I assumed that the arrival time (5:00) on my ticket was PM and I informed my host(M) in Ho Chi Minh city that I will be there in the evening. I realized it a day before on the train that l will reach early morning. Train was late by hour but it was still early, reached around 6am. I sat inside the station for sometime as it had free wifi and messaged M about my super early arrival. After about half an hour later I walked out of the train station and avoided all the people offering rides. Streets were empty and everything was closed. I was looking for a cafe to get some coffee and to come up with plan for the day. I was excited when I found Starbucks at one of the big intersections. When I walked in, the lady who was arranging chairs said “Sorry, we open at 7:30” and I looked at my watch and it was 7:00. They had few tables outside as well, I asked if I can wait outside for a while and I guess after looking at my tired state she said “Sure”. I spent almost the entire day there as M got my message when he arrived at work and was suppose to be free in the afternoon.
I am trying to couchsurf as much as possible, it’s a complete different experience about the country and culture. It gives an opportunity to get glimpse of real local life, you get to know the best local spots which are not in the tourist books or blogs. I really liked M’s place and his creative design ideas around the house. When I entered his house, another couchsurfer (D) was there working on his computer. D was from Russia and searching for a motor bike which he wanted to drive all the way from Vietnam to Russia, google said it will be about 10000 KMs. I liked his bike idea and thought wish I could do that. I stayed with M for couple of days and later that day a couple from Russia joined and D left. They were super enthusiastic and were hitchhiking all the way from Russia, they started Russia then crossed Mongolia and then china and then Vietnam and were planning to go to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. They had a hitchhiking sign in Vietnamese which said name of their destination and another Vietnamese sign which said “No Money” They said even the tourist buses stop and give them a ride. It reminded me of my hitchhiking time in New Zealand.
I went to one local college’s film festival with M and it was raining that day. When we reached the college we were drenched and the college kids were excited to see us and asked for our picture for their college magazine or something, I might show up on their next year’s film festival flyer :D First film was about life of some political figure and I got a chance to learn a little bit of Vietnam history with wars. Second one was in vietnamese and german so I had no idea what was going on. It was fun though.
Next day, M asked if he can take my picture with my backpack for his project. He was doing a project with his guests where he would ask them set of questions and take their picture, I was impressed by his project. He maintained a document which had pictures of his previous guests and there replies to the questionnaire. I liked his idea so much that I stole it and started my own, I came up with set of questions and thought will ask them to the people I will meet on the road. M was the first person I interviewed, followed by the Russian couple. Project is exciting, will share more details soon.