After collecting my Vietnam Visa in the Philippines, I jumped on a plane to Saigon to visit a friend and give a “croc talk” to the school she works at. There was no hesitation in my introduction to Vietnam. Dropped off my luggage at my friend’s place, then hopped on the back of a scooter into the Downtown area. I now know what it must feel like to be in a video game. We were swerving within other scooters and cars, dodging other vehicles. There are no rules to the road except don’t get hit and go with the flow of traffic. You could have a family of 4 sitting on a scooter, or guys holding glass plates, or talking on the cell phone while trying to balance both bike and supplies… absolutely insane, yet skillful where I give these people mad respect! There is no way I am going home and ever complaining about Los Angeles traffic either. This city makes Los Angeles seem like rush hour doesn’t exist.
So talking with my friend, I mentioned I ate balut while in the Philippines (my stomach still turns just thinking of it). I told him after eating that I pretty much could eat anything. His eyes opened wider, “really? eat and drink anything huh?” Part of me felt like I just got myself in trouble, but really… I ate a 16 day old duck fetus- wouldn’t you think you could pretty much eat anything after that as well? Well, next thing you know I’m at his house and his mom is serving me something that is clear and slimy with lotus seeds in it. I took a bite- absolutely delicious! It was sugary- maybe a dessert? I asked what it was, “its bird saliva.” What? Excuse me? Apparently, the clear sticky substance I just chowed down was saliva from swallows, a delicacy. His mom gave me more, and all I could think was, “I’ve had worse.” And after eating some street food today, I told my friend, “You know I don’t eat shrimp or pork, and there are two more things I have to put on that menu: dog and cat.” He looked at me and told me he wouldn’t get me to eat that- apparently that was the next thing he was going to have me try.
As for sightseeing, there are two recommendations: the War Remnant Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels- both relative to the Vietnam War. The museum left me breathless with the pictures of pre- and post-war Vietnam and the Cu Chi Tunnels left me amazed on the intelligence and resourcefulness of a farming community against the invasion of the US. The tunnels were the smallest things I have ever crawled or duck-walked in. If you are claustrophobic and/or don’t like bats, I suggest not going into these tunnels. And then to end the day, I got to shoot an M16. Vietnam is kicking ass right now as one of my top travels, and I still have 5 more days to go!
PS: I am now restricted from Facebook being here in Vietnam… its like a blast to the past pre- Facebook days, let’s see if I can survive 😀