Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – 10 Million People & 1 Billion Motorcycles

It was my first time to visit Ho Chi Minh City. Armed without any knowledge whatsoever (except that I know Kim from Miss Saigon lived and had her dramatic life here), my office friends and I toured the city. Normally, I do a little research before visiting a foreign country; but not this time. I told myself, “How can it be so bad if I live in the Philippines?!”
And boy I was so wrong!
Sadly, my first impression was the evident poverty the moment we arrived at their airport. When we left the airport, the sadder it became. Second was the extreme heat that could kill! When we arrived it was 35 C. Now beat that! It felt like all my facial pores opened in anger and it could devour the person in front of me. Third, 1 billion motorcycles all waiting to rampage the tourists strolling along the street.
Again I told myself, “How can it be so bad if I live in the Philippines?!”
Our goal on our first day was to walk around the city and eat noodles.
Sounds easy, isn’t it?! Think again!
On Strolling
I never thought I would witness such driving uglier compared to the Philippines. Guess what? We got beaten by the Vietnamese motorists. The Harakiri driving of their motorist made our wild driving cute and funny.
Short clip using my digicam.
Last time I checked, the sidewalk was designed for human to walk along. Not in Hi Chi Minh City though! Their narrow sidewalks are infested by rushing motorcyles all wanting to be ahead of the pack. Most of their main road (particularly during rush hours) can be hazardous if you walk like a sissy. It takes real talent to survive the experience. You need to walk like a Tazmanian Devil - all guarded and prepared to jump when circumstance ask for it. So, if you ask me, where does this leave the walking tourists? Death row!
While this was all happening, I told myself, “How can it be so bad if I live in the Philippines?!” Suddenly, I felt better.
We walked for hours and hours until we can no longer feel our legs. Naturally, I was the first to complain and asked my friends to stop and cool down. Did they argue with me? Not a word, really.
On Drinks
There is no Starbucks in Ho Chi Minh (Another way to die! Coffee deprivation). But don't fret, they have Highlands Coffee where coffee and refreshments are superb (but a bit pricey). I won't bother to tell its location since they are literally everywhere you go.
If you want to survive the heat, fruit blends are everywhere for cooling down.
On Food
If there is anything that redeemed my trip to Vietnam is their food. Their use of lemongrass, mint ,Thai basil and other herbs is simply to die for. Their traditional way of cooking is something I really admire - fresh ingredients all the time.
One should not leave Ho Chi Minh without exploring their local noodles. Breakfast in Vietnam is usually Noodles - which I love! check out picture below.
What I also noticed is the influenced of french bread in their country (baget bread). Normally dipped in beef stew Vietnamese style. I tried this during our first day and enjoyed it.
On People
Generally, the Vietnamese are friendly (like most Asians are). Although, their lack of ability to speak neutral English limits their interaction with tourists. On most occasions, I experienced their effort to converse with us - but due to language mishap, it can be very frustrating for both parties.
On Shopping
This is the fierce part. Shopping is generally cheap in Vietnam. If you are into bags and leathers, go pack your luggage and head straight to Ho Chi Minh, now! Clothes and shoes are also cheaper; but Thailand wins on this department.
Home decor and ceramics are also something to look at. I got a couple for my pad.
Now if you ask me, Did I enjoy Vietnam? Hell, Yeah!
The simplicity of the country is something I really admire. Culturally, I do not feel that they are trying to be somebody who they are not. They know their roots and they are proud to show it. Their country may not be known for its global power, but their nation's humility and well-being is something to be proud of.
Note- My friend Ros and I collaborated on a video about Vietnam (wacky). We will post it very soon.

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Anonymous said...

You just encouraged me to go to Vietnam! Thanks Fierce blogger.

Ros Edralin on March 07, 2010 2:26 AM said...

i really like their food (especially the bread we bought off the street). yum! i'd love to go back to vietnam!

Anonymous said...

finally, a new post! most of us may never have the chance to visit vietnam but thanks to you we now have an idea (from a pinoy's point of view) of what that country is all about. from its unbearable temperature to it's yummy delicacies, you wrote them all. how could any country be so bad if you live in the phils? i thought so too...

Black Guy on March 14, 2010 9:25 AM said...

You look very Hispanic to me.
Are you pure Asian? I think not, right?

I admire the way you blog. I think it is a combination of blogging/literary/humor.

Really fun to read your blog entries!

tina on March 20, 2010 11:01 PM said...

thanks for the insight. i lived in Asia for a few years but am sorry to say that i never made it to Viet Nam, hope to someday.i like your blog!

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