Somewhat bleary, I left the terminal and was pointed in the direction of the bus that would take me to Ben Thanh market, not far from my hotel. The bus did indeed stop outside the market, on a side I’d never been before, with a confusing set of roadworks designed to confuse the average jetagged passenger.
Having stayed in the area before, I was relying on memory to take me to my hotel, but, as I headed into the market, I did begin to wonder which of the four exits to take. At 7 am most of the market was either shut or half asleep, and all the streets outside, comprising mostly, it seemed, of self-appointed official travel agents, looked remarkably similar. I circumnavigated the market until I found a likely street, likely in the sense it rose slightly, and I had a vague memory of an incline. So, I walked up to the next intersection and took stock. The hotel was close to an intersection entirely populated by Japanese restaurants of varying quality, the question was which way to turn. Either way was populated with closed shops and open food stalls where early risers were having their morning pho or bahn mie, it was a toss of the coin. However, Australian swimwear came to the rescue. Across the road and to the left was a Speedo shop, and, for reasons unknown, I recognised it. Two minutes later I was at the Lavender Boutique Hotel, where they kindly offered to give me a room in an hour, so I left my bags, and headed out for a coffee and a mobile phone.
I can’t honestly claim to having done anything useful that day, other than argue pointlessly with the patient man at the mobile phone shop over the package he was offering which seemed highly expensive to my sleep-deprived mind. It was only when it dawned on me that a) all he was saying was that I had to buy the card then charge it with credit, and b) the price was ludicrously cheap since we were talking in vietnamese dong. I apologised profusely, and we parted on good terms. I was also to apologise profusely to the waitress at the coffee shop over my lack of patience over the cold coffee, and to various people I managed to bump into on the street. My body was still adjusted to turbulence, which we’d had for a couple of hours before landing, so my balance wasn’t good, at least, that was my excuse. How the endless stream of motos avoided me says a lot for the skill of their drivers. Mind you, whether they should have been on the pavement at all is a moot point, but, in HCM, anything goes.
Yet, at the end of a long day, I began to realise HCM city was faintly tolerable. Something about the sprawl, the noise, the playing dare with the motos was no longer as wearisome as it had been before.