Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam at its most dizzying: a high-octane city of commerce and culture that has driven the country forward with its pulsating energy. A chaotic whirl, the city breathes life and vitality into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride… Lonely Planet
After working my way south from mi arrival in Denang Airport I traveled by train, sleep over bus, local bus, motorcycle, river boat and pulled by a water buffalo. When the bus dropped me off on a main street in the tourist area my next task was to cross the street and find a hotel for the nights lodging. As a volley of determined motorcyclists whizzed by at breakneck speed I stood on the sidewalk waiting for my chance to cross the street. The green street light changed to red and I somehow jaywalked in a ziz zag fashion between the revved up motorcycles who were still coming… climbing up on the sidewalks out of alleys and everywhere but droping out of the sky with parachutes.
If you want to see the energizer bunny all you have to do is look anywhere and people are moving like an army of ants, but with motors. After all of this I checked into a brand new hotel right on the tourist strip at a discounted price. The staff was excellent and I started up the street where I found an authentic coffee shop complete with antique copper brewers, cool air conditioning and relaxing music. I took a window seat and watched one entrepreneur actually park your motorcycle right on the sidewalk for a small fee and completely block anyone from walking on the sidewalk which gave extra adrenaline to walking with or against traffic as their are no rules whilst dodging the motorcycles. Talk about an obstacle course Ho Chi Minh City wins hands down on anywhere I have traveled in the world.
The short answer is go with the flow so after leaving the coffee shop I headed down an alley that looked like pedestrians and tourists only, some drinking beer with there chairs on the edge of the alley, but like a sick movie where you hear the sound of a racing motorcycle you are standing in the alley trying to read the menu and whiz goes a motor weaving in and out and almost brushing you as he speeds by. You think hell maybe hes making an important delivery to a blood bank or he is just slightly deranged. You walk another thirty meters and there is the local restaurant you have been searching for. They cook your meals in an open space directly across the street from the restaurant with all native dishes. You relax order a beer, an appetizer and watch the world go by. For the moment you are in the safe house and thank your lucky stars you are not a waiter walking across the street with a tray of food with some motors chasing your tail.
This basically ends my first day as I meander back to my hotel. You might say: “come on now the city cant be all that crazy… there surely must be something good in the city.” The meal was so good it would be something to write home about…the food, energy, and coffee houses in Ho Chi Minh city is beyond comparison. Yum Yum! As I drifted off to sleep the low roar of the motorcycles just outside my window had a calming effect and I slept like a baby.
The following morning I went to the market and saw more tourists than anywhere else in my travels. They seemed to be from every country in the world. Backpackers, Europeans, Americans, Russians, Swedish…just to mention a few. The market is buzzing with fishmongers, hanging meats and chickens, small food kiosks, noodle stalls, coffee shops, retail everything…. including exotic spices from around the world and a flower market that Chelsea would be proud of.
You could spend several days in the market just people watching, sampling their food , taking pictures, and just hanging out. So there you have it! A city on the move alive with night life, excellent restaurants, friendly people and a budget suited for every type of traveler. As this is my last day in Vietnam I would like to thank the many shop owners, restaurant and hotel staff who made an effort to make my stay a pleasant one. I secretly donated one dong in the fountain which will guarantee my return visit…I have so much more to see and experience in Vietnam. So while you are laying around or slumping on your favorite big boy chair why not book a trip to Vietnam and discover for yourself some of its treasures.
QUOTE:. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: Ruou ran (snake wine), a Vietnamese specialty of rice wine with a pickled snake inside, allegedly can cure any sickness.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: The Planet! Get off line and read a real book. Anything you can do to reduce your temptation to buy yourself the newest, fastest tech toys is a boon to the planet. Spending less time online isn’t easy. (I continue to struggle with it myself.) But benefits to the planet will result. Plus, you’ll be able to spend more time outdoors enjoying that very planet.
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Purchase a rice farmers Vietnam straw hat and maybe you will get the local discount or run the risk of looking like a tourist dweeb.
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on. Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free?