First Impressions of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

First Impressions of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Chaotic, in a good way if that’s possible.  There is so much energy in Ho Chi Minh City that just taking a stroll down the sidewalk is exciting and death defying the way the motorbikes cut street corners by using the sidewalks.

Organized and clean, obviously this is relative, but for a developing nation I was very impressed with the Visa process upon landing, the simple customs procedures and spotless airport.  Even early this morning the cleaning crew seemed to be out in force picking up trash and sweeping the already busy streets.

Corrupt, true to form the developing world always seems to greet their tourists, which are often a huge source of their income I might add, with a quick police pull-over just to ask for money.  A little déjà vu from Africa, but no money was actually exchanged.  We both felt that had the cab driver not insisted in driving us around in circles this would not have happened.

Communist, this really isn’t a first impression, but rather a fact, however I was reminded immediately with many red banners all over the city with the communist hammer and sickle prominently displayed.

Lost in translation, this is true in many ways, first from the standpoint that very few Vietnamese speak English, not that it is my expectation, it just seems you always find a few locals in each new place that do.  Secondly, really because of the first of many things that just aren’t translated correctly.  For example our Bed and Breakfast does not provide breakfast.

Delicious food, I was expecting this, but anytime you get your expectations too high you have to prepare yourself for a let-down, not so in Ho Chi Minh City.  Our first meal at a total of $2.50 (for both of us) were tasty noodles in a rich broth with fresh vegetables.  Our second meal of pho, which is a rice noodle soup served with beef or chicken and typically a large garnish plate of chili peppers lime, basil, lemon grass, etc., was equally amazing and very spicy for Matt.  The fruit is also very good, lychees are some of my favorite, see below.

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» dad :
Dec 29, 2010

As you know, we were in Saigon, sorry, old habits don’t die quickly, 2 years ago with your brother and i was just starting my illness, so experienced less of the city. I do know photos will never do justice to the traffic/scooter/pdestrian choaos one encounters. Although Nick could eat the street vendor food and did, we never mustered up the courage. Just remember it was 3 measily plums in Cambodia, washed in local water that was the beginning of the (rear) end (pun intended) issues for me. Peace, My tears most days are just tears of happiness for you both. Be safe. Love you Dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, you’re right photos just don’t show the true death defying act that is crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh City. I had forgotten this is where your illness started, we are eating the street food and loving it. The only thing about the street food is getting used to sit squatting on little stools while balancing a bowl of food in your left hand and operating chopsticks in your right hand.

» Brian :
Dec 29, 2010

Q: What to do if the Vietnamese police try to shake you down?

A: Never let ’em see your Dong.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Brian, this is hilarious- good to hear from you. For those of you on the outside of this joke, you have to know that the Vietnamese currency is Dong. I saw that you tried contacting us through facebook, but it is blocked in Vietnam. We had some trouble with twitter too, the Vietnamese just aren’t big on social media.

» Adrianne Gammie :
Dec 29, 2010

So great to see what you guys are up to! You give me yet another reason to wish I was back in southeast Asia right now… ridiculous traffic and all. One thing, not that my 1 trip to Indo has made me an expert (far from it in fact), but I think your picture of lychee may actually be rambutan. I only say this because Tom and I just had a lengthy conversation on Monday about it being the start of rambutan season over there and how incredibly excited about it he is. It’s supposed to be the next superfruit, like blueberries and pommegranites, so whatever it is, eat up!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Adrianne, wish you were here too! You definitely may be right on the rambutans, but whatever they are we really like them.

» Ken Tschannen :
Dec 29, 2010

Glad you have started your great adventure, hope you brought
some medicine, getting sick is part of traveling, finding a toilet is another
matter. Travel is work, but then you have a lifetime to live it!
Nice website, looks great!! Good work! Don’t get run over!
Happy New Year! Ken

LOCAVORista Reply:

Ken, so glad to see that you came to visit our site and don’t worry we have loads of medication. I agree finding a toilet will be a trick. Happy New Year to you too!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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