Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon
Sunday 8th November
The flight from Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City was uneventful. Darwin airport was pretty sterile, but there was a huge round red setting sun as we boarded for the leg to HCMC, giving some feel for a different world. The last book in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series, The Remorseful Day, proved the perfect length for the flight, as I finished it just before landing.
I was through immigration and customs in five minutes and with no checked luggage didn't have to wait. Richard was there to meet me, with a 1.5 litre bottle of water and a voucher for the taxi into town ($8). That dropped us off at the Mai Phai hotel, on Pham Ngu Lao in the tourist/backpacker enclave.
It was pretty late — my plane had landed after 10pm — but we went for a short walk before I showered and slept. It was all tourists in the restaurants and bars, but in the back alleys just metres away the locals were sleeping, sitting, and eating. There were motorcycles everywhere and lots of people wearing face masks.
Monday 9th November
We got up at 6am, and headed west to a local food market for breakfast. This consisted of a prawn/onion/sprout pancake (15,000 dong, or less than $1). We then moved to another stall and I had my first Vietnamese coffee (6,500 dong, maybe 40c).
"INeedCoffee" has more information on Vietnamese coffee.