Through my hotel I arranged for a bus to pick me up and take me back to Ho Chi Minh City, about a 5 hour drive away. For the first few hours on the bus I kept to myself, just listening to my iPod. I finally gave in, however, and began speaking with the girl next to me--and I'm glad that I did. Her name was Laura, from England, who had been traveling for the past 4.5 months. Laura, who used England's poor economy to her advantage, got her job to allow her to take a leave of absence for 6 months. Nice.
Once we made it to HCMC we began searching for a place to sleep. Attempting to find cheap accommodation we found ourselves walking through the district's dark, windy back allies. Laura expressed that she wouldn't have felt comfortable walking through these allies by herself.
We checked out some of the rooms along these streets which were located, literally, in the upstairs of people's homes. As neither of us wanted to pass judgment on our newly discovered rooms, we hoped for the other to express their dissatisfaction first.
"So, what do you think?"
"Ummm, I don't know, what do YOU think?"
We laughed once we left, as the both of us wanted to take pictures but felt that it'd be insulting to the homeowners. We eventually agreed on a dormitory room located on the 100th floor of a hostel that we found. Seriously, I don't think I'm exaggerating either. I don't think I've ever climbed so many flights of stairs in my life.
Since my fight wasn't scheduled to leave until midnight the following evening, I decided that I would join Laura and show her around HCMC, as this was her first time to the city.
After our walking tour of the city and on our way back to our hotel, we stopped for some ice cream at Fenny's, a place that Laura had heard came highly recommended. And good-Lord-in-heaven was it good. Savoring every bite, we took our time eating our delicious ice cream. It was also nice to escape the heat and enjoy the confinements of the air-con restaurant.
While Laura went in search for a reasonably priced plane ticket for Hong Kong, I went to the barbershop for a shave. This barbershop may have been the greatest barbershop that I've ever been to in my life. What an experience, I must say. I got my head shaved, my face shaved (with a straight edge razor; plus, I didn't get cut once! Yay.) a facial, a massage and, here's the real kicker, I received an earwax cleansing. That's right... an earwax cleansing. Okay, so it was a bit disconcerting when he initially began the procedure but it was well worth it. I couldn't believe the amount of wax he removed. It was disgusting, really. I don't think the people at the barbershop could believe it either, as I saw one woman tap her friend's shoulder and pointed to all the wax that had been just removed. I was hoping that this would help enable my ears to pop when I got on the plane later that evening.
After I made it back to our dormitory I excitedly told Laura--after I took a minute to catch my breath, as I had just climbed 100 flights of stairs--about my amazing experience at the barbershop.
Afterwards we had some delicious street food. I made sure to get two plates as I had a long night in front of me. For dessert we had fruit shakes located outside of An An Hotel. While drinking our shakes I was approached by the woman who I had shared a few hours conversing with the last time I was here. I was surprised that she recognized me without the goatee. She told me how much more handsome and younger I looked without it, a common sentiment shared by all Asian woman. The men loved it though, as they would tug it or give me a thumbs up. However, the Asian women associate facial hair with being old. I commonly heard, "You look like you're 30 years old with facial hair!" an age that I'll be in less than 16 months, but is continually perceived otherwise. Everyone seems to think I'm much younger than I appear, which, I guess, is a good thing.
"Oh, so is this your new girlfriend?" she began prying. Then she began speaking to Laura about me.
"When he was here a few weeks ago, he sat here every night just drinking fruit shakes. He never went to any bars--doesn't drink, doesn't smoke. He a good man."
Flattered by her compliments I asked Laura to take a picture of us. Such a sweet woman.
Since it was beginning to get late, I decided that it was time to head to the airport. Laura walked with me as I found a taxi. I was really happy that I'd met her, and was sorry that we couldn't have hung out longer. That's the problem with long-term traveling. It's a bit of a double edged sword sometimes. Traveling has allowed me to generate so many friends, but eventually you have to part ways. And it's sad not knowing whether or not you'll ever see them again.
However, with that said, I was about to reunite with some friends that I had met a few months ago while traveling through Malaysia. I was very anxious to see them and their country, the Philippines.
Next Stop: Manila, Philippines