24 October thru 4:57 am

There were only two other people staying the dorm room at Quan’s house, one girl and one guy. They were awake, but watching movies on their respective notebook computers. I did not talk to them that night, but I would learn the next day that the girl was Ukrainian. She had hitchhiked from Kiev to Ho Chi Minh City (avoiding Russia for geopolitical reasons) and was trying to find a job teaching English in the suburbs. She was gorgeous. The next day when I spoke with her, I think she made an effort to sound as unattractive to me as possible: She smoked; had a busted leg; refused to eat meat, dairy, or grain; did not drink; had an unhealthy dislike of Russians; and thought that 9/11 was an inside job.

The guy, I would learn, was Russian. He would play pick up basketball with locals in the city the next morning.

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30 September

I think I’m a hypochondriac. I always think something is wrong with me. (Okay, it’s not really hypochondria; it’s more of a health-oriented occasional anxiety.)  That’s why I keep a heart-rate monitor app on my phone. On Monday, my heart rate hovered over 100 for the entirety of the day, even before I threw up at Cu Chi. And the rate had not subsided by the time I retired to the bed, though the late night beer probably did not help matters.

When I awoke on Tuesday, though, my heart rate had fallen into the lower 90’s, still high but a sign I was recovering. My appetite, though not back in full, allowed me to eat the rice pudding breakfast that Quan’s mother offered me. I informed Quan that I felt healthy enough to travel and thanked him for his hospitality. Before departing, I gave him a souvenir: a snow-globe of the battle of Gettysburg. Continue Reading


29 September

Of the typical historic sites in and around Saigon, the Cu Chi tunnels, where the Viet Cong hid in a vast underground labyrinth while conducting gorilla warfare against the American forces in the South, is one of the most visited. I had booked a half-day excursion at the Sinh Tourist (formerly Sinh Cafe) office in the backpacking district on Sunday evening to see Cu Chi. I had hoped to book the full-day, Cu Chi/Cao Dai Holy Land excursion, but they had already sold out that excursion. In hindsight, I’m quite glad I only had a half-day away.

Even though I had been based in Ho Chi Minh City for a time 6.5 years ago, I did not get to see Cu Chi. The day my study program was to visit the tunnels, I woke up with what to this day is the worst migraine of my young life. I had to spend the entire day sleeping it off, watching bad 90’s movies on some Australian version of Starz in my hotel room and venturing out only to grab comfort food at the supermarket around the corner. So, even though I woke up with an unsettled stomach on Monday, I committed to seeing the tunnels. Continue Reading


28 September

The rooster wakes you up at Quan’s makeshift hostel. As I recalled from my last journey to Vietnam, it is easy to wake up when traveling west, but you tend to wake up too early. The crowing that begins at 5am does not help matters.

I majored in religion in college. Quan likewise studied religion and was finishing up his degree. As I was the only native English-speaker among his current batch of surfers and the paper had to be written in English, he asked me if I could edit his major final paper — the paper on which he had to earn a good grade in order to obtain his degree. I was all too happy to agree and told him I would get around to it in the evening. I considered adding “paper editing” to the ‘things I can share” section of my couchsurfing profile.

But, first, it being Sunday, I wanted to get to District 1 to take in the English-language mass at Saigon’s main cathedral. Continue Reading

The King

27 September

I started my journey in Ho Chi Minh City because it felt safe. I had lived here before, as much as one can live somewhere while all your belongings are in a suitcase at least. Over the course of this month-long trip, I’ll visit a few other familiar locales, but mostly new and unfamiliar destinations. There is a certainly level of familiarity between me and Ho Chi Minh City. If I’m going to have my first experiences travelling solo internationally and as a couchsurfer, I would prefer to do it someplace with which I have at least some familiarity.

With the consent of my roommates in Washington, I have hosted about a dozen sets of couchsurfers at my home since April. Over 3/4’s of my guests have been from Europe, with a few from Australia and North America. Some surfers are cool; some are dull; but I cannot say I have had any bad experiences. At some point, particularly when hosting back-to-back sets, it can get a little burdensome, but at this point, I have a pretty straightforward plan when hosting. Continue Reading