The escape to Vietnam started on the wrong foot. We erroneously thought that visa on arrival meant that Jason could literally get a visa “on arrival” but it actually meant applying online days in advance. Jason stayed behind while the three of us flew and arrived after midnight in a strange, seemingly unfriendly city because the immigration officer was gruff — yes, that’s their job — but to shout, “I don’t care!” like a tantrum-throwing child is quite another thing. Then against all travel wisdom, I got hoodwinked by a driver who approached us in the airport and overcharged us but not by much since I fought with him each step of the way. I wanted to step out of the car but it was nearly three in the morning and I had to get the kids to the Airbnb. These unpleasantries were completely erased the morning after by the sheer joy of seeing James, a friend from TEDA, China days whom I haven’t seen since Joshua was a year old.
This is the perfect holiday for me — just to reunite, catch up with life stories with an old friend. And for Joshua and Jimmy’s perfect day, James arranged a mega playdate with four other boys — Amani, Thyrdy, Raighne, Rafee, complete with swimming, giant sandbox playground, chips, cupcakes, skateboarding on a rooftop and late night movies. It was great to meet fellow Filipinos, Rasul and Dianne from James’ school plus Mei and her three-year old daughter, Ella.
Joshua and Jimmy took turns riding with James on the Vietnamese’s preferred mode of transportation – the motorbike. How complete can one’s experience of Ho Chi Minh be? With James, the bad impression in the first few hours in Saigon flipped over to “I want to live here!” I totally understood why James, Rasul and Dianne loved being here and how more relaxed and uncomplicated life is.