One of my favourite sights in Saigon was the ever-present and acrobatic napping skills of its inhabitants. In my long ode to the city, I wrote about how 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 my awe at the arms and legs draped over motorbikes or tucked under plastic chairs, effortless and calm.
I first noticed the xe om napping phenomenon during my first ‘season’ 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.
I’ve marvelled at the Southeast Asian capacity for napping anywhere before. In Myanmar, I remember a big truck full of bananas parked outside on the 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.
But during my months in Saigon, this napping skill was taken to a whole new level. I’ve embeded Instagram photos from the last three visits to Saigon, illustrating adventures in sleeping better than words are capable of doing.
For those seeing this post via email, you’ll might need to jump through to the site by clicking on the title as Instagram photo embeds might not carry over to email distribution. (This was a problem the last time I did an Instagram photoessay).
For those who come across similar scenes on your wanders, feel free to use the #adventuresinsleeping on Instagram. I love checking it and seeing what pops up.
Though I left Vietnam at the beginning of January, writing this post has made me extremely nostalgic for the nimble, badass motorcycle drivers from streets of Saigon.
Adventures in Sleeping, Saigon Edition
Latergram from Saigon – #adventuresinsleeping, wall support edition. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
#adventuresinsleeping, park edition A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
Just an everyday #adventuresinsleeping A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
A new #adventuresinsleeping, the double chair version. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
This is the closest I’ve come to my own adventure in sleeping — but really, most of you just call it “nap with a cat on your chest.”
Sick days call for cuddles from Mimi. Fever still not gone but at least I have a furry companion while down for the count. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
#adventuresinsleeping, the “using cooler as support” edition, with bonus almost face plant. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
Afternoon #adventuresinsleeping as hot season is upon us. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
#adventuresinsleeping, Moto plus chair combo. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
The “Adventures in Sleeping” series I have going here is not lacking for subject matter. District 3, midday nap. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
And finally, from one of my last nights in Saigon during this past season. New Year’s Eve, chowing down on streetside snails, clams with lemongrass and chilli (and a generous dose of MSG), and talking with friends — and then we spotted this guy, oblivious to it all.
#adventuresinsleeping, side of the road, oblivious to the noise and the chaos. District 3. A photo posted by Jodi Ettenberg (@legalnomads) on
If you enjoyed this post, please consider a purchase of a typographic food map — like this food map of Vietnam — from my newly-launched Legal Nomads shop. Thank you for reading!
Next up, I’m asking for some help in the form of a hired position to help me manage the work at Legal Nomads. I’ll be doing all the writing, but I will put out a call for a location-independent part-time job to help me with the rest — coordinating the Thrillable Hours interviews (I have quite the backlog), helping with research for some of the bigger guides, and more.
Still in New Zealand (having survived my sailing course in the Bay of Islands), and heading to the South Island soon for the first time. Woohoo!
43 thoughts on “Adventures in Sleeping: An Instagram Series”
This is, without question, my favorite thing about your Instagram. No offense to your beautiful landscapes and delicious-looking food pictures, but really…it’s the best.
Hah, none taken. I am so glad I started the series as many others take as much joy from these acrobatics as I do! :-)
Love the post Jodi. As I look at your images, I can’t help but think that Vietnamese motorcycle industry is missing a huge opportunity to market their products. How many other modes of transport can be likened to a couch?
I agree! “Bonus settee with the purchase of one motorbike” ;)
I love this! Especially everyone managing to nap on their bikes…I’m impressed!
I remember first coming across your photos in this series and laughing really hard. I’ve seen a lot of random nap locations in my travels, but not many of the motorcycle/scooter variety!
Haha awesome collection :D
I was beyond impressed by the people of Southeast Asia for many number of things: the wide smiles, the hospitality, curiosity — but it is their napping skills that really blow it out of the water. It truly is remarkable.
Haha this is so funny! I remember when I was in Cambodia I was amazed at how many locals we would see asleep around the place in the middle of the afternoon. Thank you for documenting this South-East Asia talent!
These are brilliant! Especially the “one-eye glare”. It just goes to show you how you can make time for anything! I have to say I have my best naps on buses. As soon as the big engine starts to hum I’m out like a light. The napping in these shots are on an entirley different level. If there was an Olympics for the power-nap one of these people would win for sure. Hilarious!
And this is why people in Asia are happier than people in North America – all that napping! Love it.
