Making plans, and having the universe laugh, in Ho Chi Ming City

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, was a new experience. On so many levels.

Immigration

When I was in NY this summer, there was some confusion about whether or not I needed a visa for Vietnam. The VisaHQ website said I did, and the information on the site of the consulate was inconclusive. So on a sunny afternoon, I went to the Vietnamese consulate, next to the UN in NY. When I asked for a Visa, the employee said I didn’t need one, but that it wouldn’t hurt. So I decided to have a visa for Vietnam.

When I arrived at the immigration services, the officer asked me how long I’d like to stay. I said I’d probably take a few weeks and then would travel onwards to Laos or Cambodia. I must have looked like a potentially illegal, as he only allowed me here for 15 days. That’s the shortest allowed stay since I was in Russia.

Luggage

Once immigration was behind me, time to pick up my backpack I checked. Nice displays all over the airport showed me that the luggage of our flight would arrive at carrousel 4. So I patiently waited there. Until I saw two guys who were on my flight picking up something from a carrousel a bit further. I checked again, and the monitors still claimed I was in the right spot. However, I went over to that other belt, where indeed, my backpack was making rounds… Someone should have told those luggage handlers what the boards said. But hey, I had my stuff, passed customs, and was ready to discover Vietnam.

Mobile data in Vietnam

I’ve been using the T-Mobile global roaming plan in the last months with much pleasure. Free data (well, not exactly free, but at least I know what I pay every month) in most of the countries where I’ve been. Mongolia was the first exception to that rule. So when I left the plane coming from Kuala Lumpur, I got the message I was waiting for. But this time it was a message telling Vietnam is out of plan…

So I went to the local Viettel store in the arrival area of the airport, as they seem to have the better 4G coverage and allow the use of tethering. (Tethering: I have a second phone that has now become a hotspot. Not all carriers allow this way of working. But it allows me not to have to change a thing on my phone, and still be reachable via phone and WhatsApp on my usual phone while having a full 4G mobile wifi hotspot with me.). And I must say, the 4G coverage and speed I’m having here is not bad at all.

With my new SIM card, I was ready to face Saigon. I would have bet that Beijing was one of the busiest places where I was recent. But arriving in Ho Chi Minh City reset my worldview on crazy traffic. Scooters seem to come from every direction and it takes a while to understand that the ballet of everyone crossing the same intersection at the same time isn’t getting us all killed immediately. I’ve spent most of my hourlong ride to the hotel (all of full 5 miles in a car) with my face and phone against the window. What a fascinating city. 15 days stay will definitely be too short!

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