The Malaysian Airlines red-eye from India to Vietnam was comfortable, but somehow I only managed to get two hours of sleep. Being that this was my first time flying Malaysian Airlines, I was pleasantly surprised by the fruit-colored seats and colorfully dressed flight attendants -- quite a different experience compared to the dry and bland feeling of say, an American Airlines flight.
My flight stopped in Malaysia's beautiful Kuala Lumpur airport for two hours where I almost accidentally got on a plane to Singapore instead of Ho Chi Minh City.
The screen displayed my flight number, MH191, as currently boarding at Gate 6. I entered Gate 6, gave them my ticket, and proceeded to get in line to board the plane. Thankfully the ticket attendant noticed the mistake and ran over to inform me that the gate had been changed to Gate 8 and that the screen was incorrect.
Arriving at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, I had no problems obtaining my 30-day tourist Visa. The Visa-on-Arrival process that I used worked perfectly: Instead of going to a Vietnam embassy in India and applying for the Visa, I simply paid an online agency $22 to get a pre-approval letter emailed to me that stated I could get the Visa when I arrived in Vietnam.
Exhausted and hungry, I exchanged some money for Vietnamese dong (VND) and decided to pay a premium for a taxi using one of the booths inside the airport (it cost me $7 instead of $4.50).
The hotel is hidden down a tiny alley in the heart of the backpacker district, a place off the main road that the taxi can't even reach. If it wasn't for the helpful directions left by the people in the hotel reviews, I probably would've never found the place.
I attempted to take a short nap but woke up six hours later and decided to spend the remainder of the day inside catching up on email and work.
The following day (today), I met up with a long-time online friend who is visiting Vietnam with his brothers family and his Vietnamese wife. I tagged along with them for the day, visiting museums, markets, and some of my friends wife's family.
Tagging along with my friend and his family definitely took some of the stress off figuring out where to go and how to get back home. But it also reminded me how different the experience is as a tourist -- how rushed everything feels and how little time there is to really soak in the experience.
It also made me feel strangely homesick for the place I've called home for the past three months: India. I'm not sure if it's the sense of familiarity that I'm missing or the extremely loving family that I stayed with for two weeks who made me feel like I was back home.
With only two weeks here in Vietnam, I've decided to tag along with my friend and his wife and live as a tourist for a little while. They're planning on visiting a bunch of different places, including taking a flight further north to visit more family.
Whenever I get to a new place, it seems to take my brain a little while to absorb everything to the point where I can write about it -- it's as if my brain needs time to acclimatize to the new surroundings and process all the new information before it's even willing to form thoughts about them.
Maybe that's why I like slow-travel so much and maybe that's why I feel the need to modify my posting commitments. For the past three months or so, I have religiously posted three times a week: on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You may have noticed that I missed yesterdays post.
Many times I have struggled to get the posts published on time and I often had to force myself to write something or post a video if I had one ready. Forcing myself to write when my brain is busy digesting a new experience only ruins the end result.
After trying both methods of posting -- on a schedule or whenever I have thoughts I want to share -- I've discovered that posting on a schedule just doesn't fit my style. From now on, I promise to post a minimum of twice a week, but it won't be on any specific day.
I fear that two weeks won't be enough time in Vietnam to really get to know what it's like to live here, but Nepal is next on my itinerary and I will be staying there for a full two months.
My former boss, who grew up in Nepal and still has family there, offered to let me stay with him at his parents house in Kathmandu. He will only be there for the first week I'm in Nepal, but he has also offered to show me around (on a mountain bike!) and introduce me to the neighborhood.
Nepal is a hikers paradise and as an avid hiker I plan to hit as many trails as possible. The popular Annapurna Circuit, a 150-mile trail that reaches a height of 17,000ft, is at the top of my list.