Sleepless in Saigon

It’s nearly 5am in Saigon. I hardly slept a wink all night. Overtired, methinks. And my brain had too much stimulation for one day, and is wired, can’t relax. Or so it seems. I did sleep from about 9.30 until about 12. After that I dozed, dropping in an out of sleep and not quite falling into oblivion. So what better thing is there to do when you can’t sleep and while you are waiting for the breakfast buffet opens than blog? So about an hour ago, I got up and showered, ramped up the air-conditioning, and loaded up the Netbook. Small, light and compact, it is just the thing for early morning blogging. Thanks daughter of mine for the loan!

It’s hot here in Saigon. And muggy. And noisy. So many cars and motorbikes. Rather than indicate, it seems that people toot their horns. So even though I am on the 9th floor, I can still hear the noise from the street. It quietened down in the early hours, but has just started up again The streetscape, to my mind, is both alien and familiar. It reminds me of that 80s classic movie, Bladerunner. All rain and colourful characters and advertising. And there is SO much advertising in Saigon. It’s everywhere, and on everything. I had to laugh when I saw Nicole Kidman’s 40ft mug staring out at me from a giant billboard on the way to my hotel. She looked so out of place. But botoxed to the hilt, she really did look like a giant whitegood!

I heaved a sigh of relief when my driver picked me up from the airport. All sorts of things were racing through my mind, primarily: what do I do if he’s not there, and, dare I get in a cab if I needed to? Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it, because a lovely old gentleman who spoke very little English was there for me. His driving through that traffic was like poetry in motion. He ducked and weaved and tooted his way to my hotel, the Saigon Palace.

The lobby of The Palace is quite small, but the air-conditioning most welcome. Interestingly, out on the floors, there is no air-conditioning, but there is in the rooms. Wish it was noisier… I like loud white noise to help me sleep. But I have an app for that. I just have to remember to use it. The room is functional and does the job. I guess it’s like any hotel room anywhere in the world. The good thing is the mini-bar: spirits and wine for around $2. Vietnam is cheap, cheap, cheap. I have yet to try the food… I was so tired, I didn’t eat (had been pumped full of airline food all day so wasn’t hungry), but had a couple of glasses of wine from Room Service to help me sleep. It did the trick, but I woke at 12…

There is no access to Facebook in Vietnam. It’s blocked. There is a way around it apparently, you have to be routed out to another country and come back in through a back door. I don’t know how it works, and to tell you the truth, as long as I have Twitter – which you can access – I’m fine. Special mention to @Kerri_Mack and  @packetnetworks for helping me with calling home (it seems the + sign is there for a reason!) and @_kerrym for her travel tips. She will be really proud of me for going on my tour today with toilet paper packed into my hotel shower cap!

So today, we are off to the Chu Chi Tunnels, and then later a tour of Saigon. Tomorrow, the Mekong Delta. The day after that we fly to Dhalat. So a couple of days to get my stupid sleep patterns sorted out.

From the early vantage point of being a not-at-all seasoned traveller, this is what I would do differently:

  • Take my daughter – I miss her!
  • Have one or two days leisure before hopping on a tour, so my body/sleep have acclimatised
  • Actually use the Express ticket when someone gives it to you (I am such an idiot)
  • Have a stop-over somewhere – call me soft, but 8 hours is too long to be on a plane (although I did have a good seat – lots of leg room, and no one in front of me! And the guy next to me was an Aussie expat working in Vietnam, so he was full of hints and tips)
  • Get local currency before I go – I nearly did at Tullarmarine, but the Travelex guy talked me out of it. Should have listened to Kez!

Oh, and by the way, I am a gazillionaire in Vietnam! $15 converts to 300,000 Dong – you do the math!

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