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cooling my sweat-dampened T-shirt
Fondest memory: One such local had placed me on the back of this motorcycle I now clung to. He was an older man and certainly wiser for the years. He had spent some time in the States and his English was quite good. We had innocently enough stopped by a local bia hoi place on a busy Saigon street corner. It had become our favorite spot to watch life in the big city go by. The evenings were hot and muggy and even I gave in to the local practice of putting blocks of ice in my beer glass, making an already watery brew even more so. But with heat like this, it may be for the better to dilute alcohol if not the flavor of such things. Our new friend was a great conversationalist and we enjoyed hearing about his travels in the US as well as what Saigon had gone through since the end of the war.
I had been trying to find a dish from a Vietnamese restaurant I had been going to for over twenty years back in the States, but had had no luck in finding it. I produced a menu from this place I had carried the entire trip and asked him if he knew where we could find it. With a bit of thought, he said he would find out and took off. He returned five minutes later on the back of a motorcycle and explained that I was to go with the driver, as he knew where it was. I was a bit skeptical but desperate for this meal so I took the chance. I hopped on and was soon whizzing through the crowded streets, the wind, cooling my sweat-dampened T-shirt, blowing away my worries too. It felt great but all too short as we quickly arrived at our destination. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
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- Food and Dining
precariously clutching the seat of my driver’s?!
Favorite thing: One thing you have to do when in Saigon is to try some of the marvelous local foods. It may be a modern city, but there are lots of very local and authentic eating places scattered all over the city. Wander around and if something looks good, have a bite to eat.
Fondest memory: Though precariously clutching the seat of my driver’s motorcycle, I felt finally free: of Saigon’s grime and sweat that masked my own skin but more importantly of the disappointment of ill-conceived expectations that Vietnam had not lived up to. This two-month tour of Southeast Asia had originally stemmed from the desire to experience first hand what all the fuss was about Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia were initially afterthoughts.
What was never anticipated was just how much the easygoing nature of travel in Laos would influence how I initially perceived Vietnam. Perhaps if our first port of call had been Saigon, things would have been different but after two carefree weeks in Laos, we were dropped on the doorstep of what seemed at the time, a very unfriendly Hanoi. It wasn’t until two weeks into the Vietnamese segment of our trip that we finally began to enjoy it. Things were not perfect in Hoi An and Na Trang but the nine-day TET induced stint in Hanoi finally became just an interesting memory rather than something we could not wait to escape from.
But it was in Saigon that it all came together. Oddly enough, it is perhaps the least interesting city in Vietnam with regard to sights. But what it lacks in this department, it more than makes up for with a fantastic array of foods and more importantly, a friendly population that has grown up with a burgeoning tourist trade and hence knows how to treat it without appearing self-conscious. It does not take long to see that the south of the country has been in the tourist business longer and this trickles down to the locals as well. The people are more used to foreigners and are more welcoming. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
Small parks and garden
Favorite thing: Although is a busy city witha lot of motorbikes, the atmosphere in HCMC during evening can be very relax.
There are lots of small gardens and small parks in HCMC. Every evening, after work perhaps, you can see a lot of people.. old and young gather in these park to exercise.
The Cong Vien Van Hoe park near the reunification palace has some facilities for exercises and for kids. There is a small park near Pham Ngu Lao also. But beware, these parks are where the fraud find their targets.
Favorite thing: To many of us, life in Vietnam can be considered quite tough. But local people are contented with simple life and needs.
This is one regular scene where some elderly people will enjoy good cup of brewed coffee and interact with pals at near by coffee joint.
I wasn’t too use to the low plastic chair and table at first. But I’m kind of getting used to after a few days.
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: You will find many strange local fruits here: lychee, papaya, jackfruit?
But the weirdest of them all was the DURIAN, a very large fruti, the size of a football ball, all covered with sharp spikes. It is said to be the tastiest of all (I didn? try it) but it smells like hell!! Once U open it, the smell is so disgusting that is even forbidden in public places like hotels, planes, buses? it is said it would be imposible to remain in a, let?s say, bus all the traject after one of these durians has been opened inside?
- Budget Travel
Favorite thing: Here are 2 signs of recent Saigon's ID:
- The Continental Hotel, dating from the turn of the 19th century, scenery of a lot of scenes of the famous Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, a real classic of the city, in spite of the awful renovation made in 1989 by "Saigon Tourist".
- Women in the classical vietnamese dress, U don't see these too often, just in few special occasions...
- Budget Travel
Walking aimlessly in Ho Chi...
Favorite thing: Strolling aimlessly in Ho Chi Minh City is what I like doing. After a while, if you are tired, you can take a cyclo anywhere with a fixed price, asking the rider to take you for one hour or half an hour. There are a lot of cyclo riders speaking English so make sure you find an English speaker who can be your guide as well.
Fondest memory: I miss the food, smiles of people, Ao Dai dress...
carstenj's General Tip
Fondest memory: Hanging out and having fun with friends and relatives. It is so cheap to eat and drink and you can go out every night of the week without exception. You cannot be bored in this area.
We went to a nightclub heavily sponsored by Carlsberg Beer but I can only recommend the local brew 333
Smoking is the favorite past time in HCMC
Favorite thing: At the airport waiting lounge, we saw a lot of Vietnamese buying boxes of 555 cigarettes from Changi Airport Duty free. Smoking is one of the favorite past time in HCMC.
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