After one peaceful week in the Central Highlands, I’m back to Saigon, the land of hustle and bustle. In the back of a xe ôm (motorbike taxi), I was greeted with glorious traffic jams, crossing the most congested parts of district 5, onto district 3, 1, and finally Binh Thanh. The few side brushes with other scooters was the least concern. My eyes were stung and my airway suffocated from the exhaust. Oh the metropolis that I once dreamed about. The city girl in me was abhorred and cried a little.

Once upon a time, I promised myself I’d never live in a small town again. 4 years in a New England middle-of-nowhere was more than enough for a lifetime. I needed more action and was confident that traffic was not a bad tradeoff for abundant street food, quirky little cafes, eclectic shows, and entertaining public life. Reality hit me in the face after I moved back to Hanoi. Dodging reckless traffic on a scooter while ignoring excessive honking from all directions became so unbearable that I barely went out. My lungs yearned for a fresh breeze, my eyes for soothing greenery, and my soul for a moment of peace. Same in Saigon, I rarely leave Thanh Da island despite the beckoning glamor of nearby district 1. Here on the island a few pockets of trees are still left standing thanks to an outdated plan which has halted development for close to 2 decades. And to be honest, it also feels most down-to-earth as it’s largely working class residential. Not that I have much in common in lifestyles with these motorbike taxi drivers, market vendors, shark loaners, and prostitutes. But more and more I feel disconnected from people that are supposedly of the same background too: young, urban, middle-class, abroad-educated. I feel foreign in rural villages, and equally out of place in the cosmopolitan shopping malls and bars.

Vinpearl Luxury resort, Da Nang, swimming poolBut I’d never turn down an offer to swim at a resort swimming pool