We have made it to May, and let me preface this by apologising for the sheer length of this post, it was hard to widdle down and you will hopefully see why.
Once again, thank you for coming back. If this is the first post you’re reading I would probably suggest you go back and read my previous posts purely for context.
Or don’t, I can’t tell you how to live your life.
So I boarded the plane to Vietnam on the 1st of May very nervously, I had no idea what I was doing. I was kicking myself for not just getting a weird pixie cut or buying a dog like a normal person going through an existential crisis.
6 hours later and I was at Bangkok airport, calling my mum on Facebook messenger and crying on the phone to her while I waited at the gate for my next flight to Ho Chi Mihn. Saying I am ‘just tired and overwhelmed’ is one of my favourite excuses for just about anything, and it is accurate 99% of the time as well.
My mums favourite answer to my whining is always ‘after some rest you’ll be fine’.
I had forgotten what travelling was like, and I wildly underestimated my level of confidence while travelling alone. I also didn’t sleep on planes. So like I said…Tired and overwhelmed.
I boarded the last leg, still very nervous. I sat next to a man who chewed so loudly that it made me feel sick, and who gave me his number about an hour in. He told me ‘Ho chi Mihn is crazy man’ and to call him if I needed anything.
Flying into Ho Chi Mihn city was incredibly surreal and I had this overwhelming sense of achievement mixed in with my fear.
It didn’t really matter anymore if I was scared, it didn’t matter if I didn’t think I could make friends, or if I thought I wasn’t smart enough to navigate a foreign city. I was there and I was in control of how I handled myself. I was doing it!
So I got ripped off in the cab on the way from the airport to my hostel. When I got to my hostel, no one spoke to me (probably because I looked like I was about to burst into tears). I spent the entire first day drinking Vietnamese iced coffees, starving because I was too scared to order anything other than a Vietnamese iced coffees in my broken Vietnamese, and just feeling so sorry for myself because I was alone. When I finally was able to check into my room I went upstairs and sat on my bed and cried for the second time that day. Vietnam was off to an absolute rocking start. Travelling alone was so fun!
Luckily I had a good rest that night and I felt better (thanks mum).
I spent the next 6 days in Ho Chi Mihn with a group of wonderful people.
Let me sum it up for you in one, long, run through sentence: I bought a motor bike, because I’m smart, I sold the motor bike a day later and lost $150 on it…because I’m smart, I let a boy I’d just met convince me to get ‘fuck it’ tattooed on my leg in his handwriting, again…smart, I drank cocktails in an alley way, went to a song bird cafe at 6am, tried to ride a scooter on the highway while I was hung over, got scared and turned around half an hour in, I ate the spiciest crab to ever be cooked, drank heaps of beers, did too many balloons, drank too many Vietnamese iced coffees and cried like a baby at the war museum. I fell totally in love with the chaos of Ho Chi Mihn.
Day 7 came and I decided it was time to leave for Da Lat and for some reason I had the genius idea of booking an overnight bus. I left HCMC at 1am.
If you didn’t know already, let me tell you: overnight buses in general are the absolute worst. Overnight buses driving up into the mountains of Vietnam while the driver is just straight up leaning on the horn, now they are absolutely hands down, terrifying. The journey should have taken 8 hours and we got there in 6.
I got off the bus and I was immediately assaulted with the cold air shooting straight through my singlet. I did not account for Da Lat being cold and I already hated it. Shivering and once again overwhelmed I tried to figure out where my hostel was. See I booked this beautiful home stay in the mountains that didn’t have an address online and I had organised for the owners to call me at 8, which was when I thought I’d be arriving in Da Lat. My issues had now begun.
A man with a shitty 50cc scooter kept yelling at me in Vietnamese. He wanted to drive me to my hostel and after figuring out that he was offering to do it for $5AUD, I jumped on the back with him. Let us note that I still did not know where my hostel was. He didn’t speak a word of English, and my Vietnamese went as far as ‘Hello’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Sweet coffee with milk’. He didn’t really like me.
We ended up pulling over about half an hour from the bus terminal on the side of a dirt road, him crouched down next to his bike, yelling into my phone at my Vietnamese friend who I had called in a panic to translate for me. After about a 5 minute conversation he shoved the phone back into my face and my friend said ‘He will take you to your hostel, he isn’t happy with you and you have to give him more money’. I didn’t have a great deal of options at this point so I agreed and we kept riding.
