Saigon is an interesting place for a traveler. Cause it's where everybody either starts or ends their visit to Vietnam. The majority of folks in the Southeast Asia circuit either fly into Hanoi (up north) and work their way to Saigon (down south), or vice versa. We didn't notice it when we arrived, fresh-faced, in Hanoi. But now that we've been getting to know this country for two months, we can easily spot the people who've just arrived, and those who are getting ready to leave.
Thus one of our favorite games was born: First Stop Last Stop. The rules are: You must sit on a tiny stool at a grubby sidewalk bar. You must have a beer in your hand. You must guess if this is the first or last stop in Vietnam for the travelers passing by. And, most importantly, you must explain why.
The biggest giveaway is in the walk. When you first arrive in Vietnam, you are convinced you WILL get run over. And you're probably right. You walk down the street the anxious urgency, hopping over puddles and teetering on the edge of sidewalks and jumping every time a motor vehicle misses you by a whisper. After being here a while, you stroll through town with the confidence of a high school senior on the last day of class. You've navigated enough crosswalk-less highways to have faith in the "going with the flow" survival tactic. Cause usually, it works.
Other dead giveaways include how much one is carrying to a bar (a fistful of cash vs a backpack of supplies), how dirty one's shirt and/or shoes are (pit stains darker than their 10 o'clock shadow), the presence of a camera around one's neck, the amount of make-up and/or jewelry on, the telltale flowy pants sold in every shop here, and the girth of one's man bun.
We've completed our transformation into the confident, dirty, un-accesorized, flowing, man-bunned Last Stoppers. Just in time to begin our First Stop in a new country!