Vietnam: So Long, Saigon! (Ho Chi Minh City, formally known as Saigon)

6 Feb

Coming back from Cambodia, Vietnam felt like a developed metropolis.

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Goooooooooooood morning, Vietnam!

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A tangle of electrical wires.  The electrician, like the moped driver, is wearing a helmet for protection.  And I’m assuming bamboo is shock resistant, right?

 

I based myself on Bui Ven Street, the backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh (HCM), reading books, doing research, and planning an ambitions motorcycle trip to southern central Vietnam.  I met up with Audrey, a friend from college who’s currently teaching English in HCM; Luis, a Portugese friend of a friend; and Tony Giusti, who shared his friendship and knowledge of the Vietnamese countryside as well as The Vietnam Coracle, a very impressive website, which I consulted daily.  Shout out to Paula and Dan Malone for making these connections happen.  And to Victoria, who was with us in spirit ❤

I picked up a friend of mine, Rachel, from the HCM International Airport late night when she was tired, jet-lagged, and acting silly.   We took public transportation to our hotel and read street signs as best as we could.  Some were written with English letters but phonetically spelled in Vietnamese.  My favorite was “Naimabank” which we pronounced as “Nah, I’m a bank” and used as an answer for questions such as: “Would you like to go out tonight?” “Nah, I’m a bank.”

We stayed at the Link Guest House with a woman named Nga.  The hotel was clean, safe, and the bed was fine but up 5 flights of stairs.  We got an early start the next day.

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Oh, the places you’ll go in Ho Chi Minh City!

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Rachel, a local restaurant owner, and me.  The tree in the background is in honor of Tét, the Vietnamese New Year, which lasts for an entire week and happened to be the week we were in town.  Tét ultimately gave us a headache, created traffic in a mass exodus of HCM, and altered our itinerary substantially.  But this photo is from the beginning when we thought Tét was cool.  And the tree in this photo, like many we saw, had both real and fake flowers glued on to it in order to maximize the amount of good luck this restaurant would receive.  To be clear, in Vietnam, gluing flowers on a tree for luck is NOT cheating.  Yellow flowers are for South Vietnam and pink flowers are for North Vietnam.

 

One of the first orders of business was to get Rachel’s phone unlocked.  I watched Rachel hilariously, albeit unsuccessfully, try to bribe an employee at Samsung with an American $5 bill.  She (ultimately) fixed the problem and the two of us went on a self-guided walking tour around the city while consuming as much food as we could find.  Almost every corner had something new and exciting.

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Vietnam nam nam nam

 

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What’s this? I don’t know but we ordered one and drank (half of) it.

The extra food we would give away to beggars.  One particularly memorable moment was with a delicious fruit called soursop which we had already opened.  It didn’t seem like anything edible went to waste.

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Rat meat. Tastes like chicken but with more bones. The rats in Vietnam are about the size of a small cat #MEAT

 

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The Soup Lady.  Actually, the soup country.  If you’re a soup lover, this is the place for you.

 

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Oh, the things you can do with rice.

 

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Dog meat.  Prepared three different ways.  We didn’t accidentally stumble upon it either, Rachel and I sought it out.  After consumption, my heart hurt for days.  I don’t think I’ll do it again.  As a side note, cat meat is illegal in Vietnam.

 

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My favorite restaurant: The Loving Hut.  Not pictured: The exquisite banana leaf salad.

 

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Noir: A dining in the dark experience.  We couldn’t see anything but if I’d known that my hat was going to block my blindfold, I might have cheated at this matching game that I found difficult and the restaurant insisted we play before we were allowed to eat.

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A midnight flower market.

When we were tired of walking, Rachel and I jumped onto the back of motorcycle taxis, the cheapest and most efficient way to get around.  Grabbike (a Vietnamese motorcycle version of Uber) became our favorite app.

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Motorbike madness. Moves like Jagger a school of fish.

More tales (and history lessons) to come!

Still full of food 8 months later,
‘mi

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Vietnam: So Long, Saigon! (Ho Chi Minh City, formally known as Saigon)”

  1. deekerson September 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    Rat meat?!😯 Dog meat?! 😧 Hoping they don’t serve that in Israel.
    Adventurous and interesting account. Really enjoyed this episode.

    • jerry pitts November 2, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi Sammie you could of got David and Fanglu to meet you their and show you around ! Looks like Great fun ! Eat , Drink, and be Merry but be safe ! We think of you often and wonder where you are ! Jerry and Kathy

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