After spending so much time in Japan I have mastered the “sleeping on a train and waking up at the precise moment you need to get off” #AdventureInSleeping. Still nothing on these guys though!
Hah, I saw many of those people in Japan and was amazed! Perfect timing.
I think I was an Asian motorbikist in my last life…I could so do this at a drop of a hat!
I am in love with Your instagram account ^^ I actually featured one photo in tonight’s post! Do check!!!
Ooh, hi! I am up for part-time location-independent work! Do you want me to wait until your next post, or send my cv right now?!
I’ll be putting up the post with the requirements soon, and a job form. You’re welcome to send it to jodi-at-legalnomads.com if you’d like but I’d still ask that you wait to make sure it’s up your alley. Thanks!
Wow, I thought I could sleep anywhere, but these guys take it to the next level! Love this!
Who knew motorbikes were so comfortable for napping?!! I have a photo of a man asleep in a wheelbarrow that I love! :)
Interesting pics of how people sleep. Some positions look uncomfortable.
Haha brilliant! It’s amazing how comfy they look. I’ve never seen anything like this on my travels, probably because I haven’t travelled much of Southeast Asia…it’s definitely one of the highest regions on my list :)
This post is so funny! I thought I was a good sleeper but I definitely can’t do it on a motorcycle! But I do have a question: why almost everyone in your photos is bare foot?
They wouldn’t put their shoes on their motorbikes! Shoes are usually sitting at the side of them, on the floor :)
Such a great idea to capture these Jodi! Love them! Never going to complain about a bed being uncomfortable again!
Awesome, funniest thing is that these people will never know of your sneaky photography!
Wish I had napping skills like that!
As someone who can fall asleep on a chicken’s lip, I wholeheartedly approve of these. Haven’t tried napping on a motorbike though. Something to add to my to-do list I guess :)
I really admire these people! Even if I’m extremelly tired, I need have at least the chair to take a nap:-)
Hey Jodi, I found your blog recently. It’s amazing. I’ll be sticking around for inspiration. Love the naptime Instagrams =)
All the best. Seeyah around.
Haha very nice post, it’s relate to each of us ill do in often time when in need to sleep without a place .. :D
Hahaha really nice. a little funny and interesting at the same level. I kinda love those people thought, and I started to imagine myself to get easily napping like those people ;) nice
Next time i ll consider to buy motorcycle instead of couch, seems so comfy:-D
After a couple of exchanges on Instagram, I had to check out your blog. I am so incredibly glad that I did, and even more so that I clicked on this post! It’s perfect. I mean it! It’s so beautiful and simple and brilliant. My heart felt every photo, and I can’t wait to add to the #adventuresinsleeping collection. I’ve just subscribed to your blog, too. I’m currently an attorney, and well…yeah. So, thanks for showing there is life after, and it can be in the rear-view as you explore the world. This makes me so happy! I can’t even convey how much so!
Thanks for the kind note Jen! I’m happy you’ve enjoyed the site so far. I hope you’ve taken a look at the Thrillable Hours series as well, since it features many others who have made unconventional choices after working as attorneys. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions! I look forward to your submissions to the Adventures in Sleeping series :)
This is fantastic—kind of magical, actually, how it brings out the character of the place and reminds you why we travel. I would love to post a link to our fb if you don’t mind – we just rolled out a foodie/adventure small-group tour in Vietnam.
One thing that stood out to me were the bare feet. I kept searching for them like a Where’s Waldo of sandals.
Love your photo essays :)
I love love love your instagram! Look at that third photo though… Like, how do you do that?!
I have no idea! It’s pretty crazy acrobatics if you ask me.
I love this series. It is one of the things that has always astounded and humoured me in equal measures when travelling Asia. We are now living in Cambodia and I see many examples like this every day. Understandable given the incredibly long hours they often work, hot conditions and probably minimal quantities of nutritious food in many instances.
Awesome post! It’s the same here in Hanoi too. I even find that a lot of the ladies who sell items on cycles sleep on the floor precariously close to the main roads.
Pretty impressive sleeping-skills. Pretty sure I would fall off of that motorcycle and face-plant lol.
Wonderful photo series you have here! The guy at the park with his head over the front of his bike and his torso in mid-air.. that’s really amazing skills in balance and napping!
Hello Jodi. I found your blog searching Vietnam in Google and i really like it. Im planning a trip to this incredible country and your history help me a lot. I also started a blog last month and would like you to advice me. Thanks a lot and i continue reading your articles