So I’ve been in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for about a week now. My friends often compliment me on my sense of direction and claim they “would take [me] anywhere.” Maybe I was a little high on their admiration, maybe I was raring for a little bit more adversity in my adventures, but after lunch today I strolled off on my own, confident I could find my way back to the hotel from our lunch location with no troubles. Fortunately the Vietnamese are very friendly people, and I made it back in one piece. But that piece was quite sweaty and disoriented for a few moments.
At the start of my escapade I headed in the right direction (with no copy of my hotel address: bad!, a phone that I did not plan on using, and a map that I was only fairly certain of the location of the hotel). I walked for a while, enjoying the sights and smells. Vendors flanked the sides of the streets, leaving no space unused. From clothing and hairdressers to food and flowers, anything you needed could be found. A cart full of bananas, and a man hidden by the fragrant yellow fruit, rolled across the street while hordes of motorcycles weaved around. Men sat in tiny plastic chairs smoking and drinking water-diluted beer. Women squatted next to their portable kitchens frying noodles and meet. A waft of fish sauce and baguettes crept through the thick, humid air.
At this point I had gained adequate skills at crossing Vietnam’s perpetually busy streets. Had it been my first time out I would have been terrified. Motorcycles filled the streets, never stopping to let me pass. Yet I stepped into the street with confidence that they would maneuver around me. Yes, they got daringly close, but I reached the other side of the street with no nicks.
Then I realized I was lost. I thought, Oh I wish I had taken the taxi back and joined in Vietnam’s national sport: sleeping. I had to get back to the hotel in order to do that. Looking at my clock I realized I had three hours until I had to meet the rest of the group. I must have looked a bit dazed because many men asked me if I needed a ride on their motorcycles, but I declined, determined to find my way on my own. I asked a group of men which way to go and they pointed in a direction, which I then followed. But I began feeling even more lost after I started off. Soon after I found a woman who spoke a little English and she told me to go in the opposite direction. I followed her advice and then reached for my map again when I felt like I had been walking for too long. A sweet girl pulled up next to me on her motorbike and asked if I needed help. I pointed out some landmarks and she told me without hesitation the correct direction. I had gone past my hotel, which is why I didn’t recognize anything! Relieved I hustled off and finally entered the frigid yet refreshing air conditioning in the hotel.
It had only taken my forty-five minute to get lost and regain my footing again! Twice as long as I had expected my journey to take. Although I lost myself in the process, I have assured myself of my ability to find my way in this maze of a city!