Soon after returning from our European adventure, my boyfriend and I were telling travel stories to a group of friends. We were explaining how we had serendipitously found ourselves across the road from the Arc de Triomphe one evening, courtesy of yet another wheelchair versus public transport complication.
When we got to the part about crossing the infamously busy Place Charles de Gaulle intersection, one of our workmates interrupted to say, “But you’re not allowed to cross the road there! You’re meant to use the pedestrian underpass.”
“Nonetheless,” I countered, “We did cross there…” and my boyfriend continued the story.
Afterwards, I chuckled to think that someone would feel compelled to stop a narrative dead in its tracks simply to highlight a breach of pedestrian protocols.
I’m not a city girl at heart – so as a travel destination, Ho Chi Minh City initially held little attraction for me.
As we planned our holiday, I thought of Ho Chi Minh as a stopover where we would sleep a couple of nights and recover after our plane trip, before beginning our Vietnamese adventure in earnest.
It’s not that I don’t like cities. I work and socialise in Sydney. It throbs with a life that I’d miss if I were permanently banished to the suburbs (where I live) or some beachy bushland (where I’d like to live).
Food, music, theatre, pubs, festivals, ferries, friends. They all connect me irresistibly to a somewhat city-bound life. But I hate the busyness of the city – the press of bodies on the footpath; the noisy, traffic-jammed streets; the feeling of being rushed and stagnated all at once by the sheer volume of humanity competing to move through the same space.
And with a population of nearly 9 million to our 4.6 million, the streets of Ho Chi Minh are notorious for their busyness – and chaos.