After having lots of fun at the Pac Rim Banquet, I hopped back on a bus to Can Tho around 9am Christmas morning. I think I got back to the hotel and fell asleep closer to 3 or 4am, but luckily for me I fell straight asleep on the bus and stayed that way for most of the 3 hours. I found myself back in Can Tho exhausted, wanting nothing more than a nap. But there as a lot I still had to do – lesson planning for my evening class, packing for my trip the next day, and I’m sure there were a million little things I should have done. Naturally, I did none of those and instead decided to go out with friends and play Vietnamese hacky-sack, or đá cầu. According to the Wikipedia page, this is Vietnam’s unoficial national sport, which I totally believe. It’s played everywhere, and it’s the best way to meet new friends if you’re out and about. Just start playing in any park and after a few minutes you will inevitably be joined by a number of strangers. Even if you’re terrible at the game, which I most definitely am. Check out the video below to see how the game is played – these guys are playing a real game, with a net, but usually my friends just play to see how long we can go without dropping the shuttlecock.
Before beginning our game I got a call from work and was informed that the director would be observing my class that night. At that point I was absolutely running on fumes, and took all of my nervousness out on the da cau game before running home and praying that I could pull it together enough to teach a passable class.
As it turns out, I got my second wind just in time, and class went pretty well. The director told me that his comments were mostly positive, and we had a nice conversation about ways I can improve my teaching in the future. I was so relieved and happy that I said to hell with exhaustion, I’m going out with friends to celebrate! Possibly not the best idea ever, but we had a good time. The next day I administered final exams to my university students in the morning, spent the afternoon grading, and returned home for some last-minute packing before I caught the bus to Saigon around 5pm. In my haste I naturally forgot a few things, like my computer charger and my Vietnamese cell phone…. this was a bit inconvenient, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my travels, it’s that you don’t actually need a phone to make plans.
In any case, I arrived in Saigon late that night and met up with Lisa and Linda again for drinks. I got a bit lost going to their hotel, but along the way I found a golden retriever. I probably spent a good seven or eight minutes petting the dog before I remembered that I needed to backtrack and find my friends. Once I found everyone, we sat at a streetside bar called the “art cafe” and did a bit of people watching, which is the best thing you can do in the backpacker district. It’s a strange crowd that flows through Ho Chi Minh City, but my best memories of the night are all about dogs – across the street we watched as a couple and their (very large) dog waited for street food. I’ve never seen a dog so calm in my life, even as motorbikes, people and food kept zipping by him. Wow! I managed to snap a quick photo before they took off with their food.
At the end of the night I returned, exhausted, to my hotel. Annin arrived a few hours later, and she tells me that we had a conversation where I kept insisting that I was fully awake. I remember almost none of this, but we woke up the next morning and got properly caught up. We had breakfast at a nearby noodle shop, then proceeded to do all of the touristy things in Saigon. We walked around the city and visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office, Reunification Palace, and of course the War Remnants Museum. I wasn’t quite ready to go back to the museum, so I killed time at a nearby coffee shop while everyone else visited the museum.
At the end of the day we went to a pizza place that Pase found, and it was amazing. It was Japanese-style pizza with a Vietnamese twist, so the toppings were a bit different from what you’d get in the US, but it was all delicious. Also, if you thought prosciutto and melon was good, swapping the melon for mango is infinitely better. We left the restaurant stuffed and happy, and walked until we found our way back to the hotel.
The next day we said goodbye to Linda and made our way to the airport for the next leg of our journey. But that’s a story for another time.