After landing in Vietnam, Hope and I were just sort of shell-shocked. The time difference, the change in smells and sounds, and the humidity were all expected, but it was still a lot to deal with. Luckily, our AirBnB host was able to pick us up right from the airport and take us to get phone cards and something to eat.
I had a huge smile plastered on my face as we cut our way through the swarms of motorbikes that cover the city at any time of day or night. It was incredible to see how the traffic works with minimal direction. There are plenty of intersections in the city that have no light or stop sign; people just honk their horns as they approach and avoid collisions.
The next day, Hope woke up feeling pretty sick so we spent some time trying to find medicine for her in the morning. It was the first time we realized it may not be as easy a transition as we thought. Finding somewhere that had what we needed turned out to be harder than we thought. Stops by Circle K and convenience stores turned up nothing, but we eventually stumbled on a pharmacy that sold Hope a cough medicine that would have definitely been illegal in the states.
Since Hope needed some sleep, I decided to explore a little and I took an Uber ride down to the tourist section. Being a single white guy in that area made me feel like a real creep. Everyone offered me weed or suspiciously cheap "massages." It was also a shock to come from our neighborhood in the Da Kao Ward, which is almost all Vietnamese people, to Bin Thanh, which was almost all tourists (read: white people).
Other than drugs and prostitutes, I was also offered a ride on a motorbike every five feet. I eventually took one of the Xe Om (literally "Motorbike Hug") motorbike taxis up on their offer when he quoted me !5,000 dong (about 70 cents USD) for a ride. It was one of my favorite experience so far. Clinging to the back of a tiny scooter while wearing a tiny helmet, I smiled and laughed as we weaved through cars, busses, and other motorbikes. It was pure insanity and it didn't get any less crazy when the ride was over.
My driver decided he wanted more when we arrived and tried to tell me I owed him 10,000 ($1) more when we arrived. Everyone in the alleyway laughed at him as I yelled that wasn't the price we agreed upon and I walked away without my 5,000 in change. He didn't even try to follow me as I walked away, muttering about dishonest taxi drivers. Getting off the bike, I did receive my first initiation into Southeast Asian culture: a nice clean burn from the exhaust pipe.
All in all, it was a great first day, but it threw into sharp relief the picture I had of living here compared to what it really is like. Nothing has taken me quite by surprise; however, it all feels different once you're living it. Even though I'm looking forward to exploring more and venturing outwards, my first day was a reminder that I am a foreigner in a new place and a little bit of caution is definitely required.