Saying “yes”, can lead to many, many experiences. Your life becomes more exciting when you learn to say yes more often to opportunities. This is an adventure in Vietnam that started out with me saying yes as I’ve learned to do more often during my travels. This time, it certainly started to show how exciting saying yes can make your life!
I chose to stay with the same Airbnb hostess again during my 2nd time in Saigon, simply because she made my first visit so much fun and I learned a lot about the country and the people through communicating with her. This 2nd time was no different, more adventures, more great food, and more learning. There was one key adventure though that stood out, our search for a European influenced castle outside the center of Saigon. I’ll tell you now, at one point it wasn’t whether or not we wanted to see this place; of course we did! But the question at one point during this journey soon became; will we all even make it there?
When I first arrived in Vietnam I was pretty fearful of riding on a scooter, but after several weeks I had become pretty accustomed to them, so when the idea of going out to a castle via scooter with a couple other people was pitched I was totally up for it! Our adventure started simple enough, the 3 of us left my hostesses place around 8:15AM to go and pickup our 4th member for the journey, grab some breakfast, gulp down some great Vietnamese coffee, and head out. It was a hot sunny day, just like any other, and we wanted to get back in time before the expected storms hit in the afternoon.
Cruising through the streets of Saigon on the back of a scooter is an amazing experience; the views of the city you get by this method are unmatchable! There’s no roof or side panels to block your views, you get smells and sounds without any windows limiting your experience, it’s an absolute must when you visit here! We made our way onto the freeway (or, what I at least thought was a Vietnamese equivalent), the wind feeling great especially under the sun and in the humidity of Vietnam. I took in the amazing views of the city from the distance as we made our way further away from the Saigon center. I got to see more structures and areas that I hadn’t been near yet; this was turning out to be a great day!
The First Issue
Every plan you create, there is usually at least one little hiccup. We ran into our first problem about 25 minutes into the journey while at a red light at an intersection; to keep going the way we wanted to we needed to be in a car (no scooters allowed), but this wasn’t going to happen. We had already made it this far and we weren’t going to go back because of something as minimal as this, so we started searching for an alternate route. After a few false tries and finding ourselves looping in a circle at one point we ended up getting a hopeful route worked out after pulling together and coming up with an idea, so we started on that path.
There were 3 scooters and 4 people; I was the one without a scooter so I rode with my hostess. Her friend also had her own scooter, however, our 4th member was a visitor to Vietnam like myself, but he rented a scooter. We were driving along and a few droplets of rain came down, no problem, they stopped almost immediately, then they started again a bit more, but then stopped after a couple minutes, once again no problem. You get dried off quickly when you’re exposed to as much wind that you get on a scooter. We pulled over again to check our progress and to make sure we were on target, everyone agreed on where we were at and where we were going. When going on an adventure like this, it helps to check status occasionally, especially after an issue like we already had, things were looking up again! Though shortly after this moment is when the journey went from having a minor route inconvenience to a full blown “oh s**t”! We stopped at an intersection to double check where we were again for a quick moment and then we noticed something…. Our 4th member was missing.
The “Fun” Part
So we stayed put and waited… About 5 minutes and he was still nowhere to be found, and his map that he had brought along only showed the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, it would be completely useless where we were at. My hostess had realised that she was very low on fuel, so after waiting a few more minutes she took off to find a gas station and I stayed behind with her friend where we would continue to wait for the 4th member of our group. Now with us almost completely all separated things seemed like they were starting to fall apart.
At this point it started to rain again, but even harder than the first 2 times. After a few minutes our 4th member finally showed up! His gas gauge had been showing plenty of gas, but then instantly dropped to empty at one point. He had gotten enough fuel from a passerby to catch up to us, so now we had our previous missing member back, but now had a new issue; another missing member. The concern now was “I hope she didn’t run out of fuel before making it to a gas station.” And as we waited for her, the rain began to get worse. I had been holding onto her phone as well to take a look at the map occasionally while she drove, so she was also without a phone. There’d be no way for us to know her status…
You don’t really think about carrying a jacket with you in Vietnam, the coldest it gets is around 70 Fahrenheit, which it usually will only hit at 2:00 in the morning, so carrying any type of coat seems insane when it averages 95 every day. However, I will tell you now; you should always carry a poncho in your bike or the bike of your driver! Unfortunately I was the only one who didn’t know about this… Until this moment.
