Siagon– calm surrounded by chaos.
When you arrive at the airport there is a nervousness you feel as you go through customs, work out money and try to organised transport especially late at night. You feel somewhat relaxed with the drive towards the city as you look out of the window from the air conditioned car. You can’t see the hustle and bustle or hear the constant noise. It’s like you are immune to all its vices. It’s not until I hop out of the Cab (on one leg) and struggle to gain my breath as the humidity slaps me in the face, that I realise we are going to be in for on one hell of an adventure. The driver dumps our bags on the driveway in front of what looks like a car depot but it’s the building for our Airbnb. ‘Holly molly’, where the hell do we go. The only clue as to where our room is was via the message we received when we booked the place. No meet and great here. So with no other choice Jody has to carry not just her own bag but mine as well. She is a strong lass but I am feeling a tad sorry for her and I’m sure she is thinking, ‘what the hell have I got myself in for’, as she leaves me behind disappearing down through the carpark entrance. Eventually and I mean eventually Jody comes back, she is obviously flustered and didn’t realise there was a code, she has left the bags at the front door. We need to get there quick smart but I cannot go more than one hop at a time so the journey to the 8th floor was certainly an eventful one, including the issue of the elevator attendant, who knocked of at 11pm and it was way past that time. So we eventually arrive on the 8th floor, sort out the code and let ourselves in. The room is just that, with a loft and a small bathroom and a smaller kitchen. Believe me smaller than the cooker I had when living in the bedsit in London. However it is clean, quiet and hospitable, except that when we booked the place we didn’t realise that it had a loft and only a double bed. Luckily with further investigation there was a spare soft mattress and with great effort Jody managed to carry it down the stairs to the ground floor where I would sleep. After a while we were safe again, just like in the cab oblivious to what is happening 8 floors down. Although in the back your head you know that in 6 hours when the sun rises you will have to learn on the run (or the hop), how this place ticks.
The apartment was one of at least a hundred on each floor within a vast apartment complex. I loved the short time we stayed mainly because I got to meet the locals who resided on our floor. In the evenings I would sit in the corridor next to a wired window that provided a breeze and a view of the world outside, although a narrow one. This was a time when the kids would take over whilst their parents where having some me time. Running up and down the corridors and the stairs, playing chasey, cops and robbers, dancing and singing you name it. This would go well into the night. A young girl would often sit with me so I could help her with her English grammar book and she seemed very happy indeed that I would take the time to help and listen. She would run of and tell her parents the new words she learnt. (can someone tell me why Giraffe is a word you would teach to new english learner) I am sure they had no idea what words were spoken. During all this mayhem Grandmothers would also help out mum and dad and push the toddlers on their plastic bikes trying to shove food down their throats. I was happy to help at times, pulling a few funny faces often did the trick. The other aspect of apartment living in Saigon was the community of shops and businesses within the complex. Hairdressers, convenience stores, juice bars etc. also the elevator man who controlled the elevator sitting at desk all day, however he also used his time wisely by knitting. Mainly kids clothes, the quality amazing. I often hear from people how they couldn’t live in a apartment complex and I totally get it. However if this is an example about how to live as a community within close quarters then this is the way to do it, oblivious to the rest of the world.