"Vietnam is a country any serious traveler should visit at least once in his/her life.
The country has a vast offer of places to visit."
This travelogue should have been over by now. But because I am a natural slack and a topsy-turvy person, I guess I have an excuse why this series has not been posted yet. I wish I could put this blog in an auto-post mode, but even the most quickwitted machine couldn’t compose a narrative for me or at least recall a story that was.
Anyhow, the story continues…
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon which provided us enough time to look around and discover the city. Our official city tour would not commence until the next day. But before that, we searched for a place to eat and fill our growling stomachs. Our hotel was located in Bui Vien Street—a busy, commercial street chock-full of skyrocketing buildings and houses. Everything is expanding vertical which rallied me around of my fond memories when I was in Hongkong amazed by the tall buildings here and there.
I tried looking up every now and then worrying to my heart’s content if those tall buildings would crumble down and fall on me, just as I was crossing the street. How unfortuante and an absurd talk.
Congested houses, a mix and match of colored, tall buildings, narrow street, traffic--This is crazy but it looks pretty much like Manila from here.
See the electric wires? Even that looks familiar. But at least they are not as loopy and convoluted as we have back home.
We are staying in a 7-storey building and the manager put us in the 7th floor, which could be both a curse and a heaven sent. Tell you later about the 'curse' but right now, let us focus on the advantage: a nice spot for photography. I can see the whole of District 1 from our window.
We found this Italian resto called, Cappuccino which is adjacent to our hotel. It’s very easy to remember and they serve pasta and pizza and coffee. The tag says something like Gastronomia Italiana: Traditional Italian Cuisine. I was hungry and my stomach wasn’t ready for any Vietnamese food yet so I ordered one of their combo meals (which included fried rice, egg, veggies, and fried chicken) plus a glass of mango juice, which cost me around 57,000 dong ($3.56 or P185).
In Vietnam, one pays by the thousand, which I find really funny because I feel like I am rich. In the Philipines, holding 16,000 pesos is a thrill in the bin. Jesus, I could buy a lot. In Vietnam, holding 16,000 dong is almost a zip (it’s equivalent to a dollar).
Here's the Cappucciono Gastronomia Italiana resto. It's convenient as it is just adjacent to our hotel. We ate here a couple of times I think.
For a food adventurer like Oki, this would be the 'most mundane' lunch ever in Vietnam. For me though, this is the most appetizing especially with a growling stomach.
After appeasing our stomach and resting a bit, Oki and I went for a stroll around the city trying to familiarize ourselves with the new environment. Not really new though. I loved the frill.
Ho Chi Minh City, usually abbreviated as HCMC, is NOT the capital city of Vietnam (like Toe mentioned in her blog). It’s actually Hanoi. But HCMC is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. I used to think it is the capital city (stupid me!) which I think is understandable because under its former name, Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, and later of the independent state of South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.
Ho Chi Minh City is named after the leader of the Viet Minh Movement whose face I have become utterly familiar (long scrawny face and the goatee). I bought a couple of souvenir shirts with his face on it. HCMC is one of the most populated metro areas in Vietnam with more than 7 million people living in there.
Today, HCMC is a frequent destination among tourists all over the world (mostly those from the West). And why not? The city is popular for its great architecture. The city is adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings from their magnificent halls down to every corner of their city hall, theater, post office, banks, people's court, and brilliant churches. It’s like the old and the new meet and converged to harmonize and be an attraction aside from their main functions.
So at first sight, what was HCMC looks like?
If there's one thing that greatly differ Metro Manila from Ho Chi Minh City, it's the number of motorcyles and scooters on the street. Jesus Christ, they have at least thousands of them roaming the city everyday. It's the most common and easiest way to get around the city, according to the locals.
Here they come! And some of them were even wondering, what the heck I am doing at the side, taking their photos.
Another high angle shot of the long and narrow Bui Vien Street. At the other street is Pham Ngu Lao Street, the backpackers' area.
It’s congested but it’s easy to find your way out especially if you know how to ask. Language is not much of a problem either as most establishment-owners and vendors understand English (if not, one could always do the mime). Least to say, the city is foreigner-friendly. In fact, from above if you look down at the crowd you’ll see a mix of blonde hairs along with the black, silk long ones. You know what I mean.
The traffic is nerve-wracking especially with all the motorcycles coming from nowhere but it becomes easy to appreciate once you get used to it (give it a few days). Money exchange is not a problem as most establishments take payments in dong or in dollar. But it’s easy paying in dollars because you don’t have to by the thousands and I am awful in math. Food is pretty much cheap. There is no Jollibee but at least they have the Lotteria.
A lady clad in Ao Dai, their traditional costume, completed with the conical hat which is almost synonymous among us, Asians.
I found him napping at the side of the street. Looks comfortable to me.
Ho Chi Minh City pretty much feels like home. Need I say more?