On the flight to Saigon I sat next to a nice Vietnamese man from Canada who was going home to visit family. We didn't talk a whole lot, but he did mention that Saigon is different every time he goes back, always expanding and always building. He'd grown up in Saigon but had been living in Canada for over 20 years, which means he'd seen quite a lot changes.
The flight had the standard in-flight entertainment systems on the back of each chair, and I watched people trying to touch the screens as if they were interactive. Then, miraculously they were interactive. They were so slow to respond it was hardly usable, and you couldn't do gestures like so many people were trying, but you could in fact touch things. This made up for some of my gripes about this system from my travels last year.
When we landed and gathered our things, waiting for those ahead of us to deplane, the man next to me laughed, opened up a plastic bag he was carrying and pulled out a whopper hamburger. He said he had 9 more in the bag that he brought for his family.
I had arranged for a landing visa when my landlord Brando from my place on Telegraph Hill had suggested it to me. He said it was quicker and cheaper. It was cheaper, and significantly easier, but because there were so many other people waiting for them it didn't necessarily end up being quicker. It wasn't the longest I'd had to wait to enter a country though, so I certainly couldn't complain.
After about 45 minutes of waiting I finally made it into the country, fetched my box of gifts and passed through customs without a hitch. I saw Tien before I even made it outside. She was standing in a crowd beyond a glass wall looking beautiful in a black skirt with a bouquet of roses. She spotted me and waved, motioned and ran off through the crowd to get to the fenced area where arrivals are greeted by their loved ones. I set my things down and picked her up in a huge embrace, happy to be back together after more than five months apart. Mai was also there waiting with her, and the three of us caught a taxi back to the Ruby Star. We relaxed for a while and ate some chocolate that I'd brought, then went out for lunch at a place a few doors down that Tien and I had seen but never eaten.
Mai headed home after lunch, and Tien and I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with lost time and napping. We had dinner and went for a walk through the heart of Pham Ngu Lao. We heard mexican music playing in the park where some people were dancing, and a few other live bands playing english songs, which could've been awesome if I'd been gone longer.
Nov 24th was my last day in Vietnam in 2009. My stomach was a little upset, probably from some meds I was still taking for my lingering strep throat, which echoed from my last trip home to the USA.
Tien's sisters had prepared some gifts for my family and ...Continue reading …