hammering. With earplugs on, I slept just the same.

Here are some of the things we did:

We went to the Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in Vietnam that recently opened for visitors. It gave us a nice city lights view in the evening. We walked from there to the Notre Dame and the central post office, both were very nice historical buildings. When I go out in the evening in So Cal, I always carry a light sweater. But here in Saigon, the evenings are warm in the 80′s. No worries about getting cold late at night. We passed by the park full of people sitting around, chatting, picnicking, families out having fun, couples on dates, groups of women laughing. And this is at almost 11pm. Someone offered us newspaper, which is presumably for us to sit on as that’s what everyone else was doing.

The next day we went to the ben thanh, an open shopping center, which is one massive flee market type of set up with hundreds, if not thousands of vendors so packed together that even I, a 100-lb lightweight, had to walk sideways down some aisles. We saw many foreigners here, a trap for souvenirs apparently, and we fell for it by buying some weasel coffee for friends. The most stressful part for me was the bargaining. You never pay the price they quote you, but I never know what price I should be satisfied with. E is very good at bargaining, so we let him do all the talking. Since our vacation last year in Vancouver, I’ve noticed that E and I have reversed roles – he’s the adult, I am the follower. This has made vacationing a lot more fun for me not to have to take care of my kids; they take care of me, and though it makes me feel old, I like it.

The following day we went to Saigon Square 1 where again, hundreds of vendors are there selling mostly clothes. Brands such as North Face, Forever 21, and all the popular women’s brands are represented.  With no dressing rooms and not having caught on to the bargaining tactics, I did not buy anything. But then, I’ve never been a shopper, so it’s more an attraction than actual shopping for us.

The most enjoyable activity for me was the Bible study we attended with E on Thursday night.  The host lived in a nice apartment with a great view of the city, and they are currently studying Tim Keller’s series on the character of God. Since everyone there spoke English, they all had a unique story of how they landed in Vietnam. One woman is on contract working at the US embassy. A husband chose to work here for an American law firm while his wife is working with an NGO; they plan to stay in Vietnam long term. A Vietnamese woman lived for a time in Israel and awaiting a visa to go to the US to see her boyfriend. Another Vietnamese woman seems to be a new believer – it was her birthday and I didn’t get her story.

A highlight of any trip we take is to meet up with believers and seeing God at work.

One Response to “Just hanging around”

  1. Taiwan Says:

    [...] On Sunday night we stayed at City Suites Gateway hotel near Taoyuan airport. Our flight was about 10am, so we woke early and took a taxi to the airport (100TWD). The Taoyoan airport has got to be one of the best. Wifi, massage chairs, prayer rooms, an eLibrary with eReaders you can use, and chairs with plugs for recharging you own devices, all free. Then there’s the Hello Kitty store and play area, lots of shops and displays. The layover could have been longer and I wouldn’t mind. We arrived in Vietnam, got our landing visa with no problems and took a taxi to E’s house, with lunch ready for us. (Story forward continues here.) [...]

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