I thought back to the air-condoned bus, where I had wifi to show me where exactly my hostel was located. Now I was just lost in a stinky street of Ho Chi Minh City. The city I had originally wanted to avoid. The city that I kept hearing horror stories about; stories about local men on motorbikes who whizz by and snatch the bags, phones, or other belongings from the hands of distracted tourists.
I glanced again at my phone, at the screen shot I took of my hostel’s address. There was supposed to be an alley right in front of me, but I saw only a small market lined with rickety stalls made of bamboo beams and faded umbrellas. I felt the tears sneak into my eyes as I sighed in frustration. “It’s ok” I told myself. “You’ll find it soon.”
I brushed off yet another local offering me a ride. My ‘no thanks you’s’ were getting more surly as time passed, and yet they still kept coming; clapping or snapping to get my attention in the hopes of getting my money. After an hour of this I was done. I wanted to do nothing more than throw my bag down and sit on the filthy street beside the murky puddles of mystery liquid that could be been water as easily as they could have been urine.
That’s when she found me.
She wasn’t a fellow backpacker or a local market vendor, at least not one that I had noticed. She was just a tiny Vietnamese woman wearing what looked to be mint green pyjamas. Deep wrinkles creased her face and her silvery grey hair was done up in a neat bun at the nape of her bent neck. I had no idea where she came from but she quickly got my attention by tapping my arm and pointing at my phone questioningly.
With nothing to lose I showed her the hostel’s address. She looked at it before nodding and waved for me to follow. I fell into place behind her, slowing my speed to match hers while avoiding the cesspool puddles along the way. We didn’t go far, just behind the market, when she pointed to a hidden alley.
There it was, the sign for my hostel.
I thanked her profusely but she just patted my cheek affectionally and smiled before shuffling away, disappearing as quickly as she came. My Vietnamese guardian angel”.