Being a blue-eyed, “they’re real and they’re spectacular” female traveling solo in Vietnam, I knew I would draw some looks, however, I didn’t suspect I would become an attraction when I mailed 47 postcards. Yes, my postcard list has grown a bit over the years and it contains a mix of family, friends and Solo Travel Girl blog readers who a are a member of my postcard club.
Ever since I can remember, I loved receiving and sending mail, especially postcards. Even today in the 21st century, writing and sending out postcards is part of my travel routine. Several years ago, I launched a postcard club for this blog and it’s grown a little. (Note: the club needs to be updated for 2016 and I STILL need to send out gifts to 2015 club members.) Anywho….
Something I have very little control over when budgeting for a trip is the cost of postage. I mean, I can look it up in advance so I know what to budget but while I can shop for the best postcard price, I can’t negotiate the cost of postage. The cost of a postcard and postage can range from U.S. $1 – $1.50 each. Plus, I am now pre-printing most address labels which means I have more time to write and enjoy my adventure.
On my last day in Vietnam, I walked from my home base of the Empress Hotel to the Saigon Central Post Office, a gorgeous late 19th century building that reminded me of a train depot. It was built by a French architect and is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City.
Inside in the main area is the postal services area with counters for different needs. As one who appreciates the postal system, things seemed to run pretty efficiently. There was a counter just for stamps, another for packages, another for faxes, etc. There are also vendor kiosks for tourists to buy their souvenirs.
Toward the back were beautiful, long dark brown, wood benches and desks. Since I’m one who still appreciates handwriting notes, I took time to sit and write out cards at one of the desks. Across from me sat a man who is apparently a local legend and sits and writes in the post office almost daily.
Since the post office is a primary tourist attraction and meeting spot for tours in Ho Chi Minh City, people are outside trying to sell postcards, fans and other souvenirs to tourists. The building is located across from Notre Dame Cathedral and site for photo shoots of young, engaged and married couples and graduates.
I waited in line at the stamp counter and separated out a card going to the U.K., another to Australia and the rest to the U.S. and Canada. When I told the young postal clerk I needed postage for 47 postcards, her eyes widened and she gasped. She said something in Vietnamese to the older postal clerk who asked in disbelief, “You want to send 47 postcards?”
Other tourists began to look at me and questioned why I had so many cards to send while the older clerk punched numbers into a calculator. The damage was more than half a million Vietnamese dong (600,000-something), about U.S. $26, which I had budgeted.
The two non-North American cards took one stamp but cards bound for the U.S. and Canada required two, and no, they didn’t have those fancy, peel and stick labels. Each stamp needed to be moistened. Yes, all 92 stamps needed to be moistened.
“Here you go,” the older clerk said while handing me the stamps and small plastic container with water and moist sponge.
Two things ran through my mind while I moistened then placed the stamps on the cards:
- My Dad was a football coach and recruited us kids to stuff, seal and stamp what seemed like hundreds of envelops for whatever football organizations he was involved with. Back then, we didn’t have sponges.
- That Seinfeld episode when Susan licked the wedding invitation stamps and died from being poisoned. I had not drunk the water in Ho Chi Minh City and I was not going to risk taking in some bacteria by licking stamps! (Okay, that’s a little dramatic.)
As I stood at what seemed to be a cocktail table, I chatted with other visitors from Australia and the U.K. I loaned a pen to one young woman and shared my stamping sponge with several others. Deep in thought, I was distracted when a young man had his iPhone 5 in my face, taking a photo of me with my stack of postcards and stamps!
Was I really doing something odd? I suppose in a city where the average monthly income is U.S. $148, spending postage on 47 postcards may seem excessive.
I’m never really sure the postcards I send are delivered and so I began mailing cards to myself and to my pleasant surprise, it took ONE WEEK for me to receive my card. From Germany in December it took two weeks while Portugal last summer took at least a month. But one week from Vietnam? That’s pretty dang impressive, considering it sometimes takes at least a week for my notes and cards from North Port, Fla, to reach my parents in Western New York.
How many postcards have you written out during a single trip?
Travel guides I used during the trip:
- Vietnam: 100 Unusual Travel Tips and a Guide to Living and Working There
- Lonely Planet Vietnam (Travel Guide)
- Survival Vietnamese: How to Communicate without Fuss or Fear – Instantly! (Vietnamese Phrasebook) (Survival Series)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support my traveling habit but opinions are my own.
11 thoughts on “Solo in Ho Chi Minh City: When 47 Postcards and I Were the Attraction”
Postcards from Vietnam took a long time to arrive. Think the ones I sent from what passed for a post office in Hanoi took more than 3 weeks. Don’t remember much about the Saigon post office though (I was probably just tired). In Taiwan you don’t lick the stamps, you use glue, which can be a bit messy.
From Portugal, postcards took 2 months! Can’t imagine putting glue on stamps and cards – yikes!
I receive post cards from you and it puts such a big smile on my face! I mail at least 10 postcards from each port/destination and I hand write them out, but from now on, I’m taking address labels! I enjoy traveling solo! Thank you for inspiring people to travel solo and enjoy life!
I’m in Vietnam now and I’ll be mailing more than a hundred cards. I wonder how they will react.
Oooh! Let me know what the response is – and be sure to snap a photo of the stack of cards. Enjoy your visit!
I had to count the number of postcards at the counter since they would be sent to different destinations. The teller asked me twice if I am sure that I am sending all those postcards. I spent close to VND 1,200,000.00.
Other tourists who also sent postcards chatted with me. One said that I must have a lot of friends. There were three who asked for help about how to write the address to their recipient.
There was a newlywed couple who asked what I was doing and took photos as I pasted the stamps on the postcards. I guess they took an interest because they bought postcards and mailed it to each other. Oh, and they also helped me separate the stamp sheets.
With the help of the couple, it took me half an hour to separate the stamps and stick them on the postcards. I have the photo of the cards on my facebook account. I will figure out how I can show you the pics once I am back home.
Thank you for sharing, Jonathan! Sounds as though you were a tourist attraction, too! I enjoy sending postcards and so glad you do, too!
Happy travels and can’t wait to see the photo of the cards!
Thank you for sharing this! I will be in Vietnam this coming January and I will send out postcards to friends and few blog followers to the Philippines.I just started sending out postcards last year to myself and friends when I traveled to Taipei and it eventually became a habit whenever I travel. In a world full of instants today, it is such a refreshing experience to be writing and sending out postcards. To me it is more intentional and intimate as you go out of your way to write personal message and mail them to the recipients and, not to mention the cost it takes to do it. I hope the postcards I will be sending out will reach all of my friends 🙂
How exciting about your upcoming trip! I wish I started sending myself postcards years ago, they’re a nice way to remember a trip. I really think the recipients appreciate receiving them, too. I know I do! Happy and safe travels! 🙂
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