Ho-Chi-Minh-City

Back to the Bustle

I’ve made it.

After years of conversation and months of planning and preparation, I am finally in Vietnam.

I landed in Ho Chi Minh City Friday evening, and I’m now in my quarantine hotel for the obligatory 14 days.

What a journey it has been that led to me writing this post in my hotel room right this minute. I started enquiring about job opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City back in May 2020, and since then my plans had changed countless times.

I was going to find a job, then I was going to freelance, then finally I settled on starting my own company. The journey is not yet over as I still have the final hurdle of getting my 12-month investment visa. But I’m in the country, and that in itself is a momentous milestone.

As the plane was descending over the night sky of Ho Chi Minh City, I gazed down on the city I’m now calling my home. It was surprisingly beautiful. I’m no stranger to city lights as seen from a plane window, but there was something different about Ho Chi Minh City.

Yes, there were roads, and what appeared to be low buildings, probably houses. But there were also mini clusters of tall buildings that led you to wonder what they might be—I’m guessing apartment blocks. And there was this one building that towered above everything else. A single solitary structure that reminds me of the Eiffel Tower, or the Tokyo Tower. My partner says that’s the Landmark 81. It was magnificent. He says we can visit it someday, add that to the list of to-do’s as we explore our city together.

I woke up early this morning while the sky was still dark. So I spent a good part of an hour gazing out the window onto the main road with the motorcycles whizzing by and the still-dark shopfronts. I switched off the lights in my room, so I could sit quietly in the dark and watch as the sky lit up. It was very peaceful. A beautiful way to start the day.

This move to Vietnam has been a long time coming. The seeds of the idea were planted as early as 2017, and once I met my partner, we started talking about it seriously in early 2019. In my last few weeks in Bangkok, I was asked many times whether I was excited. And strangely, every time I answered: not quite. I was looking forward to the move. I smiled while visualising myself in the flat with my partner. But the feeling I had was not of excitement.

It just felt right.

And now that I’ve finally made it to the city, sitting typing in my hotel room, the feeling I have is of normalcy. There’s a relief that things went as planned: the paperwork, the approvals, the flight, the immigration. But the overwhelming sense is of normalcy.

Being here right now feels normal. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

I don’t feel excitement or apprehension. I just feel like I’m going about my everyday life, enjoying the small pleasures, feeling the ebb and flow of the day.

I started meditating with Sam Harris recently, and one of the things he talked about is how we can only ever be happy now. That it doesn’t work to chase future happiness. We can’t live life always waiting to be happy, thinking “I’ll be happy when X, Y, Z happens.” It doesn’t work that way.

I think that’s very true.

Yes, I can imagine myself in two weeks rushing into my partner’s arms. And it puts a smile on my face, and sometimes tears of joy.

But my happiness is not tied to that future moment. I am happy right now, where I am sitting, typing, thinking these thoughts.

Maybe this is one benefit of meditation. Coincidentally, today marks just over a year since I started meditating. And it’s certainly changed my life for the better. I feel more present, calmer, more grounded. I realise the fleeting nature of thoughts and feelings. I’m a much better person for myself and for those around me.

Anyhow, I wanted to talk about being “Back to the Bustle” of Vietnam.

Friday night, as I was shuttled to my hotel in my quarantine van, I was reminded of the sights and sounds of a Vietnamese city. I suddenly remembered how the roads in Vietnam are ruled by motorbikes, not cars (while the opposite is true in Bangkok). I remembered how horns are obligatory to navigate Vietnamese roads, as my driver honked at incoming traffic left and right.

I was transported from my quiet suburban life in the outskirts of Bangkok back into the bustle of a Vietnamese city centre. I’d forgotten what it was like. But now that I’m here, it feels like I never left.

Suddenly Bangkok feels like a distant past. Now, here in this bustle, is my present.

But though Bangkok the city feels like a lifetime ago, I was happy yesterday to discover that I still feel as close to Bangkok the people as ever. I spent some time yesterday and today messaging my friends in Bangkok and elsewhere in the world, letting them know that I’ve finally made it to Vietnam and asking them how they’ve been.

As the replies came pouring in, I felt as connected to my friends as I ever have. I thought I might feel lonely once I arrived in Vietnam, being away from friends I was just beginning to form close connections with in Bangkok. But I don’t at all.

My Bangkok friends are only a finger’s touch away. And I now get to make new connections, get to know new people, reconnect with old friends who are based here.

I guess the people you choose to keep in your life are always with you. They may be physically distant, but how close you feel to them emotionally doesn’t necessarily change. It’s just a matter of reaching out and simply asking, “How’ve you been?”

It’s been a bit of a rambly post. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings now that the move has finally happened. And here they are.

Vietnam, I’m back.

Let’s now build a life together.

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