After only a few minutes my hostess had arrived back! We were once again regrouped; however the rain was really starting to pour down now. While my hostess put on her poncho I ended up having to hide underneath it, which added a bit of terror as I could no longer see why other drivers were slamming on their horns and there was also the constant pummel of large rain drops hitting the outside of my covering. I could only rely on the voice of my driver whom I couldn’t really hear through the poncho being attacked by rain. I gripped tight and held my breath.
Since we knew what the problem was with our 4th member’s scooter we instantly went to the gas station that my hostess had stopped at; which actually wasn’t a gas station but some people under a tarp with a TV and a couch and a large canister of gas… Seemed legit (not really). So we stopped and I heard my hostess/driver saying something so I got out from under her poncho and realised there was shelter, so without thinking I ran to the “gas station” under the tarp and she followed with her scooter. But wait… Where did our other 2 members go? Well, turns out our 4th members scooter had enough gas to go about 200 feet and then die again, so he and the other girl who had her own scooter brought it over quickly to where we were through the pouring rain, luckily this “gas station” was very close! At this point the rain had turned into a full blown storm with what is possibly the largest rain drops I’d ever seen! You could probably wash your hands with only a few of these rain drops!
The good news was that we were regrouped (again) and everyone had gas, now there was this storm and we were a good distance from… well… anywhere it seemed (to me). The rain didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon and we couldn’t stay where we were, so, I got back on my hostesses scooter, hid under the back of her poncho and braced myself.
The large rain drops pounding the poncho to the point where I could barely hear anything else was one thing, but the streets were flooding very quickly, big puddles formed within minutes and this led to countless splashes leaving any part of myself exposed to get completely soaked. It looked like I had gone swimming with my pants on, and what worried me more was the fact that my camera, phone, and wallet were in my pockets which were soaking wet, so I could only begin to assume that these important items were getting exposed to too much water.
As I said before, I had gotten accustomed to riding on a scooter, but when you can’t see anything in front of you, your ability to brace for turns, stops, and accelerations disappears and you have to stay braced for anything to happen at any moment! We rode for what seemed like forever, but in reality was closer to probably about maybe 15 minutes. We came to a stop and I heard talking, so I came out from under the poncho to see what was going on, we were at an intersection. There was a small hut (yes, an actual hut made out of logs, branches, and straw) and this was to be our next stop to dry off, cool down, and double check the route.
Upon inspection, I was fortunate to find that everything in my pockets was still in working order, slightly damp, but a quick rub on a dry cloth was all that was needed, so I transferred everything into the storage space under the scooter seat for safe (and DRY) keeping! After a brief dry off period the rain started to lighten up a bit, so this time I hopped on our 4th members scooter since it was a bit bigger for 2 people and we continued. We were getting very close to the castle and the rain was clearing up, so I decided to ride the rest of the way without coverage. The rain was slowing down enough by this point that; with the wind from the scooter ride, I was drying off quicker than I was getting wet.
After what seemed like forever, we had finally arrived! We had come on a popular day to; not for visitors though….but for models. We got to see a photoshoot taking place of several female Vietnamese models in one of the biggest halls of the castle grounds! I took several pictures before someone noticed and I was told “no photos, no photos here!”. Since this castle is somewhat hard to describe, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. This place is called Long Island and if you want to look it up on an online map or check it out for yourself during a visit to Vietnam, here’s the address: 173 Long Thuận phường Long Phước Quận 9, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
And yes, the owner of this castle is very rich!
I’m guessing this is the owners car. There’s also many other nice cars on the property as well, though nothing too special.
And now, more castle
The last shot is obviously from the photoshoot that was going on while we were there. It was pretty cool to see how much work goes into getting the photos just right, the lighting, reshoots, the insane device the camera sits on to be adjust just right, it’s pretty crazy the amount of work put in to just one photo.
After walking around and exploring for at least an hour or more we sat down and had some passion fruit juice and relaxed before heading back. The ride back was pretty direct and incident free and also took a tiny fraction of the time. At the end of the day I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and wouldn’t have changed a thing, it has been by far one of the most memorable adventures I’ve had. These are the kinds of things that make traveling exciting, every morning you wake up and you can never quite tell what the day might bring.
I hope you enjoyed reading! Stay tuned as I will be covering my trip to Nha Trang, Vietnam next!