Monday, December 30, 2013

Vietnam: Arriving in Saigon, or is it Ho Chi Minh City?

I'm a few vacations behind in blogging so let me see if I can catch up a bit this month. In October, we went to Vietnam for a week. A really nice trip and really interesting. Some had told us to be a bit wary of anti-American sentiment, but we experienced nothing of the sort and felt very welcome the whole trip.

We flew to Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon) and found out that pretty much only government officials call it Ho Chi Minh City. Most of the population we met called it Saigon (one told us it was simply because Saigon is easier to say!) In any case, we arrived in Vietnam and made our way to our apartment that we reserved for the 3 days we would be in town.

We've started using Airbnb and VRBO (vacation rental by owner) for a lot of our trips - much nicer than a hotel - more room, cooking facilities. This place was near the Reunification palace and not too long a walk to most of the major attractions we were interested in seeing.

After getting settled, we decided to walk around a bit and find something for dinner. We wandered around and decided to get very local right away so stopped at a little streetside place serving . . . well, actually we had no idea, but it smelled good so we grabbed a seat. 
 I'm not sure how well you can see this from the picture, but basically, you sit around a very low table on very small and low stools (think of a child's play stool and you'll have the right impression). Lots of locals here so we figured the food must be pretty good.
And then we got the menu and realized this might be a little more challenging than we thought - our server didn't speak any English really, but we managed to convey the words soup and chicken and off she went. Oh, and Heineken was on the menu so we at least knew we'd get a beer out of the experience!

The good news is that our 'chicken soup' was absolutely delicious! We figured if this meal was any indication of what was to come, we'd have no trouble with the food.

On the walk back, we started to get a taste of the traffic and the number of scooters on the roads. Now, we've seen this before in Thailand and a bit in Sri Lanka, but nothing like the volume of Vietnam. The roads are absolutely packed with scooters and a few cars, but there is no road rage, a little honking to let people know you're behind them, but nothing irate. It's this flow - like fish in a stream. Pretty impressive. Unfortunately, we didn't get many good pictures to truly show what it was like, but this one might give you a sense.
Crossing the street is an adventure in itself. We were told early on that you just have to step out, stay confident and never stop or go backwards. The stream will pause and shift around you and you won't get hurt. Seriously? Okay they aren't going THAT fast, but still - just walk right out and they'll move around me?

And you know, they were absolutely right. The only time I had any trouble was when I paused or got nervous and took a step back.

No comments:

Post a Comment