Good Morning Vietnam
. . . or good afternoon, actually, since it took me an hour to get through the immigration line at the airport here in Saigon!
It was a short flight here from Singapore. It looks like they are building a new terminal complex at the airport, but the one I went through surely wasn't it. After picking up my luggage--which had been removed from the carousel during my interminable wait in the arrivals hall--I took out 1,000,000 dong from the ATM (a bit over $60), arranged a taxi, and left the building to find hordes of people waiting outside, as if the Beatles had arrived in New York City for the first time. (Interestingly, this is the first country on my trip to use a currency other than the dollar.)
The ride across town to my hotel was an adventure in itself. The streets were choked with cars, trucks, bicycle-driven carts, and more motor scooters and light cycles than I thought existed on the planet. I saw literally thousands of them. And not one helmet! It was pretty common for folks to cover their mouths and noses with a bandana of sorts, which made it look like we were driving through groups of bandits. The rules of the road here must be more like suggestions. It felt like Mr. Toad's wild ride, in that more than once I looked ahead to see a couple of cycle riders heading straight toward us in our lane, only to veer off at the last second. There were precious few traffic lights, meaning negotiating intersections, plazas, and roundabouts had an "every man for himself" feel to it. But people seemed used to it and I got to my destination in one piece.
The hotel is very comfortable, clearly a place that caters to Western business travelers. Things are dirt cheap in this country: the taxi, meals, Internet access in the hotel.
When I settled into my room, I tuned the television to Star Sports (an international ESPN network) to catch the tail end of Roddick's one-sided win over Mardy Fish. This advances Roddick to the semifinals, where he'll likely face Roger Federer.
I am about to head out to check out the local sights.