Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Saigon Kiss

During a recent visit to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is otherwise known, I was intrigued by a reference to a Saigon Kiss. Then I found out...

One afternoon I decided to go for a swim and asked a taxi driver to take me to the local pool. I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities and even managed to do some lengths in between children hurtling themselves into the water from various precipices around the pool and among the swimming lessons taking place.

But I noticed the time and was late for dinner, so jumped out, put my clothes on straight over my bikini and rushed out to find a taxi. I stood and hailed cabs but with no joy. Rush hour was still in play and the streets were grid locked traffic chaos. It was then I was approached by a kind girl who asked if I needed help. On explaining my predicament she giggled and suggested that the wet patches were doing me no favours getting a cab. I laughed, forgetting about my wet bikini. (Note to self, dry off next time.)

The girl suggested I get a lift by motorbike instead. As a safety-conscious traveller I would normally take time to consider my options, but with little choice I quickly agreed. The girl hailed a motorcyclist and told him where I needed to go, then negotiated the price. I was eternally grateful to my new found local expert who'd just saved my skin. I thanked her gratefully and then hopped on the back of the moto.

It is said that if Beijing is the city of bicycles then Saigon is the city of motorbikes. Everywhere you look there are snake-like streams of buzzing bikes, millimetres apart, crossing oncoming lines of traffic in continuous lines. There is no right of way or stopping, everyone maneuvers around each other with amazing skill and success.

The ride back to the hotel was a scream, in every sense of the word. We sped around the city and I felt liberated by the experience, but was regularly gritting my teeth at the proximity of other vehicles. I then received my first (and hopefully last) Saigon kiss, from another motorcycle's engine as we hustled to squeeze through the same narrow gap. I still have the mark to prove the hair-raising experience.

All's well that ends well and I arrived back at the hotel in one piece. After paying a generous tip in thanks I turned towards the hotel door and saw the clock. The journey to the pool via taxi had taken 25 minutes. But the return journey, perhaps not surprisingly, had taken just 6 minutes. I was not only in time for dinner, but thankfully had time to change.


The act of kindness bestowed on me by the Vietnamese girl outside the pool reminded me of the Global Giving programme of the same name. If you have experienced a random act of kindness while travelling, why not share it? Visit (and let us know if you do, we'll publish it here too!)

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad there was no 'kissing' on my motorbike trip!

    I did witness a passing motorcyclist attempt to snatch the bag of a pedestrian... first time i've seen that happen. Fortunately he didn't manage to get a good grip and sped off empty handed. Hold on tight to your bags when walking in Saigon, or anywhere for that matter.


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