They Slept Where?! An Ode to Napping Acrobatics in Saigon


Who needs a bed when you’ve got a bench? (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)

By Jodi Ettenberg

One of my favorite sights in Saigon was the ever-present and acrobatic napping skills of its inhabitants. I noticed that there was no shortage of people sleeping in seemingly uncomfortable positions, right in the middle of the bustle and noise.

I have long struggled with an inability to nap, something my mother says I developed as a toddler. Apparently the minute she would put me to sleep, I would crawl out of bed, opening the curtains to let in the afternoon light. I have not made much progress since. Until I do, I am left with awe, as I stare at arms and legs draped over motorbikes or tucked under plastic chairs, effortless and calm.

Related: Why I Love Saigon

I first noticed the Xe Om (motorcycle taxi) napping phenomenon during my first “season” living in Saigon, late in 2012. The driver was resting beautifully, arms behind his head, fingers interlaced and supporting his neck. His feet were perched atop the motorbike’s handlebar, crossed ever so slightly. Any discomfort the driver might have felt was completely invisible; a small trickle of drool indicated that he was well and truly asleep smack in the chaos of Saigon’s streets.

Related: Saigon’s Xe Om: Motorcycle Taxi Drivers That Made Me Smile


Sleeping masks are so overrated. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)


Lessons in blindly trusting the people who make kickstands. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)

I’ve marveled at the Southeast Asian capacity for napping anywhere before. In Myanmar, I remember a big truck full of bananas parked outside of the main Yangon markets, one of its drivers sleeping on a mat suspended just above the wheels. In Thailand, street food vendors would fall asleep quietly, one eye opening ever so quickly at the possibility of a sale.


Oh you know, just your average afternoon faceplant. NBD. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)

But during my months in Saigon, I decided that their napping skills needed to be recognized. I started posting photos of the nappers on Instagram, using the hashtag #adventuresinsleeping. As you can see, this is talent that deserves a hashtag of its own.


This woman’s setup game is on point. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)


He’s all about putting his best feet forward. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)


“Napping area for two, please.” (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)


No need to wait until you get home to put your feet up. (Photo: Jodi Ettenberg/Legal Nomads)

Though I left Vietnam at the beginning of January, writing this post has made me extremely nostalgic for the nimble, badass motorcycle drivers from the streets of Saigon.

For more from Jodi, check out her work on Legal Nomads.

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