Home Sweet Home in Saigon

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“Maybe we should just move here instead of going back to Bangkok,” Casey said half-jokingly while walking around downtown Saigon, taking the words right out of my mouth.

We were only one day into a five-day stay in the Vietnamese city and already we were prepared to ditch Bangkok to call this place home. It was clean (-er than Bangkok)! I could actually identify the street food (some of it...)! And there was so much green space! Top all that off with gorgeous French and Chinese-inspired architecture, rows and rows of rainbow-colored buildings, and a fun nightlife scene and I was completely sold.

{ Rainbow-colored shops and tangles of telephone wires }

Admittedly, I think we city-folk were just happy to be back in a thriving, big city again. There's always been something about the chaos that makes me feel right at home. And speaking of home - we got to meet up with an old friend of Casey's from his hometown who has been living in Saigon for the past two years. It's always better to experience a city with someone who really knows it and Sydney knew exactly where to take us to get the best views of the skyline and the tastiest street food.

In fact, we got to spend a lot of time with people we'd previously met, which always provides a special sense of comfort. We just so happened to run into both Mike and Catherine, two fellow Americans we met separately in Sihanoukville, on the same street in Kampot just shops away from each other (I told you it was small!), and we coordinated to meet up when we all reached Saigon. Actually, when we were leaving the next morning - just when I thought there was no way we could possibly fit one more person and their belongings into our 12-seater mini-bus - Mike serendipitously hopped in as person #14. How it worked - I don't know, but we were obviously meant to travel with this dude!

Even more coincidentally, Mike and Catherine ended up booking the exact same hostel and they met before Casey and I even introduced them! We had an awesome few days checking out the sights, eating good food and meeting up with other travelers we all had met here or there.

{ My favorite French-inspired sights ~ the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica & the Saigon Central Post Office }

Keeping the coincidences coming, Casey's friend Ayo from the University of Kansas, who we ran into completely out-of-nowhere while exploring Ta Prohm a few weeks before (neither of them even knew the other was traveling!), had just finished up his TEFL course and was getting settled in to start teaching and living in Saigon. And it just so happened that on our second to last night there, KU was facing Stanford to try and snag a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Naturally, these two former Jayhawks had to gather a crowd at a local sports bar to support their team.

Unfortunately the game didn't end in their favor, but the night still stands out as a wonderful memory. Maybe because the event felt so American - something that made us feel so at home even when we were thousands of miles away - but the circumstances were so random and quirky in a way that only travel can make them.

{ Looking pixelated, but pretty with my girl Catherine }

Earlier in the evening, Catherine introduced us to a few friends from her hostel - a girl from Australia, a tequila-enthusiastic Argentinian man and Chris, a dude from Wales who we would fortuitously meet again and again throughout our journey - and they decided to join us for the game despite their total lack of knowledge of anything basketball related. Sam and Abi, a Sheffield, England-native couple we met in Cambodia that had just arrived in Saigon, completed our strange crew of cheerleaders ~ the majority of which had never even heard of the team until that night. We had the best time drinking cheap Saigon beers, cheering and laughing and discussing how different, yet the same, life is in our respective countries.

{ Mom <3 }

That night we returned to our guesthouse, a cute little place run by a woman who - I kid you not - insisted we call her Mom and treated us as if we were her own children, feeling like Saigon was definitely a place we could see ourselves calling home.