After all the hustle and bustle and endless warnings to be careful, spending 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City's Backpacker's District was a breeze, just like any walk in the park but with little twists. I survived Vietnam without a scratch and had fun. My friend though had a different opinion and said would not return to Vietnam. Well, I'll go back any chance I get :-).
To sum up, here are my reasons why:
- Food is healthy, delicious and cheap. Anybody who wants to explore the sensory organs of their taste buds will have a great time in Vietnam. Worthy of mention is their rice, I can actually eat it alone. :)
- Vietnamese Coffee!!! Need I say more? ;-)
- Shopping!!! You'll see authentic Kiplings, Fitflops and North Face sold at almost factory prices.You can check these out at Saigon Square while at Ben Thanh Market for souvenir items. There are lots of imitations too but anyone with a good eye for authentic stuffs can spot the difference. Also souvenir items are a lot cheaper here than in Cambodia or Thailand, which are basically similar in make and design. Some if not most of the vendors at Ben Thanh market can be very persistent and at times irritating grabbing you by the hand. Don't haggle for prices if you have no intention of buying.
- Street crossing is already one kind of an adventure you can have for free. Motorcycles are the kings of the road and they are quite an attraction seeing them occupy the road in full force. Just be cautious always and signal your hands to alert the drivers of your intention to cross and remember they can appear from any direction. But then, after a while, you'll get the hang of it and become confident enough to cross streets like any local.
- Cuchi Tunnels and the horrors of war and the resilient Vietnamese on how they manage to survive despite all the odds.
- CULTURE! It's always interesting to experience the cultural differences and similarities we have with our neighboring ASEAN brothers. One particular souvenir shirt in Vietnam, saw it in Cambodia and Thailand as well, suggests this, "same same, but different"! The almost similar built and features but distinct difference, similar food but with unique twists and cultural traditions of similar origin but with subtle nuances. Our tour guide for CuChi Trip mentioned the Vietnamese' penchant to drink, eat and be merry, doing it in-front of their homes on small tables and chairs as cultural tradition which explains their need to feel like a king but they act like a peasant ( well, I can relate this as our version for "tambays"). Photo below explains how tourists adopted to this tradition and enjoyed this form of entertainment.
- It felt home staying at Hong Han Guesthouse and I sure miss the warmth and cheerfulness of the sibling tandem, Nhung and Ahn who are managing the place and of course the nice breakfast served at the 2nd floor terrace of the guesthouse. That's the pretty Nhung in cheongsam dress.
- CYCLO CITY TOUR! I had the best view touring Ho Chi Minh/Saigon City on board a cyclo, checking out famous landmarks and crossing major intersections at slow speed while feeling excited and anxious at the close encounters with buses and motorbikes running at high speeds. Although we had a not so nice experience with our cyclo drivers trying to extort a big sum from us , in the end our fierceness ruled over. My cyclo driver is actually nice so I went easy on him and gave him his day's worth, the other guy who drove my friend is someone you'd like to punch in the face. A word of advice, ask your hotel's assistance for booking any tour you wish to experience. Our cyclo tour was not planned since we only wanted to do a city tour on foot. We were actually devising a plan on how to cross this major roundabout road when these guys appeared and sweet talked us to avail their cheap offer. Lesson learned: when an offer is to good to be true, there's definitely a catch at the end.
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I survived Vietnam without a scratch and had a worthy experience and so should you! ;-)