Lockdown in Vietnam: What It Was Like

Saigon Central Post Office

Back when we were still pretty locked down in HCMC, I started this post and finished it when we got news of quarantine ending. For some reason I never published it, but I thought I’d do so now for anyone who might find it interesting!

When I think back to how perfectly I had my Vietnam and Korea trips planned, I could cry. I should have known things would go south because no way could any travel plans I made go so well.

Initially, I booked a round trip ticket between Philadelphia and Seoul and then a separate round trip ticket between Seoul and HCMC. It gave me exactly one night at the Incheon Airport, which at this point I’m more comfortable in than the Philly one. I’d disembark, grab my suitcase, head to one of the many little restaurants for a proper Korean meal, and then head off to the airport sauna to soak away a day’s worth of travel. Then I’d head over to their mat section to sleep for the night and wake up, rested.

I would then head off to over a month’s worth of adventures from my favorite Vietnamese city before circling back for two months in Korea where I’d spend a longer time in Busan, properly explore Gangwon, hug all my friends, and, of course, run my Korean Countryside tour with Hallie. I’d leave towards the end of June, right before the Korea’s humid summer really got going, and head home for a summer of fun back in the states.

What a beautiful dream.

Instead, Shincheonji happened, and in a matter of a week or two, Korea became country non grata for the rest of the world. After spending far too long on the phone, I cancelled my original flights so that I’d go through Japan instead and was still hopeful things would quickly improve in Korea, not realizing everything was about to go to hell in a hand basket for the rest of the world.

Pre-Quarantine

When I arrived in Vietnam, the country had only seen 16 cases and hadn’t reported a new case in something like 20+ days. Life was more or less normal, though I know places like schools had been closed since Tet. I checked into my Airbnb, which I’d rented for the roughly 36 days I’d be here, and even when news of the 17th case up in Hanoi started to spread, no one seemed too worried.

I began to map out all the places I wanted to see and cafes I wanted to try, joined a gym, and I even took up Frances on her invitation to head over to this bar my first Friday, where they were throwing a closing down party since they were moving locations.

At that bar I made a new friend to do some exploring with and Frances and I made plans for when she returned from going home to the UK. Checked out some fun places, including the pink cathedral. Look at me being social!

During the next week, as things were getting progressively worse up north, I began to get into a nice groove in HCMC, visiting new spots, working, and getting into a running routine. Things were a little worrying in Hanoi but not too worrying.

However, by March 15th it was pretty clear things were about to be shutdown. As Frances was in the air, the government began to order mandatory government quarantine for all arriving passengers, and she was promptly put into military housing for the next two weeks. (She’s shared the experience on her stories, if you want to have a look).

Social distancing was encouraged but coffee shops and my gym were still open; all were within less than about 500 meters from my apartment. I didn’t venture out much but when I did I made sure to bring some Clorox wipes with me and hand sanitizer. I felt okay going to my gym because it was pretty much empty all day and easy to keep away from people. I’d wipe down the equipment I used on top of the gym itself cleaning and disinfecting daily. I also went to one or two restaurants and cafes I felt safe visiting because my kitchen was pretty limited and I hadn’t come prepared to cook.

As I was eating lasagna at Pizza 4P’s, I saw on Facebook that HCMC would essentially be going into lockdown for at least the next week starting in… less than 2 hours. I gulped down my food, ran over to my gym to retrieve my sneakers, and then booked it down to sport’s street to grab some things to exercise with on my own. I know 1KG dumbbells, a yoga mat, and a booty band aren’t exactly essential items, but I’ve used them nearly every day, so…

Random Quarantine Thoughts

That very evening, Sher, Silvia, and I had a video chat date to do one of Sculpt Society’s live 15 minute workouts together. Sher had talked us into trying it out since we’d all been encouraging each other with exercise since our Norway trip.

The next day, I began to look up some really simple recipes so I wouldn’t just eat cereal and scrambled eggs for the foreseeable future.

And…life was pretty much indoors and isolated for the next month.

My days were pretty monotonous. Luckily, I still had some freelance work to keep me afloat and, of course, chatting with friends has helped me not feel so isolated.

Here are some highlights and lowlights now that I think back!

HIGH: Finding brown bread at the grocery store

Ha! As much as I’m enjoying making some different tofu dishes or learning to double fry chicken, the best find at the store was brown bread! I’d been randomly craving BLTs big time but the only bread I’d seen until then was some very sad looking white bread. As soon as I saw the brown variety, I bought all the ingredients to make BLTs and have become quite a pro, if I do say so myself.

LOW: Being turned off eggs

This is like… one of the saddest things to happen to me (besides, ya know, big stuff). If you ever met me, one of the things I wind up telling you is that my favorite food are eggs. Why you ask? Because eggs are so incredibly versatile and I’ve never gotten sick of the flavor. On their own, you can scramble them, fry them, hard and soft boil ’em, poach them, and so much more! Nothing beats scrambling three eggs with some salt and pepper in the morning. Not to brag, but I’ve perfected the scrambled egg after copious amounts of Youtube-watching.

Anywayyyyy. One day I went to crack some eggs in a bowl and what came out was NOT an egg. I was too scared to lift up the shell to check but the bits I did see was black and it smelled, and I’m like 95% sure I had a fertilized egg.

Now, I’m not squeamish, but that potentially fertilized egg still haunts me to this day and I haven’t had an egg since. That was at least 4 weeks ago. I’m fine ordering eggs from a restaurant but I don’t think I can trust myself buying them at a grocery store. It’s 100% in my head, and Autumn even pointed out I could use my phone flashlight to check the eggs… But I can’t. The mind block is real, and my mornings without perfectly scrambled eggs are sad.

