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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Vietnam | Ho Chi Minh City

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Today we started out the morning walking around the area by our hostel. We were surrounded by the locals going about their everyday activities and many street vendors. As we walked around, we felt as though we were back in Shijiazhuang, China, but with everyone just speaking another language.


Ben Thanh Market

We ventured to the Ben Thanh Market which is the largest covered market in Ho Chi Minh. Inside it was like we were back in the Beijing Silk market, with vendors yelling out at us, "Lady, what would you like? Do you like this shirt?" However, we at least were not called "cheap", like we had been several times back in China. ;-) They had everything inside from knock-off backpacks and bags, to watches, to hats, to sacks of candy and dried fruits. At one end of the market there were even food vendors who tried to solicit us to their booths.


Exploring Ho Chi Minh & Comparisons to China

We continued to walk around the city for the rest of the morning and observe the culture and activity. The streets and street vendors were very similar to the market area behind my school in China with them selling almost everything from a little tent or from their cart. (The school even looks similar as the school I taught at in China.) It seems like everyone is an entrepreneur here and they do whatever they can to get your attention and try to make their sale - especially to foreigners for rides around in the bicycles with the carts attached. The goods also tend to be segregated by the type. It seemed as though all the motorbike repair shops were within one block, more of the food vendors in another, etc.

Although we could see some similarities in the life and culture between Shijiazhuang, China and Ho Chi Minh, there are some big differences. For one, there is a strong French presence, especially in the food. Whereas we had to search far and wide for any type of bread product in China, there is a bakery shop about every block and street vendors sell a variety of baguettes.


Motorbikes

Also, instead of bicycles everywhere, it is all motorbikes!

Unless a Vietnamese person is very rich they would not own a full-size vehicle and would instead own a motorbike. However, having motorbikes everywhere makes it difficult and daring to navigate and cross the streets. Only at a few intersections are there walk signals, and most of the time there are people who still don't even follow the traffic signals because they can easily navigate with their small bike. Most of the time to cross the street, we just have to "take the plunge" by stepping out and then gingerly making our way across the road, and even stopping in the middle of the road to let a vehicle pass by so then we can continue onwards. Luckily, they are not going very fast, but we feel as though we are in a video game trying to dodge the obstructions (bikes and vehicles) going by; in short, it all just adds more entertainment to our day! But, we did not have to wait long to witness our first motorbike accident. Less than 2 hours after we started walking around, there was a screech and collision sound as we saw a young motorbike rider being clipped by a normal-sized vehicle and lose control. His bike hit the curb and he was thrown from the bike into the stump of the tree. Luckily, he wasn't hurt, but we quickly changed our mind about renting a motorbike in the city. We might save that for the areas with a little less traffic.

Yummy Waffles!

For lunch we stopped at a street restaurant just a block down from our hostel. We ordered the ingredients for our noodle soup by pointing at the different ingredients that were displayed in the cart. Later as we were walking around we found a lady selling "waffles." However, these waffles were thinner and more crisp than the traditional waffles that we think of in N. America -- plus, they were very similar to the taste and consistency of a waffle cone. The woman was a street vendor and carried all of her materials in two baskets which were connected by a band so that she could carry them over her shoulder. She would just find a spot and start making the waffles with her little waffle iron and selling them to passer-bys. They were quite good and we'll probably be searching those out in the remaining part of our stay here.

Vietnamese Hostels

We checked out the area around the river and then headed back to relax and cool down a bit before going out for the evening. As our bodies have gone from sub-zero temperatures to hot and humid conditions we figured that we'd make it a low-key afternoon and just get adjusted. Our hostel is nice, and unlike a lot of the hostels in Europe and Australia, the rooms are private and not bunk-style. It's also in a good location where there are a lot of backpackers, so there's bound to be something going on later, especially if last night was any indicator. Because as we drove from the airport last night around midnight, the streets were lively and full of activity; and it was only a Tuesday night!

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