9.28.2018

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh: I Will Never Forget YOU

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh, 

If there's one thing I regret doing during my trip, it was that I didn't take photos of the memorable and helpful people my friends and I met along the way. YOU. It seemed like an obvious thing to do - to photograph people - but somehow, it didn't occur to me at that time.

During your adventures, you meet several people. Whether traveling solo or with friends, it's highly likely that you bump into someone who will be part of your travel experience. I guess that's one of the beauties of traveling - to know more about people, a little bit about their lives, and sometimes, you wish you'd meet them again in the future. YOU.

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

Dear Mr. Cab Driver, 

We took a cab from the airport to Ngan Long Hotel. You couldn't speak and understand English (I didn't realize it right away) so we just showed you the address written on our reservation which was booked just a few hours before we left the Philippines. We had some issues with our first reservation so we had to do a last minute booking.

They say "first impressions last." And all I needed was one glitch during that cab ride and everything would probably be a terrible first day. But! No glitch. It was not a very long ride but it felt a little eerie because we arrived at around 2:30 AM (Vietnam time) and the streets were sooooo quiet and empty - a very stark contrast from what you will see during the day when the motorbikes would flock in every corner of the city.

You were able to successfully and safely dropped us off at the right hotel despite the language barrier. And for that, I was extremely grateful.

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

Dear Henry, 

When we arrived at the hotel, it turned out that you (the owner) were not expecting us. There was a black steel gate where we could see what's inside the lobby. The gate was locked but the lobby door was open and you were there sleeping on the couch.

Although I didn't expect the hotel to be luxurious, I also didn't expect that it would look like a house. I think it was a house. But who has a house with an elevator?! I guess you're lucky if you have! The location was a bit creepy when we arrived, or maybe it looked creepy because it was deserted.

The unexpected happened. The room we booked was not exactly the one we saw online. It was small, with only one big bed, no bathroom, and uhm it didn't look clean at all. In short, we didn't like it. So we informed you about it (more like my friend Makoy informed you about it) and you explained to him, which he then explained to us that we booked the cheapest room.

We wanted to cancel it but you said that you couldn't anymore because you would be charged. You offered to transfer us to another room instead and we just needed to pay a little more. It seemed like a fair offer. We looked at the new room and we were happy that it's a lot better and has its own bathroom/toilet. Bigger and cleaner, with strong WiFi connection!

Thank goodness.. because I couldn't imagine walking the streets of an unfamiliar city in the wee hours of the morning looking for a new hotel.

By the way, we never really got your name. But we decided to call you Henry and just assumed that it was your name. It seemed fitting though. You were really kind to us and you did your best to let us feel at ease.

Cảm ơn, Henry. Till we meet again.


Dear Coconut Juice Vendor, 

We were so tired and exhausted looking for Independence Palace and War Remnants Museum but no one from all the people we asked knew where we were going. Or maybe, it's the language barrier again. Maybe they knew but they just couldn't explain it to us.

I think we asked all security guards we saw along the way. Plus the cashier in that one convenience store. Nada! When we stopped asking, you passed by and proactively showed us where the palace and the museum both were.

We're near! We're so delighted that someone we didn't ask was the only person who could lead us the way. After chitchatting with you, you then offered your fresh coconut juice for VND 30,000. What a nice marketing strategy Mister!

Nonetheless, we're grateful.

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

Dear Lady from the Travel Agency, 

On our second day in Ho Chi Minh, we walked around the city again to look for the place where we could get tickets for the bus that could bring us to Cambodia the next day. We thought of looking for the bus station because it seemed like the best option. We didn't want to book online because we want to make sure we'd see what the bus was like.

We walked and walked.. and walked. And walked, and walked some more. But we didn't see any bus station. We were just walking back and forth when suddenly, we heard you and you were running after us. You said you saw us walking back and forth so you asked if we needed tickets for the bus.

We said yes and you said "follow me". We hesitated for a bit but decided that we just had to take a look. Besides, we're tired of walking. You led the way to your office where many other tourists were booking tours and tickets too. It seemed legit.

You explained that we could take the Mekong Express to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and we didn't need to pay extra. In short, we would just pay the standard fare with free snacks and bottled water plus someone would help us process our entry to Cambodia at the immigration office.

We're sold. The bus would then wait for us at that same place where we got our tickets. No more hassle of looking for a new, unfamiliar place the next day. Thanks for running after us, dear lady!

Dear Filipino Guy who lost his passport, 

We were already waiting on the bus - ready to be transported to another country when a sort-of commotion happened. I hadn't really spoken with you yet or whatsoever but I heard you speak in front of all the passengers, asking for a few minutes so you could look for your missing passport.

You had two other friends traveling with you and turned out you're Filipinos too, but I was guessing you were from Manila? One of your friends was supposed to be seated beside me (yup, the bus had a seat plan). He told me that you lost your passport at your hotel when you were eating breakfast. Somebody saw it but nobody knew where it was. Weird.

After a few minutes of waiting, you didn't find the passport so all three of you decided to stay. I just heard my supposed-to-be seatmate say "we couldn't leave without him." So your friends got off the bus. It was a sad situation, not to mention very tedious because if you really didn't find your passport, you had to go to the embassy to process some documents and wait a few more days before you could finally leave.

I'm not sure what happened after that but we did see your two friends at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap the next day. I'm not sure how it affected me but after that incident, I made sure to check my passport every time because I couldn't imagine the same fate to happen to me.

I hope you're fine. ♥

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

Dear Man from the Mekong Express,

I don't actually know what to call you, what your job title was, or who you were. All I knew was that you were the one who's supposed to facilitate our entry to Cambodia. You looked shy and I felt like every time you needed to say something to me, you would just nod your head and assume that I understood what you were saying. You probably thought we could communicate via short-distance mental telepathy.

In fact, when we already needed to claim our passports from you one by one, you called out the name of each passenger. But when it came to mine, you didn't call out my name; you just gestured or signaled me to get it from you. I found it a bit funny and amusing.

Anyway, I think you were very helpful (and you really did your job) because all we needed to do at the immigration office was wait. We saw you again the next day when we were at Phnom Penh's bus station heading to Siem Reap province. I smiled, and as usual, you just nodded your head.

Dear Humans of Ho Chi Minh

People really do have a way of letting us think about life in general. We don't even need to talk with them. We just need to observe. I didn't even get to know them personally but somehow, I acknowledged that they were a big part of my experience. For the most part, I was grateful that we could trust them even though we didn't really know them.

There's always one thing I can take away from these stories and that is - no matter how different the cultures of the people are around the world, we are all very connected in some ways and it's amazing how people we don't really know can be part of our journey. ♥

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

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