HIGH: Mastering some hairstyles

My go to hairstyle in hot weather is to pile all my hair on my head and wrap it in a scrunchie. Then if I wanted a photo of my self, I’d just whip it out, give it a shake, and pose. It is something that befuddled Autumn all through out trip in Morocco haha.

Buttt that bun is not the cutest, and I really just want to master some cute braids and hairstyles since I plan on chasing the sun for the rest of my life! So I figured quarantine would be a good time to start practicing, and, hey, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I started with those space buns for fun and since have been practicing all sorts of braids and updos. Promise I’ll figure out a post or maybe a video to show you.

HIGH: Finding Boxig and Bubbles!

While I did enjoy Sculpt Society, I find that dance based workouts get really repetitive for me and, also, I don’t have rhythm so they’re not as fun. However, I was doing a Popsugar Fitness workout with my favorite kickboxing teacher, Christa DiPaolo, and she mentioned SHE had a subscription service called Boxing and Bubbles.

Whelp, once my free trial ran out on Sculpt Society, I promptly signed up for a month of Boxing and Bubbles! I LOVE it. Kickboxing is by far my favorite way to exercise, and Christa’s workouts are the besttttt. There’s so much variety plus a Facebook group and other mini challenges.

LOW: Sleeping way too much and not having a bedtime

A very bad habit I’ve allowed myself to get into (okay I’ve always been like this but now it’s worse) is not having a good sleep schedule. I guess you could say I’m a night owl (she says writing this at 11 PM)…. At some points I was up til 4 AM and sleeping well past noon. In fact, sometimes I wake up at a normal time then I dilly dally on my phone or read a little and pass out for another hour or two. Then I might even do it again!

I tried giving myself a morning routine, which I stuck to for 2 days and even then I didn’t start my morning until 11 AM, so…

Trying to get better but also I had a coconut iced coffee at like 7PM and am video chatting Sher and Silvia at midnight my time, so… baby steps.

HIGH: Having a lot of new ideas

Weirdly enough, I’ve been having an insane amount of new ideas. Maybe because I have less on my plate than normal, but I’ve already drafted like ten new posts, thought of ten new book ideas, and have been messaging Alex with the most random ideas for her site.

If you ever need someone to help you come up with new ideas, come talk to me. I’m very good at thinking of new things to do, especially if you’re a travel blogger haha.

LOW: Not being very good at implementing most of them

I wish there was a job where you came up with all the ideas and then someone else did the work of making them happen.

Like in my head I came up with the best book idea to tie in my love for Korea with my love of a good story. One that’s a cute romance story but also takes you around to my favorite parts of Jeolla. I outlined it and everything.

Slight problem, though, is that when you can’t get your creative writing juices flowing, everything is just bad. Travel blogging comes easy to me because even if my writing isn’t the BEST, I feel like I can get my point across and help you guys trip plan. But book writing is so different and takes a lot out of me. Which is probably why I’ve started at least a hundred books over the years and only written a few pages of each!

HIGH: Talking to friends & family!

Whether it’s Stacey and I voice-noting each other with random updates; Elissa and I planning for our own little book club, Sher, Silvia, and I with our group chat, or Autumn promising that if I disappear for more than a few days, she’ll send out the SOS, it’s nice to not feel SO isolated. I even had a nice little FB chat with Lynsey, and I usually can’t get ahold of her for more than a few texts!

LOW: Feeling single & having “alone attacks”

Did I ever tell you guys I usually have moments where I just get really, really sad about being single? Ok, well if not, there you go lol. For like 98% of my life, I’m pretty happy with my marital status, but there’s that 2% of the time where I just get really down about it. I’m sure once I can hire a shrink, discussing my dating history will take up the first few months of sessions!

Until this quarantine, I actually haven’t experienced what I’ll call “alone attacks” as much as I normally do. I would say living in Korea, I’d get them at least once a month, but the last year it’s been much more scattered. Partially, I think it’s because I’ve developed friendships with people who don’t disappear when they have a significant other, so I’ve been feeling less isolated. But boy did being totally alone for one month really trigger those attacks. I think I got them at least 3 times!

Don’t worry I’m okay, and I talk to my friends about it, but still. It’d be nice to be quarantined with a boyfriend or husband right now, though I know like 80% of couples feel the exact opposite. Grass is also greener!

HIGH: Being able to still work

One thing I’m majorly grateful for is to still have some income coming in. Yes, this year was supposed to be one of major growth income wise, but obviously COVID has not been great for the travel industry. So I’m still grateful that I do have freelance work and even though my blog income has plummeted, I still make something.

HIGH: Feeling safe in Vietnam

I didn’t know much about Vietnam’s government or how they handle things, but wow am I impressed by how well they’ve handled COVID. Heck, I shouldn’t be surprised; apparently they were the first country to get a handle on SARS back in the 2000s!

I’m extremely grateful to be in a country where I can trust the numbers and trust in the government to keep everyone safe. It’s why, right now, our lockdown has eased and life is going to back to normal.

To everyone who grew up on Vietnam War stories from their parents and have this image of the country being this 3rd world jungle, let me tell you this: my grocery store clerks look more protected than most of the US nursing outfits I’ve seen.

What’s Going On Now?

Life is slowly going back to normal in Vietnam! Whoo! I’m in the middle of extending my 3-month visa for another three, so I can stay here until beginning of September. Truthfully, I don’t know what’s going to happen after that.

But for now, it’s nice being able to go outside, meet up with people, go back to a life of minimal cooking for myself. Of course, I’m still wearing a face mask everywhere and washing my hands, but otherwise, I’m having fun getting to explore HCMC some more. After a short ride on Frances’ motorbike, I finally felt comfortable enough using Grab bike, and now I’m never looking back haha. I 100% understand why people get motorcycles!

And now you’re caught up! How are things where you are?

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