We arrived to Ho Chi Minh early in the morning. After avoiding one taxi scam, we found a fair price and were on our way to the hostel. The traffic here was crazy…even more so than Bangkok due to the thousands of scooters that dominated the streets.
We made it in one piece and decided to wander for some food. Our friend was meeting us way later for dinner and drinks (shout out to Connor for being such a great guide!) so we had an afternoon to kill. We headed over to the War Remminance Museum (use to be War Crimes Museum) which was quite an experience. Mostly photos and stories, it painted a picture of the brutality of the French occupation of Vietnam as well as the aftermath from the “American War” as it is called over here. Especially intense is the reality of agent orange victims, and how multiple generations of people are still affected today.
Then we decided to head over to an open market for something authentic to eat. We ordered bahn mi sandwiches and some weird sweet milk gummy thing. The sandwich was delicious; the drink was….interesting. It was the first time either of us had beans in our milk ha.
The rest of our time in the city consisted of exploring and learning about food, history, culture, and the some inner workings of the city itself. One mesmerizing activity is to sit and watch the chaos of the traffic circles around town. I had flashbacks of the madness at UCSB that was created by freshman utilizing the bike paths for the first time. This was similar, but much busier and more deadly. We never saw a single accident however.
When we wanted to relax and weren't watching traffic circle madness, we were most likely people watching in the park. Usually at some point, a group of Vietnamese students would wander up to us and ask if they could practice their English. This turned into a lively back and forth – Grant and I asking about different phrases, local food to try, and scams to avoid. Them asking about grammar, pronunciations, and our backgrounds. We came out of it with local insight and they caught a glimpse into the lives of two Americans. It was a very pleasant experience.
One thing we loved, as per Connors recommendation, was a banana, avocado, soursops smoothie. It was delicious! Much better than the sweet milk thing we had before. Now I know that sweet avocado is something I will recreate.
The final morning in the city, we ended up taking another cooking class. We created fresh spring rolls with prawn on top, sticky rice dumpling things, and BBQ beef wrapped in betel leaves. Yum!
On the final night in the city we saw the AO show at the opera house. It was a cirque du soleil style performance that portrayed daily village/farming lifestyle of Vietnamese people. Only native instruments were used for the live music. The stage and props were built with things that village folks would use in everyday life. Structures were created and broken down in front of our eyes with long bamboo poles and scarfs used to tie it all together. The performers were amazing athletes. At one point, every performer was holding different sized bamboo pieces in place vertically so women could walk along the top of the pieces as easily as if there were stairs below her. It is difficult to convey how awesome the show was.
After the show, we walked back to our hostel, grabbed our bags, and caught a night train to the next city: Da Lat. Such is the life of a traveller.
Danielle and Grant