After 24+ hours of travel, Tom and I landed in Ho Chi Minh City and immediately encountered our first challenge of the trip: finding our way to our Airbnb for the week. The initial plan was to take Uber for easy pickup and dropoff. That, of course, would have been too simple. Although I had read Uber would be accessible, the article was either outdated or misinformed, as we were greeted with a big “service unavailable” notice when logging into the app.
There were of course other options for getting into the city (including the local bus and taxi services), but being tired and overheating in the extreme humidity made the idea of negotiating rates or a transit system overwhelming. Deciding to regroup for crafting a plan B, we did what many Seattleites would do in a sleep deprived pinch and headed to a coffee shop for a jolt of caffeine. It just so happened that the nearest cafe was Starbucks, and I must admit, seeing that emerald mermaid was glorious in our time of need.
After downing a tea and hopping on the WIFI we decided to give Grab a try. It’s essentially the Southeast Asian equivalent to Uber and exactly the type of solution we were hoping for. Unique from Uber though is the ability to pay with cash upon arrival to your final destination, which was perfect considering we weren’t allowed to link a foreign credit card to their system. As we’ve experienced in other countries, there’s often a plethora of drivers waiting near the terminal to whisk people away, so booking transport only took a few minutes once we put in our request. Soon after we were packed up and heading to our new home.
From the backseat we watched as the city unfolded around us, getting a glimpse for what we had in store. I found the sights similar yet foreign at the same time; on one hand you have a large city, which I’d liken to Hong Kong or New York, but without as many high rises. It was a bit grimy, but hey, what large city isn’t? The biggest shocker I’d say was the abundance of English. While I knew of America’s influence in Vietnam, I didn’t anticipate the lasting impact it would have, with almost every store sign having some English in the name. Although the prevalence was lessened by staying outside of the main tourist hub, it’s still there as a testament to how much tourism has helped shaped this society since the war. However, even with the prevalence of English, we would soon learn that communicating and getting around still required finesse.