About 10 minutes later he abruptly stopped his bike and gestured for me to get off.
See this was very confusing for me because we were in the middle of a mountain on a highway, but I wasn’t about to argue with him in shitty broken Vietnamese so I got off his bike, he drove off, and I looked around for anything that might resemble my hostel.
It was 7am at this point and I somehow found myself stranded in the middle of no where. I was literally on a mountain in Da Lat. My hostel was not anywhere to be seen. I walked through the bush attempting to find some kind of indicator that it was close by, and it wasn’t. I tried to call the hostel, I tried to message the hostel, I even somehow nancy-drewed the shit out of their Facebook page and found one of the owners and messaged him aswell. Absolutely no replies.
I had a great moment of defeat and I sat on a tree stump in the forest while I told myself that, no, I was not going to die, I was going to be okay, I just had to stay positive and get up. I started walking back in the direction I had come from, and about an hour later I saw a fancy hotel on the water. I no longer cared about anything but finding a bed so I could go and lay down and not talk to anyone for the rest of the day, and that is what I did. I fell asleep at 2pm that day. I think you could agree that my first day in Da Lat was an absolute success.
I woke up the next day at 7am and felt much better (again, thanks mum). I also had a message from the hostel I was meant to stay at, apologising profusely and offering for me to go and stay there that night for free. I checked out of my fancy hotel room feeling refreshed and ordered a cab, giving the correct address to my beautiful home stay. I drove straight past where I had been abandoned by my driver the day before, and then we continued to drive for another 20 minutes to the other side of the mountain.
I stayed at a place call the Wilder-Nest in Da Lat. I would 100% recommend it if you are looking for a breathtaking, quiet homestay type hostel. I would probably also recommend you go as a couple, or at least with a friend. There was nothing around and I had no one to talk to.
I started to feel a little bit alone and a little bit sad. I decided to get an early night once again, not quiet 2pm early, but early enough.
5 am the next day and I woke up with a weird, heavy, uneasy feeling.
The sun was rising so I took my blanket to a chair overlooking the hills and watched the sky turn this amazing shade of pink. I remember this day from start to finish so vividly.
I sat on this chair and tried to force myself to feel anything but this weird anxiety. I had to check out of my hostel at around 10 and part of me was just willing the day to go faster.
This was the first time since I arrived in Vietnam that I felt that shitty. I boiled it down to having had such a stressful day the day before – Tired and overwhelmed, remember?
I called my best friend while I was waiting to check out and I complained to her about how I was feeling. I was in this beautiful place, experiencing beautiful life! Why did I feel so utterly miserable?
I googled a hostel to stay at in the centre of Da Lat and I caught a bike there through the mountains. I checked in and paid for the night and went straight up to my room and laid on the bed. I considered calling my mum but decided against it. I had Face-timed her the day before and my I-got-abandoned-on-a-mountain story kind of freaked her out, so I decided to leave her alone with my worries for the day.
I dragged myself out of the room and went and got some lunch, I bought a t-shirt, I wrote in my journal about how sad I felt and how I knew it was just a stage in the process of growth, and that I just had to feel it and work through it.
When I got back to my hostel I decided that I would go downstairs and make some friends. I could make friends! I knew it would make me feel better to have some people to talk to.
I hit the ground floor of the hostel as my phone rang on Facebook messenger.
It was my mum.
‘Hey Mumma!’. The voice on the other end of the phone offered little resemblance to my mums. It sounded like my mum had gone through a blender. I didn’t recognise it at first. I knew something was terribly wrong immediately and my brain jumped around to what it could be.
I heard her say ‘It’s your dad’. I heard her say ‘He’s gone’.
Her voice cracked and my first emotion was blinding anger.
I don’t think you can ever imagine how you will react in that moment. I was so angry. I immidiately thought it was someone playing a joke on me.
I suddenly heard a police officer on the other end of the phone call me sweet-heart, told me to breath, he confirmed that they tried their best, got there as fast as they could, and he confirmed my absolute worst nightmare.
My dad had suffered a heart attack that took his life on the 9th of May.
My mum was holding his hand, she was the love of his life and the last thing he saw.
It was fast and painless and he was gone.
And I was in Vietnam, alone.
Till next time.