Having spent nearly three weeks in Vietnam, it was time to continue my journey, and I flew from Hanoi to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was there that I awoke at 4am to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise, but that's another story...
The "express" bus from Cambodia to Saigon was scheduled to take six hours, but we seemed to make frequent stops picking up all manner of vegetable, animal (alive and dead), and jugs of some unidentified liquid along the way. With an incense-burning alter built into the dash, we barreled along the dirt roads, the seat belts used to secure the sloshing jugs of liquid. We arrived a few hours later than scheduled. But no worries, you need to be willing to go with the flow in Vietnam.
The bus finally arrived and everyone disembarked. The problem was that it wasn't where we were scheduled to arrive. I tried asking the driver, but he just shooed me off the bus. In Vietnam, it's all "same same, but different". The truth, or in my case the destination, is a flexible concept. I walked through the streets of Ho Chi Minh trying to get my bearings. Looking rather lost with my backpack, an English-speaking doctor at a walk up clinic recognized my predicament and helped determine my destination. He hailed a motorbike driver and negotiated a fair price: one dollar for a ten minute ride across town with my bags. Welcome to Vietnam.
I had the opportunity to stay with a family in an ethnic village for three days. Set in the mountains of northern Vietnam, it was a five hour motorbike ride from Ninh Binh with the final few kilometers on narrow dirt/mud trails. The village dates back 12 generations and only gained access to electricity five years ago. It is a simple lifestyle of farming and bartering for necessary goods. They have little to no money, but happiness is plentiful, and the people were quick to smile and wave hello as I walked about their village.
It was mid-afternoon in Saigon when the heavens opened up. It rained so hard people were sent running for cover. It didn't take long for the streets to flood. Yet people continued on with their business. There is a sense of resilience and adaptability to the people of Vietnam. No matter what, they seem unfazed and carry on.