Readers' Submissions

Notes From Nam

  • Written by Angusmcduf
  • January 24th, 2015
  • 4 min read

I retired three weeks ago. Thirty years with a major overnight air freight company. The pension is so generous that I have to live in an 'emerging' country. The way things are today though, I must be grateful.

My only experience in southeast Asia was one month in Thailand, about eighteen months ago…in fact my plan was to retire there, until the recent hubbub. Thanks to Stick and the readership here for the heads-up. I may eventually do Thailand's backdoor, from Laos, to see the 'farm team' in Isaan…I love those girls.

billboard bangkok

So randomly, I chose Vietnam…we've all heard good things about the place, right?…What could possibly go wrong?

* * * * * * * *

Gruelling plane flight…hassle at immigration…confusion and chaos at the airport…and motorbikes…and more motorbikes…EVERYWHERE!

butterflies bangkok

On the drive to my hotel I'm thinking: what have I done? How can people live like this?…all these motorbikes! It's NUTS! I've been told that Phnom Penh is even worse…and to me, Bangkok is not as bad.

I am a licensed motorcycle driver, but I still haven't considered renting a motorbike yet…it is a crazy clusterfark of a zillion kamikaze drivers in complete bedlamic pandemonium, with a side of aggressive chaos…and the constant blare of beeping and honking horns thrown in for good measure makes the whole experience just that much more enchanting…

Just imagine though, if all those motorbikes were cars! Is there a stronger word for 'gridlock'?

A couple of days later, my driver Hai, who likes to get high, took me through a tunnel under the Saigon river. The echoing blast of engines and exhaust in the tunnel, honking horns from a huge swarm of bikes eight wide and one hundred deep…packed tightly together, at full speed (as fast as a 125cc Honda will go)…if only one person would fall, it would cause a massive chain reaction human pileup…but they seem to make it work… and I haven't seen one accident yet…


This is the big city…Sai-freaking-Gon…humans compacted together…living on top of each other and in matchbox sized accommodations…it's a way of life…a city split up by rivers into different districts…it's different from what I am accustomed to.

I am not from a big city…I'm from the suburbs…the urban sprawl…where you must conform and conduct your life in an orderly fashion…or else. But somehow I feel much freer here than back home.

The takeaway from the crazy Saigon experience so far is: damn this world is over-populated! … the more people the less value of a single life…life is cheap and getting cheaper. Is there really enough fish in the sea, enough chicken for every pot? Enough dog, frog, snake, insect, etc.? Are our resources that plentiful?…at some point it must become unsustainable…and personally, I think our world has passed that point a long time ago.

* * * * * * * * *

I'm in District 1…the center of Saigon…the tourist area.

The receptionist at the Ha Vy Hotel (14 bucks a night) has taken a liking to me…to practice her English…22yr old cute and dainty college girl…2 small bars next door to the hotel only open at night…very awesome young bargirls…take your pick 60 bucks…beauty shops other side of street with available gorgeous beauties…everything I need is on my street…fully self-contained…haven't had time (haha) to meet the dozens of ladies I've met online…and that's a completely different story. 🙂

A 10 on the stinkfinger index.

Ex-pats at corner restaurants..smoking weed, drinking beer, hanging out watching the tourists go by…met my neighbors on the street where I live… characters…dozens and dozens of large beer Saigon last night…9,000 Dong…45 cents a beer. Anything you want, drug-wise can be found…you hardly ever see a police…

A 10 on the buzz-meter.

French baguette sandwiches, Banh Mi?, are my go-to food…food is awesome and cheap.

I have a personal driver/go-fer available 24/7…but I dread having to go to another district to meet a girl on a motorbike.

Wander around checking out dark alleys…got lost only a few blocks from my place.

Hard to get used to the constant big city hustle and bustle though.

Day 4: I have settled in nicely and tend to just stay on my street, or within a one block radius…I have a routine…routine is good.

The owner of the restaurant down the street, wants me to move from the Ha Vy into a room he has upstairs…10 bucks a night.

The owner of the restaurant directly across the street from him, not to be outdone, has a room for 8 bucks a night…they compete. They compete on beer prices too…a sign in one place offers Bia Saigon for 9,000…the other guy has it for 10,000.

I don't know how long I will be here, but for now, it's interesting…

The plan is to find a nice lady and travel around with for a while, until I find a real nice spot to settle down.

More on the ladies later…

That is all for now…