Everyone always asks me about my first experience in Vietnam and how did I feel. Well, let me tell you about that now. I first arrived in 2008 for travelling purposes with my old boss and his family who were Vietnamese. They relocated to America over 30 years ago and still have a lot of family in the countryside – Ben Luc, Long An province to be exact. When I first arrived to Tan Son Nhat international airport in 2008 I expected to get in a taxi and go around Ho Chi Minh City. However, my old boss had other ideas. His entire family in the countryside heard about me coming to Vietnam to visit them and they decided to surprise me in a huge van. There were at least 15-20 of them crunched together in the van and they have never seen or touched a white person before. So I was a little shocked when they all decided to just stare at me and touch me bald head and my hair arms.

I don’t remember exactly what they were all saying to me but the translated version was basically “hairy monkey.” The ride back to their hometown took about two hours and of course we had to stop at a roadside restaurant where the utensils were not very hygienic and the food was not fresh and ultimately the toilet was somewhere outside in the woods. It was quite an adventure because I am from a small suburban town in New Jersey and never have witnessed anything like this before.

Looking back at it now it is quite amusing and was such a wonderful experience that I will never ever be able to experience again. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to come to Vietnam for the first time and it changed my life forever. There is nothing better than getting petted like a wild monkey for 2-3 hours in a van stuffed with local Vietnamese people who don’t speak English.

Once I arrived to Ben Luc I was simply amazed. I saw lots of open space, green fields, felt fresh air and overall beautiful scenery. It was truly surreal. There was no better feeling than that. I was actually really worried about going to the countryside because my old boss said there was no Wi-Fi, air conditioning, the toilets were outside, again! And…I had to sleep in a small room with four other men under a mosquito net!

I really remember being scared and frightened to death for all the above reasons but after a few days of living like a local I truly fell in love with Vietnam!