Pairs Well With…Motorbikes + Dongs + Sensory Overload
Motorbikes. Dongs. Pho. Those three things, all plentiful throughout the city, are what I first noticed upon my arrival to Vietnam. (Imagine, if you will, the number of dong jokes that are exchanged within our group each day.) Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), month 2 stop of Remote Year, is a beautiful city with a French colonial and cool street-style vibe.
Just when I thought I was getting the “hang” of Asia, enter Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is not only wild, it’s a freakin’ sensory overload. Granted, I was here all of a day before I took off on a work assignment to Hanoi and Halong Bay, but still. My head has been spinning trying to take it all in. That first day had me like whoa!
When we left Malaysia, sure, of course, I knew Vietnam would be different. They don’t front about getting into their country. I mean, you need a visa to enter, and you’ve already overstayed your welcome minutes after your 30-day allowance in the country. You can’t go home, but you can’t stay here.
So in case you’re wondering what my whereabouts this month look like…
WHERE I KICK IT: District 3
I live in a complex called Saigon Mansion. Now, I’ve always wanted to live in a big, dreamy house like a mansion. In fact, I’ve been channeling that shit for years. It appears that I haven’t been clear enough in my intentions about what kind of mansion I would like, as well as its location or whether its permanent, but for now, this will to do.
WHERE I’M WORKIN’ IT: District 1
This month’s office space is a little bit different and more untraditional that where we worked in Kuala Lumpur. It’s cute – and it’s got a pool!
THE HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM SCOOP:
- Population: 8 million
- Currency: Dongs ($1 US Dollar = 22,600 Vietnamese Dong = Dong jokes)
- Language: Vietnamese (my sign language is not cuttin’ it here)
- Key Landmarks & Attractions:
- War Remnants Museum – Contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists.
- Independence Palace – Home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.
- Thein Hau Temple – One of the oldest, largest and most beautiful temples of about 30 Chinese pagodas in HCMC.
- Ben Thanh Market – The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and an important symbol of Ho Chi Minh City, popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, souvenirs, as well as local cuisine.
- Traditional Medicine Museum – A private museums in Vietnam which are devoted to the Traditional Vietnamese Medicine & Pharmacy.
- Cu Chi Tunnels – An immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. (I will visit the tunnels later this week.)
FIRST WEEK OBSERVATIONS:
- The way people drive here, I’m not sure that there are any licensing or age restrictions to operating a motor vehicle. I’m pretty sure an eight year old on a motor scooter almost took me out the other day. But I haven’t seen any accidents which is impressive.
- Dong is the only recognizable word in most conversations I have.
- The only thing the Vietnamese culture dislikes more than Americans are pedestrians. Cars, motorbikes, anything other than your walking self has the right away – always. Good luck and may you live to see tomorrow.
- I am a minority in this country and at times have felt watched or judged by my appearance. Layer on a sometimes severe communication barrier and you can find yourself in high levels of stress and frustration, leading to feeling deflated.
- I am doing things in Vietnam I wouldn’t normally be doing and am having experiences grounded in Vietnamese culture. I mean…when was the last time you saw me catch a catfish with my bare hands?!