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Saigon, Vietnam

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 9 December 2009 | Views [1395] | Comments [1]

This place is a crazy, hyper-active, energized, cosmopolitan city with mopeds galore. There’s 3 million + mopeds here and 8 million residents. It’s busy, dirty, hectic, and loud, yet residents and visitors LOVE it! I do. I’m having a blast so far. Just wandering around and absorbing all of the sights, sounds, and smells is a sensory overload.

I haven’t done much actual tourist stuff. I did go to see the War Remnants museum, which was a very sad, but informative experience. I had the American history version on Vietnam while growing up. Going to the museum, I got to see the Vietnamese side of it. The thing that sticks with me the most is how the effects of Agent Orange are still lingering in the country, and how bad it has messed up generations of Vietnamese people. Kids have been born with no limbs, twisted spines, or eyeballs hanging off their faces. Extreme deformities that make them need care their whole lives. These are generations of people who had nothing to do with the Viet Cong or the war. Really sad….

On a more positive note, the food overall here is AMAZING! I’ve eaten nothing that was just “so-so”. Its all been over the top amazing. It’s funny because I don’t even like Vietnamese food when I’m at home. Its different here. Maybe it’s the freshness of the ingredients, or the cooking techniques, or the slightly dirty kitchens that stuff is prepared in. I don’t know, but its delicious! I’m staying with some friends who are foodies, and they have searched the neighborhood in search of the best restaurants. And they know which places have the best versions of certain dishes. And for the most amazing 4 course meal, including drinks, expect to pay $4 or less. It’s insane.

I’m having a more local experience here than if I stayed in a hostel or hotel, because I’m staying with some English Teachers in District 3. It’s really residential. I walk their dog in the mornings, I can go to restaurants with people who know how to order the food. There’s no tourists in this part of town. And a lots less people trying to sell you crap on the street. Although, I noticed that while you’re eating in restaurants, street vendors creep in between the tables, and try to sell you food. While you’re eating! Or cigarettes, lottery tickets, quail eggs, bootleg books or chewing gum.

Little kids are salespeople too. They come up to you at 10 or 11pm and try to sell you stuff. My first night, my flight arrived at 1 am, and I went out for some food with a German woman I met on the flight who shared a cab with me to the backpacker’s district. We saw a 4 or 5 year old girl walk past our table at 3:30am, by herself. Its not the norm, but its not rare to see little kids out super late.

Very few people outside of the tourist district speak any English, besides the word, “hello” which they say when I pass by. But the conversation stops there. A few know, “How are you my friend?”, and “Where are you from?“ but don’t understand the answer or can’t reply to the question when it’s returned. I think about 1 in 3 people say hello when I walk past. Men, women, kids…. Lots of people are really friendly here.

The English teaching ex-pats are like pseudo-celebrities in their neighborhood. People in the neighborhood know them and talk to them when they pass by. Little kids scream and run after them! It’s pretty funny. Little children all over Saigon and the Mekong LOVE to way hello!

We were at a local swimming pool in Saigon, and a Vietnamese guy came up to us and was talking away, and then he offered all 3 of us free 1 hour full body massage gift certificates to his spa. When he walked away, I asked my friend how he knows the guy, and he said, that was the first time they met! Super cool. The massage, btw, was really weird. She rubbed me down under a towel, instead of with massage oil/ lotion. And she did a bunch of chiropractor, bone clicking moves, including lifting me up with her feet and hanging me upside down while all my bones popped, and she kept saying, “Thank you”, whenever something cracked. Lol.

And I hopped many moped rides with cab drivers ½ my size. I felt like a gargantuan beast on the back, and I had nothing to hold onto. So I just sat tight and hoped we’d make it to our destination ok. And, of course we did. The moped drivers in Vietnam are the best and craziest in the world… so far!

Tags: food, ho chi minh, kids, massage, mopeds, saigon, war remnants museum



Hey missy_carrie_gee,

We like your story and have decided to feature it this week on our Adventures Homepage so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy holidays and safe travels!
World Nomads

  World Nomads Dec 30, 2009 6:03 AM



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