If there’s one thing I regret doing during my last trip, it was that I didn’t take photos of the memorable and helpful people my friends and I met along the way. I mean it seems like an obvious thing to do – to photograph people – but somehow, it didn’t occur to me that time.During your adventures, you meet several people. Whether travelling solo or with friends, it’s highly likely that you bump into someone who will form part of your travel experience. I guess that’s one of the beauties of travelling – to know more about people, a little bit about their lives, and sometimes, you wish you’d meet them again in the future.When I write my travel posts, I often talk about the landscapes, the destinations, the experiences, and of course photos but I never really talked a lot about the people. This brought me to a realization and eventually this blog post about all the people who made an impact to us during our trip.
The cab driverWe took a cab from the airport to Ngan Long Hotel. The driver couldn’t speak and understand English (I didn’t realize it right away) so we just showed the address written on our reservation which was booked just a few hours before we left the country. We had some issues with our first reservation so we had to do 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.The cab driver successfully and safely dropped us off at the right hotel despite the language barrier. And for that, I was extremely grateful.
The hotel ownerSo as mentioned above, we had to do last minute booking. When we arrived at the hotel, it turned out that the owner was 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’s door was open, and the owner was 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 the owner about it (more like one of my friends informed the owner) and he explained to us that we booked the cheapest room.
We wanted to cancel it but the owner said that he couldn’t anymore because he would be charged. He 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 the owner’s name. But we decided to name him Henry and just assumed that it was his name. It seemed fitting though. He was kind to us and did his best to let us feel at ease.
The coconut juice vendorWe 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, a coconut juice vendor 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 him, he then offered his fresh coconut juice for VND 30,000. What a nice marketing strategy!
The lady from the travel agencyOn 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, a lady ran after us. She said she saw us walking back and forth and asked if we needed tickets for the bus.We said yes and she said “follow me”. We hesitated for a bit but decided that we just had to take a look. Besides, we’re tired of walking. We were brought to their office where many other tourists were booking tours and tickets too. It seemed legit.
The lady explained that we could take the Mekong Express to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and we didn’t need to pay extra to her. 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 on 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!
The guy who lost his passportWe were already waiting in the bus – ready to be transported to another country when a sort-of commotion happened. I hadn’t really spoken with this guy or whatsoever but I heard him speak in front of all passengers, asking for a few minutes while he was looking for his passport.
He had 2 other friends travelling with him and turned out they’re Filipinos too, but I was guessing they’re from Manila. One of his friends was supposed to be seated beside me (yup, the bus had a seat plan). So they were saying that the guy lost his passport at the hotel they’re staying when they were eating breakfast. Somebody saw it but nobody knew where it was. Weird.
After a few minutes of waiting, they didn’t find the passport so they decided to stay. Then I just heard my supposed-to-be seatmate say “we couldn’t leave without him.” So they all got off the bus. It was a sad situation, not to mention very tedious because if they didn’t really find it, they had to go to the embassy to process some documents, and wait a few more days before they could finally leave.I have to tell you though that the two other guys did leave their friend who lost the passport. We saw both of them in 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.
The man from Mekong Express BusI don’t actually know what to call him, what his job title was, or who he was. All I knew was that he was the one who’s supposed to facilitate our entry to Cambodia. He looked shy and I felt like every time he needed to say something to me, he would just nod his head and assume that I understood what he was saying. He probably thought we could communicate via short-distance mental telepathy.
In fact, when we already needed to claim our passports from him one by one, he would call out the name of each passenger. But when it came to mine, he didn’t call out my name; he just gestured or signaled me to get it from him. I found it a bit funny and amusing.Anyway, I think he was very helpful (and really just did his job) because all we really needed to do at the immigration office was wait. We saw him again the next day when we were at Phnom Penh’s bus station heading to Siem Reap province. I smiled and as usual, he just nodded his head.People really do have a way of letting us think about life in general. We don’t even need to talk to 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.This post originally appeared in Blissful Snapshots