At the end of my trip to Can Tho and the Mekong Delta, still smiling from that spectacular bun rieu soup, I took a long bus back to Saigon, into Mien Tay, the Western bus station. Located about a 20 minute drive from District 1, it is inconvenient for most travelers — so the bus companies have provided shuttles to take their passengers from the outer reaches of the city into District 10. Climbing out of my shuttle, I was met by a teeming mass of motorcycle taxi drivers, called xe om in Vietnam.
“Hey you, you YOU!” one shouted, pushing and maneuvering through the knotted mass of people to stand in my way, preventing me from stepping off the bus steps. “I take YOU.”
Another gentleman knocked my first suitor out of the way and stood flush with the door. “You need moto taxi? I take YOU to hotel.”
Laughing, I twisted sideways and sprung out of the bus to the right, temporarily out of reach. With only an overnight bag and a purse, I was more nimble than usual. To the dismay of the moto taxi drivers, I hopped into the bus company’s waiting room and office.
This practice has become my usual strategy when coming off a long bus or train ride in Southeast Asia or South America. One of the more overwhelming aspects of arriving in a new city is the fact that you are greeted by a stunningly chaotic scene of transportation options, all wanting your attention. When that ride is a night bus or train it is even more intense, exhaustion eclipsing any patience, blotting it away. Making a beeline for an office or a store, even to ask a ridiculous question, tends to scatter many of the drivers and leave you with the more determined and calmer lot upon your return.
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Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…
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