Friday, July 27, 2012


There is not much to say about running in Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon as people still insist on calling it) that doesn't involve the traffic. I'd say this is the second least conducive place to running I have ever been in, Delhi being the reigning champion of this league of dubious merit. Having to watch your step in the most literal sense helps the time pass by while you are running but robs you of any opportunity to enjoy the surroundings.

At least in Saigon there are some pretty wide pavements or, at least that is what I thought when I plotted out my route in Garmin Connect. On the plus side there is no one walking and texting on their smart phones to avoid (unlike London) but instead you have to look out for mopeds riding up on the pavement to circumvent red traffic lights (police included). They say that you are nobody if you don't have a moped and people are very used to hearing them and getting out of the way; a runner, on the other hand, is hard to hear approaching.

I've mentioned crossing the road before. If you want to run for an hour you have to budget for an extra half an hour of road crossing. At one point I asked someone where the best place to cross the road was and he responded by escorting me across the road like a little old lady. I studied his technique and came to the conclusion that you first need to become one with the road, flowing with the traffic, and then you simply walk slowly and steadily to the other side. It felt like a Jedi test that could equally have been done with my eyes closed.

At some point I found a park and decided to cut through it. Everyone was out for their evening power walk and everyone (except me) was circling in an anti clockwise direction. Ironically, the only time I had to slow down to a walk was in a park.

Running alongside the river was noticeably cooler although the smell was quite unpleasant. It seems as though they are in the process of laying down a tow path - I say "in the process" because, in parts, I had to scramble up a mud bank. I think I managed to find the place where people go to run or jog. In fact, I was actually overtaken at one point - not that I was going particularly fast but I think the last time I was overtaken on a training run was some time last year! This guy was running in sandals.

After my unfortunate incident with the "red carpet" I decide to bin my shoes - they were on their last legs anyway. I'm now down to running in a pair of very minimalist shoes from Decathlon that only cost 10 euros.
Somehow I managed to get lost on the way back in spite of following the map on my Garmin GPS watch. I decided to get a cycle rickshaw back to the hotel (I was so sweaty I was too embarrassed to take any other form of transport). By the time I got back my family had already finished having dinner.

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