Dodging A Bullet

I didn't hear of Haiyan in Saigon. I heard of it en route to Hoi An but only fleetingly. When I arrived in Hoi An I looked into typhoon Haiyan. It was a monster and it was headed straight for me. "Why is no one talking about this?!?", I thought. 

My Facebook page was blowing up with apocalyptic posts yet when I stopped tourists on the street to ask them what their plans were for the storm (staying or going) either they weren't concerned about it and looked at me as if I was an alarmist or they thought it was minor and had already passed. Locals were very chill about the whole thing while sandbagging the roofs and chopping dead branches from the trees near their homes. I asked expats if I should stay or go and to a man, they all said to stay and relax for the storm day, it will pass. No one was overly concerned. 

Meanwhile, a few images from the Philippines were starting to emerge. It looked bad, 4 people dead (at the time, only later did I learn of the many thousands that died) and a swath of destruction in its wake. But no one in Vietnam was panicking or freaking out or leaving. Just stocking water and petrol and battening hatches. I couldn't reconcile the news reports to the actions of the tourists and locals in central Vietnam.

I bought a few liters of water, candles, crackers and noodles. I got as much money from the ATM as I could get out. I was on the second floor of my guest house in a windowless room and I let the embassy know where I was. I also bought a bus ticket to Saigon, a 24 hour bus ride south, just in case I changed my mind. Basically I had done everything I could do in the situation. I was utterly conflicted though because I ALWAYS trust the locals and other travelers about situations on the ground. But this time it tested my limits of what to believe and do. The old Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go" played on repeat in my head.

What was probably the hardest was that people not in Vietnam acted like I had 500 choices about what to do. Like I could somehow magically whisk myself away from the area in a couple hours time and that I was dumb to stay in Hoi An, directly in the path of where the storm was headed. Considering my options: there were no flights at all and I'm 1000 kms away from Saigon and the storm is 600 kms wide OR stay put in a safe concrete building alongside masses of other tourists from many different countries in a city that has stood for centuries through many other typhoons. 

As you know, the typhoon took a sharp turn north right before Hoi An and we got only rain and a bit of wind. The whole of the central coast dodged that bullet. I monitored that storm from every news source I could find and ones that my friends sent me links to. I posted on Facebook every couple of hours. What my friends might not have known was that I was scared. Very scared. I was alone and knew the power of that storm. I wasn't stupid. I had weighed my options carefully and knew what could potentially happen. But I always think positive. To hear any negative on FB made me even more scared and pissed off because there was literally nothing I could do. But there were loads of supportive messages. Thank you for that because I really needed it. I need people to know that my choice of staying was not based on a whim, or thought that I wasn't seeing what was happening from an international standpoint. I CHOSE to be positive and not freak out. Worrying and crying (I felt like it at one point) is in no way constructive. 

I am overjoyed I didn't take that hell bus to Saigon. I'm overjoyed I trusted my gut and stayed put. I am a traveler and I rely greatly on my instincts. They have yet to fail me.