Excited about finally being able to cross the border, I packed up my mosquito net and waited in the lobby, but I couldn’t remember the guy who dropped me off, so I waited outside. Then finally a guy in a white dress shirt drove up in a bike and met eyes with me, so I hopped on, but as he pulled out, he turned the wrong direction and I was became confused, so I began to ask where we’re going in English then we both realized he was not my driver. Why did he randomly pick me up, anyway? So, I walked the short distance back to the hotel and kept waiting.
The manager realized what happened and called the real guy to come pick me up. When he finally arrived, I was rather upset to learn that he had my passport in his possession the whole time because he told me that it was being taken to the Vietnam embassy for processing. He takes me to a waiting area in the no man’s land between the borders and leaves me with another guy who tells me, “you are VIP, you don’t pay anymore today,” then buys me a soda…
After loitering around a while chatting with his pals, he probably noticed my boredom and takes me to a secret rest area in no man’s land where he orders me some food and a Vietnamese coffee, my first meal in a while.
The rest area was quite a unique experience because it was also visited by border agents and other shady people, whom were all as curious about me as I was about them so we were able to chat, with some free translation services by my handler.
Then finally my paper visa application arrived via car which allowed me to cross, but I also noticed that my eVisa application, which I filed as a precaution, also was approved, separately, at around the same time (I treated it as a $25 insurance policy). The handler cuts the line and whisks me across the border then puts me onto the next bus, hands me some food, and leaves. In retrospect, I was impressed by the professionalism of the whole process – but I guess even criminals have a code of honor and sufficient business sense about treating customers well in order to stay in business.
I arrived to Ho Chi Minh pretty late, but was still able to find an authentic bowl of Pho, noodles.
I generally avoid soda’s because they are not healthy, but also because they tend to collect rust which is not at all healthy to consume. Always wipe the caps before and after opening a can or bottle. Notice the brown covered paper napkin next to my can in the picture? That’s rust! If you must, drink safely.