From February 17 to 21, I declared to myself and the world my first step to independence: solo travel. One red eye flight later, I was in the land made famous by Ms. Saigon, pho noodles, and French architecture.
Sitting down alone having lunch, a Vietnamese lady struck conversation. Unfortunately, I could not carry it since her pronunciation required some getting use to. But one thing surprised me: upon telling her I went to the city alone, she said “so sad.” Hmmm, I felt otherwise. It was liberating, satisfying, exciting, and interesting. I certainly felt the cons to being alone, but there were things I wouldn’t have discovered had I brought someone else.
If you tell anyone you’re traveling alone (purely for leisure, and not for work, of course), they’d think you’re either crazy, sad, or pathetic. But I’ve never had a problem with spending time with myself–immersing yourself in a good book and coffee does that–so booking this solo flight was no issue at all. I felt crazy, that’s for sure, and terrified that things would terribly go wrong. But they didn’t. The hotel staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. I happened to stay in the area with fellow tourists, so I didn’t really stand out. In fact, I blended in more, since most tourists came from Europe. Restaurants would give me the local menu or waiting for me to give the order in Vietnamese. It wasn’t until I said “menu” or spoke in English that they realized I was a tourist.
Keeping to myself allowed me to draw less attention to myself, and let me enjoy the city at my own pace and time. Crossing the motorbike filled streets weren’t scary at all, thanks to the hardcore training Taft Avenue and Pasong Tamo Extension have given me. In fact, Vietnam’s motorbikes are a lot nicer than Manila’s jeepneys, buses, and rushing cars. They can go left or right to give way to a pedestrian, as opposed to a car suddenly speeding (but going slowly prior, geez) across a pedestrian lane.
In the end, it just took an ignorance of popular paranoia and the courage to really see things there for myself. Most of what I read for research was proven wrong by actual experience. I can’t wait to explore more places and visit the places I didn’t cover in my next Saigon trip.
Here’s to more discoveries of my own velocity. According to the bus ride on my second day, it was at 14 km/hour. More blog posts to come 😀