I wished Duy goodbye before he went to work. I would be gone before he returned from work. After some back and forth texting with Phuong, I arranged my schedule to meet her at 3 in the afternoon. I departed Duy’s apartment around noon. As I did, the lunchtime rush to afternoon classes at the University of Economics was in full swing. I had to wait in line to get a banh mi sandwich from a street vendor.
Duy’s place is not the best located place. It is in the city, but whether I wanted to go to the beach or downtown, I would need to either grab a taxi or walk for 30 minutes. I chose to walk, because, at this point, the sun was shining and I thought it would be cool to cross the Han River on foot. While I was in the center of the bridge, I attempted to take a photo of the dragon bridge. Remember, I warned you that I was a terrible photographer.
I had already been to Da Nang’s most famous museum, the Cham Sculpture museum, back in 2008, and I was not interested in revisiting. Instead my intention was to first visit the Museum of the Fifth Military Zone, then walk up to Han Market to meet Phuong. Before visiting the museum, I stopped in a cafe to enjoy a Sinh To and take advantage of the WiFi.
In a repeat of the historic war sites I attempted to visit in Con Dao, I could not figure out which building was exactly the war museum. Military guards and signs that said ‘keep out’, along with a complete lack of other tourists, kept me from exploring. I did get to see a few of the larger French and American weapons that were on a lawn in front of the place. I decided to walk to Han market early, and possibly buy a belt. (I had lost two belts on this trip!)
With the sun still mostly out, around 2 pm, the rains came. First lightly, and then harder. And harder still. I took cover under an overhang in front of a motorbike repair shop. I waited. The rain refused to give up.
Phuong texted me. She said the rain was too heavy and, only having a bike, she would not be able to meet with me. She kindly asked for some way to contact me and I shared my Skype address with her.
I was sick of standing underneath the overhang, so I ventured out. The rain let up for a brief time. The sun was still shining, though it was in a small blue opening in an otherwise dark grey sky. I made my way towards the riverfront, figuring there would be shops or cafes there. Instead, at least at the part I found, there were only offices and government buildings. Then, it poured even harder.
I walked back into town in search of a cab. I was drenched. Every minute or so, I had to adjust my now wet, heavy, beltless shorts to ensure they would not fall from my hips. I found a cab and directed the driver to take me back to the University of Economics. The day was declared a loss.
Once I was dropped off, I tried to find a shortcut back to Duy’s place. I did not find one, but I stumbled upon an urban rice paddy in the middle of Vietnam’s fifth largest city.
When I left Duy’s apartment for the airport, I left him a New York City key chain and the bottle of Vang Dalat that I had bought for my overnight bus trip but never opened.
I had trouble grabbing a cab to the airport, but eventually I managed to signal a Mai Linh taxi. Da Nang’s airport felt mostly empty on this Thursday night. In my time in the terminal, only one other flight — to Pleiku — departed during my wait. I was scheduled for the second-to-last flight to Ho Chi Minh City that night. I noticed that the final flight of the night had been canceled and the flights on budget carriers had delays.
I had no trouble checking two bags, since they weighed well under the 20 kg limit Vietnam airlines sets for economy-class passengers. Once inside the terminal, I tried to order dinner from the pho restaurant to no avail; they had already closed, despite it being barely 7:00. Instead, I ate a spicy chicken sandwich from Burger King.
The airplane seemed to climb and climb for the entire first half of the flight. I had a window seat and could see the rain everytime the light on the wing came around. It was strangely beautiful and terrifying.
No meal was served on the flight.
We landed on the rumble strip around 10 pm. I collected my bags and made my way to the international terminal, where I hoped that I would be able to store one of my bags for the final 30 hours of my trip, but when I arrived I learned that the luggage storage would not be open at the time I was to check-in for my flight back to the U.S.
I walked back to the domestic terminal. This is a great piece of advice for anyone flying into Tan Son Nhat: Get a cab at the domestic terminal. The two legitimate cab companies: Mai Linh and Vinasun have several employees teamed together to take over a portion of the domestic pick-up area, keeping the other cab companies out. Get your cab there! They may expect you to know a little Vietnamese, but, if you just need to get to a well-known hotel or attraction, you can probably get by. Plus, the company will give you a business card, so that you can call one of that company’s cabs for the rest of your stay.
I am upset that I only figured this trick out on my final arrival in Saigon.
I instructed the cab to take me back to Quan’s place. My original intention had been to get a place on Airbnb and organize a party for my final night (Friday), but a friend that I was supposed to travel with had changed his plans, making it impossible for me to check out. (This the man reason I had wanted to reconnect with the Austrian I had met in Bangkok. He could have replaced that friend.) Instead, I had requested to stay at Quan’s place again on couchsurfing. His response had been that I was always welcome in his home.
When I rang the doorbell, Quan’s father answered a let me in.