Already, I have fallen in love with Vietnam. When crossing the border from Cambodia to Vietnam you could tell instantly that there’s a clear difference in wealth. While Cambodia was corrupt, fairly dirty and had quite a large amount of poverty, Vietnam has less rubbish littering the streets and we all felt much safer.
My first stop in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City, a city I very much adore. As stated before in previous blog posts, I love cities, so this will be why I love Ho Chi Minh. I always find myself fascinated with other people’s way of life, the ambience and buzz. I enjoy sitting down and just observing everyone going on about their day. It is always more interesting in other continents as the culture is completely different to my own.
I am on a tour that goes through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand for a month, so for this reason, the stops in the places we are visiting is never for very long. I am spending 1 day here in Ho Chi Minh and am obviously trying to cram as much in as physically possible and learn as much as my brain can handle.
A way we found very useful to see a great amount of the city, in a short amount of time and at a good pace was by cyclos. A cyclo is effectively a bike that has a carriage attached to the front of it. A cyclo man will then pedal you around the city showing you all the major sights. All the men were quite old so I had to try and find the youngest and fittest looking man to be able to push me around with ease.While it is an effective mode of transport as you dodge all the traffic, it is also hilarious.
After the cyclo tour we visited the main market hall where you are able to pick up all the deals and find yourself a good bargain. At these markets you are able to barter your way down their prices and grab yourself fake branded bags/purses/clothes. A fact we have learnt is that they will always tell you a price that is far too high, you need to bargain your way down and pretend to walk off, when you do this they will chase after you offering a lower price, if they don’t chase after you they physically can’t go any lower. Another tip we got told is to tell the stall that you found a cheaper price somewhere else (even if you didn’t) and they will price match. It’s like a real life comparethemarket . com. On top of this all the Vietnamese people are lovely, they saw me hobble through on crutches and began offering up their seats and fanning me as I made my way through the crowds.
One thing I believe is a must here in Ho Chi Minh is to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. I think it is so important to visit places in countries you go to that has an importance to their history. The Cu Chi tunnels is an underground system that they created and used during the Vietnamese war. There were underground storage rooms, hospitals and places of refuge. They used it to create booby traps on the opposing enemies and attack them when they least expected it. I just think it’s so interesting to learn about history of the places you visit so you have some understanding on how they have developed to what they are today. Along with the tunnels, there is the remnants war museum to learn about their history. There is so much information to sink in that you really need 1 hour+ here. Along with this you really need to be in the right headspace to absorb everything.
One final thing that is compulsory every where you visit is to try the local cuisine. In Vietnam, their main delicacy is ‘Pho’ which is rice noodles in a soup with your choice of meat or vegetables. For me, I didn’t like it all that much, however I still tried it and everyone else I was with loved it. I tried it at a restaurant called pho 2000 which Bill Clinton visited and tried it for the first time here also.
Now,I am going to board an overnight train to head up north of Vietnam.