Welcome to Vietnam!
An amazing place and I have no doubt as to why people warned me about the art, “Crossing of the street!!”
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh I had already made friends with Mike, sitting next to me on the plane who was here for business. We had a brilliant chat about his life back in Australia and what he is planning to do, naturally he found out I was a backpacker and offered me a free lift into HCMC! Let’s just say the video I took couldn’t do the motorbike riders justice! While talking on their phones and zooming in and out between cars, they would just casually miss the pedestrians as well. I also can’t forget the horns!! All different noises!! There are sirens posed as blinkers and the Katy Perry song I heard was actually the reverse signal for a truck! The traffic = For me, totally bizarre! For them, it somehow works (still contemplating this).
That afternoon I walked around the city for a bit just to get my bearings. I was staying at the Long Hostel, which had a really family run feel to it. The showers were hot even though I preferred mine cold due to the humidity which totally got to me! There was a food market right outside the ally of my hostel, amazing to walk around! There were literally bowls of water filled with fish swimming around, and silver dishes with live frogs, their legs tied together sitting there for taking! There’s massive ice blocks around every corner, that are sold to the markets stalls to keep everything cold, ironically they sit in the sun ready for someone to chop off a chunk. The atmosphere was exciting and all of my senses were on alert! Definitely thought that a frog would still jump at me or an eel head would suddenly attack my face! Surprisingly when arriving in HCMC I realised that is was a very flat city, I didn’t see a high rise above 20 floors, however only in the city centre. This came in handy as I realised my hostel didn’t have a lift and my room was five floors up!
I was really enjoying my time in HCMC a highlight would definitely be a trip to “The Lunch Lady.” It’s a well known street food vendor just on the outskirts of District One. Although the hour it took to walk there from our hostel it felt like it was heaven when we arrived. We, Becca (a girl I talked to while eating cucumber omelettes that morning for breakfast) and I were sat on a stool right away and not ten seconds later fresh rolls were placed in front of us, followed by spring rolls, and then by a Vietnamese chicken curry. I would like to say I ate every bite but there was literally so much food that my stomach couldn’t handle it! The food was absolutely brilliant and every mouth-watering taste was definitely worth the thousands of streets I crossed, or as I like to call them ‘death defying moments’ it took to us to get there. If it sounds like I’m exaggerating please tell me about your experience when you go!
Afterwards we went to the War Remnants Museum located on our way back to the hostel. This was a really great Museum which showed the war in different stages, from the first Vietnamese war with the French and the second with the US, which was once again split into different sections. Although very bias the pictures and hardship the Vietnamese went through were showcased. It showed the resilience and pride they have as a culture and nation. You can still see this in the way they act and I understand how they ‘won’ the war against the US and the French. The most influential room in the building for me was definitely titled, “The Aftermath” it represented what were the effects of the war and is as surprised to still see the lasting effects of Agent Orange upon the nation. Once again I don’t know how much of this is proven true or whether it’s a bias standpoint from the Vietnamese but people are still being born with deformities due to the dioxin that was sprayed in the second Vietnamese war. This was definitely a place to visit just to see the effects war can have on any country let alone Vietnam.
That night I went to the night markets in the centre of the city with my friend Darren. They were just opening when we got there and I couldn’t believe how quickly so many clothes and purses made it on all the racks! Two streets were closed in order for the markets to run safely. You would think that means only walking, but it didn’t include motorbikes which would come zipping past you at any moment. Let’s just say it felt like I nearly got clipped twenty times (this time I am exaggerating). The markets were really cool, learn how to barter quickly! I recommend to not go until a little bit later just to make sure all the stalls are open and don’t worry, they will be willing to help, even if you’re just looking! What was interesting about going earlier is I found out that the first sale is always the most important. It’s a belief to how the rest of their night is going to go, whether good or bad, and it’s important for the first sale to happen very early on the night.
Coming into HCMC was a really great experience not only because of the great sites but a learning curve for me to be careful of pickpockets and theft, which is unfortunately a massive problem in Backpacker World. I took a ride on the back of a motorbike on my first afternoon there and not having much knowledge totally overpaid the driver. For little things such as an adaptor I bought for $4AU which of course I thought was a steal but it was actually meant to be half that price. Vietnam is VERY cheap but you realise quickly that you need to barter in order to get the correct price for things.
You’ll soon here about my adventure into the Mekong which includes early mornings, great food and some brilliant times on the river of the Nine Dragons!