As you can see, I didn’t get too lost on the way
there, except at the end. Still, not bad.
Seriously, this is how you do it. Take notes.

Thank god my birthday is right around the corner, because I’m going to give myself the best present ever: a phone with maps. ELECTRONIC MAPS, PEOPLE. GPS. HOW DID WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM. I DON’T KNOW.

Let me tell you the story about the time I went to meet a new friend and ended up walking around Ho Chi Minh City for 3.5 hours trying to get home, including not one, not two, but three separate xe om (motorbike taxi) rides.
How did this travesty happen? I’m supposed to be the one that’s good with directions, for gods sake!
I went to meet this new friend at a bar called the Spotted Cow in District 1. It was fun. I had caramel flan and a beer (bad combo). The owner, Mike, gave us 10% off cards for chatting with him. 

(We also had a really interesting discussion about ladyboys and ladyboy culture, which became hugely, personally relevant about 4.5 hours later. Unfortunately. No, shut up, let me tell it.)

As an aside, I also got lost on the way there, but not as badly as I originally thought. This is the route I took – it was about 3 miles. No biggie. I only got lost at the end and was 30 minutes late, got there on a taxi bike (XE OM RIDE #1). My friend was ordering spring rolls and I think was a little mad, but I’ve only been here two weeks, give a boy a break!


THIS MESS, however, was how I got home, approximately. Holy crap. No seriously, wtf. Grab a beer and learn from my mistakes…

I only know this because I was certainly in District 8 for a good portion, and because I know those were the three bridges I went over in my journey.

The rest down in the SW corner could just as well be a squiggle of random crayon marks – I backtracked and walked so far I have no idea exactly what streets I was on, but since that’s District 8 (and I was in that District for over 40 minutes) I know I went at least that far southeast.

Let’s look at this tourism tragedy in some more detail, shall we?

That’s not northeast.

8pm: Seeing my new friend off, I started walking what I believed to be northeast.

THIS WAS MY FIRST AND MOST VITAL MISTAKE! All future direction decisions (or at least until I’d completely given up and was just looking for a taxi, about 1.5 hours later) were based on the fact that I thought I started out going northeast, when in fact I did not, as the map will attest.

It was a nice night, the air was lovely and cool, and I was enjoying seeing some more of District 1, the touristy center of town.

Eventually I came upon a river. That’s odd, I didn’t remember a river, but I was pretty sure that I had started off in the right direction, so perhaps this was one of those random canals I’d come across in previous walks that bend all over the place. NOT SO, as I would discover!

The riverwalk was beautiful! Lots of boats.

I walked along the river for quite awhile. After a time, I came to a bridge.

It was pretty out and the neighborhoods were nice, so I decided to check out the other side of the river: MISTAKE #2.

Crossing the bridge and getting into some residential areas, I now realize that I’m nowhere close to where I need to be. I start entertaining the idea that it would be a good idea to look for a taxi bike.

Less concerned about boats at this point.

Looking for a taxi…

Seemingly forever, I walk along the street next to the river. The road is getting progressively worse, and the neighborhood is more shabby.

I’m not too worried yet, everyone is very friendly and calling out hello as I pass. Families are out enjoying the night.

I felt so, so white wandering around.

Still looking for a taxi…

At this point I’m basically going up and down streets just trying to find anyone that is able to communicate with me. I know that I’m in District 8, but, God save me, I have never seen District 8 on my maps, which is also freaking me out. I’m observant and notice a lot, but in the dark I can’t find the stupid district on my fold out paper map. And it is VERY dark.

It turns out I made no note of this District because it is the southeastern ghetto of the city, where I would never have any reason to go.

Huzzah, I’ve declared myself officially lost! WHERE THE FUCK IS A TAXI. They’re EVERYWHERE when I don’t need them!


OH THANK HEAVENS, I’ve found a motorbike taxi. I give him the business card of my hotel.

In a worrisome sign, the taxi driver looks at the address and goes off a bit to consult another dude. Not good. But I have faith that they figure it out, and they seemingly do: we’re off!

ASIDE: Riding a motorbike is so, so much fun!

At this point I’m mildly surprised I’m still ok and in one piece.

10:15pm: Oh no! TOO MUCH FAITH! The taxi driver has taken me to District 1, presumably because he has no idea where my address is, or because I’m white. At least I know where it is, generally speaking, but I still have no idea which way home is.

After I figure out that I’m in the wrong district, I go looking for yet another taxi bike. Sigh.

MISTAKE #3 or 4: I shortly discover that I did not get the business card with my hotel’s address on it back from the second xe om! OH FUCK. NOW WHAT. The only landmark I absolutely know how to get home from is the Reunification Palace, so I ask my THIRD taxi driver to take me to the Palace park, which I ate some shrimp in the day before.

SURPRISE! There’s a huge park on the opposite side of the palace too, which I didn’t know about. He lets me off there. It takes me a bit to figure out I’m not where I thought I was. There’s some kind of play going on in an outdoor stadium which I watch and listen to from a distance while I try to figure out where I am on my stupid paper map.

10:45pm: Finally, success. I make my way back around the palace, past the tennis courts, and discover the pagoda on the corner that lets me know I’m on my street. It’s a straight shot from here.

After walking about 10 minutes a ladyboy pulls up next to me on the sidewalk and starts talking to me, following me close and eventually dropping her bike to get closer, chatting at me all the time.

Mike the Bar Owner had warned me about ladyboy pickpockets earlier in the night, and sure enough, this woman had her hands in my left pocket while I was pushing her away. All I could do was say “No, I’m almost home!” over and over again, which would have been confusing for her if she spoke English, I’m sure.

She made off with my duck bao wrapper that I bought in District 8. Lucky her, and lucky, lucky me! Still, it was unnerving and a little weird.

11:15pm: FINALLY, I get back to the hotel, 15 minutes after curfew (the hotel shuts the doors at 11). Luckily the proprietress and I get along well, and she said she was worried about me so she stayed up in the front room watching TV with her kids while she waited.

And that’s why I’m buying myself a phone with maps and GPS for my birthday.

It was quite an adventure, but not one I want to have again!