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Vietnam, Ho Chi Min City: Bikes and Raincoats

Published: 27.2.2016
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.

Because B has a part of his family down in Vietnam our choice to go there had pretty obvious reasons. So I boarded a plane to Saigon.

Saigon (Sài Gòn) or, officially, Ho Chi Min City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh) is Vietnam’s largest city (Việt Nam), the center of trade and, partially, culture. Compared to the history of Hanoi (Hà Nội), the capital, Saigon’s is much shorter yet its magic is not less.

Saigon

Saigon had began to change into a modern city in the middle of 19th century when the French made it the center of their Cochinchina colony, on Vietnam’s south. Saigon was capital between the years 1956-1975. It was until the unification of North and South Vietnam. Then it was named after Ho Chi Min, an important politician.

B told me a lot on Saigon. I had seen even couple of photographs however nothing would be better than personal experience. I was prepared to experience warm and humidity. However, the heat wave I experienced when left the plane almost knocked me down. For the first time in my life I entered a country in which I couldn’t speak its language. When we were leaving the airport my feelings we expanded – bikes were really everywhere. Drivers wore raincoats and looked like a huge bat army. We – for a while – were travelling by car and I couldn’t believe we would drive through all of those narrow streets. But Vietnamese drivers can do some magic with their cars. Even though everywhere it was crowded by all kinds of things, table or stalls there were everywhere nooks through which even a large car would get.

 shopping is possible everywhere locals drive motorbikes even in rain

The greetings by B’s grandmother enriched the mosaic of first impressions. She offered us a roof above our heads. Little lady immediately adopted me. Before I could even realized she prepared a whole feast including fresh coconut and mango grown on her garden.

I was praised for my ability to eat with chopsticks (finally something I had learned in China). I got my own mattress equipped with a mosquito net and a a fan.

 phở soup traffic in Saigon

Once I woke up in the morning, I realized the following days would be rich on new experiences. A lizard was watching me while hanging on the wall. B said I needed to hurry because we had a rented bike and there were many things to see. And food we needed to taste.

We started the day early by eating hot bowl of phở soup and then setoff to explore Saigon.

GPS: (airport) 10°49'05.8"N 106°39'32.5"E

Text and photos: Hana Bašová



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