Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City is the last city on the list of places to visit in Vietnam. It took a while but I finally managed to make it here after visiting 9 cities in about 3 weeks. I have to be honest, during these 3 weeks, I had a great time, but I couldn’t get used to the Vietnamese way of doing things. Especially all the touts, the motorbike drivers, the difference pricing for “foreigners” and the food.It wasn’t until 20 days into my visit in Vietnam that I discovered that there was more to the Vietnamese cuisine than just springrolls and pho. I found a list of 50 different types of food to try and made it my mission to try out most of them. Long story short, I didn’t manage to try them all out but whenever I was looking for a place for lunch or dinner, I tried to find something from that list. I even made post about it on Couchsurfing asking if people wanted to go on this culinary trip with me and some people actually took me up on the offer and showed me some of the best food I ate in Vietnam. Eventhough the majority of the food I tried can be called springrolls or noodles they were still different from the common springrolls and pho. A lot of the food in Vietnam are hand wrapped and they have a lot of different types and shapes of noodles in all kinds of different broths. Anh, Tuyen and Trang drove me around on their motorbikes and showed me some of the best local places in HCMC to get some local delicacies. Good thing too because some of these places were way out from the city center and to top things off, people would charge you a different price if they know that you’re from out of town. Even to Vietnamese people they would charge a slightly higher price than locals. I don’t know what I would’ve done or eaten if they didn’t show me around. I’m sure that I would have never tried the food that I tried if it weren’t for them, so I’m really grateful to them. I’ll try to put the right name on the food but don’t shoot me if I get some of them wrong. Another thing they showed me was where the “younger” people hung out. They don’t hang out in pubs or bars like back home or in the west in general. People here just sit outside in the park with their friends, have some ice coffee or other drinks there along with some street food snacks. You just take your place along the side and the vendors will just come up to you and ask you what you want to drink. And there are plenty of stalls on the side of the street that sell all kinds of different delicious food. It’s really a nice place to hang out. People even come out after it rained, if it was Belgium, I would’ve been way too lazy to go out drinking in the street after raining. Anyway, so much for the social and culinary part of HCMC. There are still quite a few things to visit in and around Saigon if you’re into sightseeing. One of the places most people visit is the Cu Chi tunnels, the infamous tunnels the Vietnamese people used during the war. Very interesting day trip with the necessary stop at the workshops along the way. I personally expected much more from the place but seems like they really rebuild the whole place for tourists. I did like the traps they made though, other than that the walk through the tunnels were quite exhausting and knowing that the actual size of the tunnels were even smaller than that was simply shocking. The other place I visited was the war remnants museum. Here they displayed a variety of tanks and other tools used for warfare. The things that stayed with me were the disturbing pictures of the results of the post-war periode. The people that suffered injuries, the people that were tortured and tons of innocent people that suffered because of the war. The msot shocking ones were the ones of the people that were affected by the bombing, red bomb. The results of chemical warfare is really disturbing and they even had some deformed baby fetus. Not sure if it was fake or not but I wasn’t curious enough to find out. This also marks the end of my Vietnam adventure. It took some time for me to really accept and enjoy Vietnam, but in the end I’m glad that some people showed me what I was missing all this time. If you look beyond the pestering touts and infinate bargaining battles, you will see a very charming and undeniable beautiful Vietnam. The best thing that I remember from Vietnam were the people itself. I’ve met more locals here than in any other place that I visit and learned a lot of their culture from them. I can’t wait to come back here again in the future, since there is still so much more to be discovered.