Ho Chi Minh City
Eventually. 6366 miles, three countries en-route and I arrived in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City. The ‘work a day’ and formal synonyms for the city.
The difference in development and culture flashed by the bus window as soon as the wheels rolled across the border from Cambodia.
There were lines down the middle of the road, traffic lights and crossings and though still a plethora of motorbikes, the riders actually wore helmets.
Eating lunch on the pavement
And joy o joy, the streets were almost clear of rubbish! I never before thought I would be so happy to see the presence of infrastructure and order. Over the past couple of weeks I have realised that embracing cultural differences on vacation and as traveller is a very different concept: Could I live here for a year? Having travelled in third world countries before I was surprised at my own answer to the self posed question. Let’s just say I need my creature comforts more than I had imagined.
HCMC feels like a kettle constantly on the boil. Scooters screech off traffic lights as if on the starting grid of Formula One. Grid lock in Phnom Penh meant crossing the road was a relatively safe experience here it becomes a delicately balanced knife edge decision. Don’t be fooled into thinking the pavements are safe. I still haven’t figured out why scooters suddenly leave the road and appear besides me.
Fish for sale
My schedule has limited exploration to all but a few blocks around the school. Tiny shops proliferate the local streets, nearly every other one serving some kind of food or drink. Add to this the numerous food carts of delicious street food and Paris is truly kicked off its perch of ‘cafe society’. Eating out is easy and cheap. I became an instant millionaire with my first cash withdrawal. £1 approx 35,000 dong.
Lunch or dinner, delicious at around 40,000 dong. Clothes bargains abound in the markets. A few surprises appeared in the melee. Though finding shoes to fit my somewhat larger feet has left me wishing I had brought all the shoes I possess. There are interesting stock control policies. The markets have masses of shoes. Of one size. After the markets I trawled the ‘boutique’ shops. They glowed with delightfully designed window displays. But choice literally consisted of what was on display. If it was your size, great, if not, too bad.
Glance up from the shop fronts and the upper stories reveal a mix of old colonial architecture and the mish-mash of cramped city living. Few buildings appear more than 10m wide. They just go up.
So, so far so good. I have found a swimming pool but there is a sad lack of open space and not a hill for miles. Be interesting to see how I after a month in the boiling pot.