Someone is looking after me!!!

I love airports.  I love people watching.  People from all over the world in a common place with a common purpose.  People off to explore, head to exciting places, visit family or return home.    I love the airport vibe! I enjoy in taking time to sniff luxuriant fragrances,  swooning over pretty new OPI colours and discovering new yummy body lotions. Its a fun relaxing experience for me….or maybe its not the place to relax….

These guys were hilarious. I have no idea what they were laughing about but the guy with his hand up had the best laugh!
I found my gate sat down feeling proud that I was good at adulting and start chatting to strangers….we paint our nails together, talk about travel plans and life. I love this part of travelling!!  I’m lost in the moment of meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I just tell people I am “teaching english” in HCMC as it just makes the conversation easy.  We natter, laugh and share sweets.  During a pause in the conversation it dawned on me to check my boarding pass.  Casually I pull it out of my passport and realise that A) I am at the wrong gate and B) I have missed my connecting flight – DUH!! My new ‘friends’ amused by how I just laugh that I’ve missed my flight.

A menopausal flush spread its way all over my body.  The kind of flush when you send a message to the wrong person in error.  I started running….my little swollen feet grateful for the comfortable (slightly odd!) shoes I had just purchased .  I was THAT person. That person that misses their flight, dammit!
Back through customs, un pack laptop, un pack camera, remove bracelets and spread arms to be touched by security ladies back through Immigration (swish swash swish swash…..laughing to myself as its just like the book ‘We are going on a bear hunt’)…but in reverse and a bit more expensive.
The rush of the airport
I got to the AirAsia counter and there is a Vietnamese woman shaking with rage, she is screaming at the top of her lungs in front of her two petrified small children and her very tolerant husband.   Her husband was pinched, pushed and yelled at….if looks could kill this guy would be massacred!  I asked the lady on the counter what it was about and she told me that she too had missed her flight.
Body language
Nose pick
At first I thought to myself “choose your battles” but then it dawned on me that in fact that was a extremely ‘privileged’  and judgemental for me to think that, as the extra cost to catch their flight could’ve been colossal!  It looked like grandma, grandad, man, wife and 2 children were all travelling.  I started to really feel for the poor lady and how much stress this would put her family under as a lot of family can only afford to travel once every few years 🙁 I didn’t want to know how much a rebook would’ve cost them, or if they could even afford it.  What made matters worse what that so many people had hovered round to watch the drama unfold.
I love how asians generally know how to make the most of any opportunity to zzzz
I paid the additional $120 to get to HCMC and headed to Starbucks for a coffee and to sit and observe people (and make images with my phone) and binge watch Game of Thrones (I’ve been watching it from the beginning again since leaving CHCH).
Phones, phones, phones
Arriving at HCMC
Coming home
Yes, that IS 4 on a bike….

They say stuff happens in three’s.  I left my passport and $1500 cash unattended for 5 minutes in a shop, missed my connecting flight and almost got all the way through immigration in HCMC and realised I had left my pattern makers samples somewhere near the arrival hall.

Night time was a quick trip to the supermarket to get yoghurt, passionfruit, cheese and crackers, water, grapes, avocado, deodorant, coke, toothpaste (Doreen, tee hee), flannels, coat to keep sun off me on motorbike, pollution mask, coat hangers, coconut oil and a few cotton tops.  TOTAL = $45
I am one lucky/blessed/fortunate girl! I am finally here! This is going to be a great trip, I can feel it in me bones.

Take a ride with me

Take a ride with me in the morning to see the kids (VIDEO)

It was relatively quiet today so its not as busy as it usually is…but you will get the idea.  From 3:00 is when I pull up to the orphanage.

It was relatively quiet today so its not as busy as it usually is…but you will get the idea.  From 3:00 is when I pull up to the orphanage.

Riding in HCMC is awesome! I’ve loved every minute of it, apart from the time a car came head on at me in daylight, and the time the same thing happened at night (and I had no depth perception)…oh and the time I pulled out in front of a truck that was behind another truck…and the time that I got really really lost!  Other than a few scary moments its a fun experience if you just trust in the “process.

The horn is your friend.  You use it to say “I am coming up behind you”, “I am passing you (if they think you might turn), “please move for me” and numerous other things.

The rule is to just worry about what is in front of you and respect those ahead of your path.  Everyone behind you will work around you, so don’t make too many sudden moves (unless you have to).

If its hot wear sun protection (long jacket and gloves), always take your rain jackets and invest in a decent face mask.  The pollution here is SO bad and made me feel quite ill the first few days.  My one is kick ass and seems to do the trick.  I also put a few drops of essential oil in it so that it smells lovely too.

You can fit up to 6 people on a bike (true story)

You can use your bike as a bed (men are always napping on them)

You can carry ANYTHING on your bike

The louder your horn and louder your exhaust the more people will watch out for you

If you are turning you can sneak through the lights

If the police pull you over don’t speak english, sing a song, speak maori or speak the words to ‘Uma rapati’

Helmets were only made legal a few years ago and people seem to wear them out of obligation.  They look like dress up helmets.

People train their dogs to sit on the front of the bike

Kids are bottle fed on the bike, kids sleep on the bike (while traveling through traffic)

Kids have special pillows so they can rest their heads on the speedo while mum/dad drives

Vietnamese always look surprised to see a westerner riding, especially if there is a Vietnamese on the back of the bike

If you every get a chance to do this, its a must.  Its a test of physical and mental skill and something I love doing.

Thanks for reading

Sharon x

From the mouths of babes (repost from Vietnam blog 2011)

From the mouths of babes (repost from Vietnam blog 2011)

I have an amazingly fantastic son, he is blimmin’ intelligent (but can lack common sense sometimes), compassionate, funny, handsome, driven and full of his own very strong values. I am immensely proud of him and know that he will acheive great things in his life and this fine young man sat me down and gave me a ‘talk’.

