Wowee what a week it’s been. I really don’t know where begin so I suppose I’ll start from the beginning. We arrived at our accommodation in the Tan Binh district at a place called the Saigon Tourist Hospitality College. It’s essentially a college for students to study areas such as hotel management, restaurant work, patisserie and bar work. We stay in the volunteer dorms, Jason’s in the boys dorms, I’m in the girls dorm. It was quite strange at first as its the first time in about 2 months that we’ve been apart, but its been quite refreshing to have our own space. Each dorm can usually fit about 10 people and in total there are about 6-7 girls dorms and 1 boys dorm.
Our first week is known as ‘Cultural Week.’ Its during this week that we’re taken to the main tourists sites around the city and are given a couple of Vietnamese lessons. We managed to cover the Reunification Palace, Post Office, Opera House, War Remnants Museum, Water Puppet Show, Ben Thanh Market and Backpacker street all in the one week. I think one of the most enjoyable things about this week is how quickly we got to know our orientation group which is so diverse with people from USA, Netherlands, Germany and the UK. By the end of the week we’d all felt like we’d known each other for years.
That weekend all 12 of us booked a sleeper bus to the city of Da Lat. Arriving there we were met with very cool weather and constant rain. Shit, this was not a great start. We started the day with a tour of the city and managed to cover about 8 different sites including a creepy kids and couples theme park called The Valley of Love (think Michael Jackson’s Neverland). We also saw a beautiful waterfall which we accessed by toboggan. Now this seemed harmless enough right? WRONG! So we took 6 toboggans in total and somehow the 4 middle ones (we weren’t included) managed to crash violently into each which resulted in most of them suffering from whiplash or back pain afterwards. Not great given that we were planning to go canyoning the next morning. Fortunately everyone was able to get back on their feet and finish the rest of the tour.
The next morning we awoke to stunning weather which is just what we needed for our Adventure Sport Tour. We were picked up at the hostel by our tour guide who’s life motto is “DON’T BE LAZY, BE CRAZY.” The day was absolutely incredible filled with a mixture of abseiling down cliffs and waterfalls, going feet first AND head first down 4 metre waterfalls, and cliff jumping off a 7metre and 11metre cliff (of course I didn’t do this but Jason did). It was an absolutely incredible day filled with laughs, craziness and many adrenaline-pumping moments. A really fantastic team-bonding experience.
Now for the really dramatic part of the story. That evening when we arrived back in Saigon, I had a look at Liz’s neck cause of the toboggan-related whiplash injury. I literally had a feel which involved gently pressing on one of her muscles of her neck and within about 1 second she fainted, hit her face on the edge of the bed, had a 5 second blackout seizure and thankfully woke up, but very confused and with a severely cut lip. I honestly don’t think I have ever been so scared in my entire life. Within a matter of seconds we had our whole group band together half helping Liz and the other half googling the closest international hospital. We decided to take her by taxi to SOS International Hospital which thankfully had English-speaking staff. I really couldn’t fault the care they gave her. They encouraged her to stay overnight for observation, and I was allowed to stay in the bed in the same room. They organised a neck xray, MRI and carotid doppler and thankfully all returned normal. The doctors concluded that it was a severe case of whiplash and that somehow touching her neck which was over-sensitive at the time caused a unusual sudden drop in blood pressure, hence the fainting. She was discharged with a soft neck collar and ibuprofen. It’s been one week since that incident and you’ll all be pleased to hear she’s going very well and certainly on the mend.
So far it’s been an incredible experience, keep an eye out for the next blog on the start of our volunteering week!
Until next time
Ann & Jason xo.