I had been having a bit of a crappy day and was a bit tearful.  I was feeling down and had a bit of a cry and said to Liam “sometimes I just don’t feel good about myself at all, shock horror your mum is ‘human” – followed by more tears as I couldn’t keep my ‘brave’ mum face on. I threw myself on the couch in a self pitying heap and lay in the sun. He turned away from the computer (this is a minor miracle in itself) and starting talking…..

I can’t remember how our discussion started, but I think it was me asking for a hug (which I got), my baby is now taller than me and his hugs are just so great! I sat down…

He asked me where I was going with my life, what I wanted to achieve, what I was doing about it and what I wanted to look back on. He pushed this on me. I could see that this was something that he really felt strongly about. He would not let up and kept at me. I thought I had this all sorted in my head, but that was the only place it resided, in my head.  He said “mum, you’ve got this…just do it!!! I needed to take some action and I guess that is what Liam was wanting me to do too – to make a commitment to my goals/dreams.  I will always remember this day, it was profound…he is profound.  Not a big talker like me, but when he does talk, it holds its weight….my young man, his own great person.

He basically gave me permission. Not that I needed it, but I guess maybe in a way he sees that I just work in a beige job in a beige office to get money to pay the mortgage etc. This has all been for him. I started this job to work around Liam, to make sure I was around to cook dinners, not rushing home in a fit of stress and to have the ability to start work early in the morning, to get home sooner. This is a ‘beige’ job, sometimes even mousy poo brown job and is just that, a ‘job’. I think he was telling me that I need to create more in my life, and he is right.

I had created a bit of income from my photos and this has been great as it also helps my technique and creativity but i needed something bigger.

Liam gave me the kick up the arse that I needed. I had always thought about going overseas to help but never acted on it. The day after his talk, with sweaty palms and double checking all dates – I booked and paid for my tickets.  I was off to VIETNAM! (for the first time EVER!!!)

This was all within me, i just needed someone to listen and tell me to get cracking.

Thanks Liam!!


Apart from all the scary trucks that come out at night, the speeding cars that turn from a street head on into you, the judder bars in unlit areas and massive pot holes… it was fun


I started my morning with a wee stroll down by the river to find Banh Mi for breakfast (about 90c).

I hardly eat bread but I will be making an exception for this!!
Opposite my room,  I love the rustic-ness
I adore the contrast in this moment, the colour and symmetry is beautiful
HOT TOC (street hairdresser and ear cleaner)

Riding the bike was one of my biggest challenges here. Not because I’m scared of the traffic (oddly enough). As I’ve got quite used to it over the last few years…my fear was getting lost.  So I did a few small rides around the area and then thought I’d tackle a big ride.

Pollution mask, rain coat, helmet, gloves, water and sensible shoes!

I decided to try and do a dry run to work. I’m best to practice for 2 days before I go on Monday. I searched Google Maps and it seemed straight forward but how would I remember the names of all the streets?  But as soon as I started driving it all came back to me. I thought previously I was just daydreaming on the back of the bike but some of it must’ve sunk in via osmosis. There was the pink church, the river, the balloon street the railway line and…oh my goodness….the supermarket. I soon as I saw that I knew exactly where to go after that. I actually squealed behind my pollution mask and did a happy dance on my bike. 

Perfect opportunity to buy some more fruit. New towels and my sun jacket. Sorted.

Fruity bunch of locals
There is a lot of french influence here so their baking is amazing!!
These creamy little balls of puff are best to be avoided….they are SO good!!
The mystery meat section

Mary. I attempted to make a video just for you but I got told off by security. But I took stealth photo’s for you as I knew you would love to see what is sold here.

Back on my bike after paying 10c to park and by this stage I knew the way off by heart.  But crap I forgot about the MASSIVE roundabout. That was intrepid to say the least!! A swarm of buses trucks and of course bikes. There were many swear words!

I arrived, my heart full with excitement about being back.

I pulled up at the orphanage thinking I just wanted to take a pic to celebrate that I’d made it. The security stopped me. Which is so so good. (I’ll talk about this is a later post). Behind him stood one of the co directors. She recognising me behind my helmet and mask and came out. Said hi to gesture me in. It was SO lovely that she remembered me 🙂  She pointed for me to park my bike but I told her that I would be in on Monday. I wanted to be able to see the kids and spend the entire morning with them, rather than a quick “hi” and leave. Woo hoo I did it…one more practice tomorrow though I think.

On the way home I stop for fresh fruit
I get home, pop to the hairdressers for a wee treat (its a quarter of the price!) and celebrate the fact that I am still alive and that I survived driving in HCMC. #jessicaRabbit
I was feeling pretty sassy, I nailed the ride today so thought…”how hard can it be to ride at night?”…so I jumped on the bike to check out the gym that I wanted to go to.  It was in another district and it was still quite light so off I went. LONG LONG stop short….I got very lost and thought it was too far away anyway.  So I found a fancy mall by the river (as the sun was going down), I stopped to observe rather than battle the traffic.
These boys were loving their dad throwing them in the air
Family portrait
Super heroes!!!
and their queen…
Fast asleep while mum works on the beauty counter.
Damn…where is my bike?
Looks simple enough yeah?
But it wasn’t!!!!!
It was a LONG night! much longer than I had expected.  Apart from all the scary trucks that come out at night, the speeding cars that turn from a street head on into you, the judder bars in unlit areas and massive pot holes… it was fun.   The great thing about this part of town is that you can ride one handed with your Google Maps and no one will steal your phone – sweet!!!
If you are interested…here are a few videos of me riding.  Feeling kinda proud actually….I conquered my fear, I got lost and it was ok.