Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I typically don’t like the big cities.  I’m more of a small, remote village type of person.  I like places where I can walk from one end of the town to the other in one days time.  Ho Chi Minh City shocked me.  I completely fell in love with it.  It’s clean, there’s tons to do and see, any kind of shopping you need, big resorts and hotels, massage and tattoo parlors and all the foods imaginable.  You name it, they got it.  Even with it’s completely insane traffic and billions of motorbikes, I still loved it.  It’s the first big city in my travels that I haven’t wanted to run from.   I loved it so much that I finally thought about working.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I signed up for WorkAway back when I was in Myanmar.  It’s a web based international hospitality service that allows volunteers and hosts to contact each other to organize homestays and cultural exchanges.  As a volunteer you are required to work X amount of hours per day/ week in exchange for lodging and many times food.   You set up a profile with your work experience, interests and qualifications.  Hosts set up a profile of what they are looking for and what kinds of work they are offering.  Hosts and volunteers can then search profiles to find a match.  I had sent out some emails back in Myanmar but work was limited and nothing came of it.  I decided to try again in Ho Chi Minh City because I could see myself staying for a few weeks if I found some work.  I logged into WorkAway and contacted a few people in regards to work they were offering.   However, I never heard back from anyone.

It’s actually a good thing because I still don’t think I’m ready to work or to stay put for more then a week.  I still find such a thrill in moving from place to place.  I get childlike excitement when going somewhere I have never been before.  I couldn’t find work and that’s ok, but I still decided to stay in Ho Chi Minh for a week.   I moved out of my frat house hostel I stayed in for 3 nights and found a much nicer one on the other side of town.  I really enjoy trying two different hostels in the same city.  They are all so different and it’s nice to explore different neighborhoods.  I loved my second hostel and stayed for 4 nights.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Wall Art- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Wall Art- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I didn’t do too much worth writing about.   Honestly, I mostly ate, drank and walked.  I’m completely in love with the teas and coffees here in Vietnam.  In fact coffee and tea will never be the same for me.  I’m completely spoiled over here.  The coffee is obviously very fresh because it’s growing everywhere.  The way they serve their coffee is 1) adorable- in their little single cup with its own stainless steel filter on top and 2) so incredibly delicious.  My only problem here is that a cup of hot coffee is about the size of an American shot glass.  And I’ve been putting them back like they are shots, which can really add up.   A popular way to drink the coffee here is with a little bit of sweetened condensed milk.  Now at first, I thought no way, no thank you.  But then I tried it.  The stars have aligned and my life is complete now.  It’s a treat straight from heaven.  Lesson here is, don’t knock it till you try it.   I have been known to skip meals just so I can have more coffee.

Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese Coffee

So, now let me tell you about the teas, especially bubble tea, boba tea or milk tea.  In the states we call it bubble tea and I never once tried it, mostly because the weird jelly things in the bottom freaked me out.   If you haven’t tried this serious deliciousness, then trust me, it’s time.  It originally started and became popular in Taiwan, spreading quickly from there.  There are many different kinds from fruit to milk teas.  They can be served cold, shaken with ice, or blended.  They either have black, green or oolong tea in them.  They are shaken with fresh milk, powdered milk or condensed milk as well as sugar or honey.  There are many tea shops serving only this.  The first shop I went to I just asked what was most popular and got that.  The jelly in the bottom are called pearls, which is actually tapioca, and are so delicious.  The teas are served in plastic cups with a sealed cellophane plastic top and a giant straw that allows you to suck out the pearls or fresh fruit.   Anytime I see a bubble tea shop I stop and I get a different kind each time.  If I come home 20 pounds over weight, it will be bubble teas fault.

Bubble Tea- Vietnam
Bubble Tea- Vietnam

Another new discovery in Vietnam is Pho Rolls.  Its basically a bowl of Pho reconstructed.  It is said that they were invented when a pho shop ran out of broth.  They are long strips of rice noodles filled with many of the same ingredients as a bowl of Pho and then typically served with a side of fish sauce for dipping.  The ones I tried had a delicious peanut sauce which made it taste like a mix between pho and fresh spring rolls.  They also had fantastic presentation with their rice noodles being died beautiful colors, almost too pretty to eat.  ALMOST

Pho Rolls- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Pho Rolls- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

One day I decided it was time to lighten my load.  It was really hard for me to pack for a year of travel because I had no idea what I would need.   I have way more things than I need and tons of stuff I haven’t touched since leaving.  I scoured my bag and set aside all the things that have gone untouched and headed down to the post office.  I knew it was going to cost me quite a bit to ship stuff home and that was one of the reasons I hadn’t already done this.  It ended up being about $60 USD, which was less than I expected.   Ho Chi Minh City has a large post office, so I thought, no better time then now.  The post office is giant and bustling with tourists and locals.  I asked for some help and was directed to a man who gave me a load of paperwork to fill out, where I had to detail all things I was shipping.  Mostly just clothes, a few Burmese sarongs I had bought in Myanmar, some local clothes and a heavy camera I hadn’t used once.

Post Office- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Post Office- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Post Office- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

As I was sitting filling out my paperwork I was approached by three different young girls all under the age of nine asking me to sit with them and speak English so they could practice and learn.  Of course I was thrilled to be asked and more than happy to speak with them.  Two of the girls needed more work and after a few laughs, because we weren’t doing so well, they wandered off.  One girl, who’s “American” name was Jessica, sat and chatted with me for more than an hour.  She had nearly perfect English so I’m not sure what she was practicing.  She told me her father brings her down each day to talk with foreigners while he sits and waits.   She was a beautiful girl with vibrant energy and we chatted about our homes and what we like to do.  She told me about her dreams of traveling to Japan as well as America, and I talked about all the beautiful places she should visit in America.  I showed her pictures of home (Thanks FB) and played some American music for her.  I asked her questions about her life and her family, and she told me what it is like to be Vietnamese and how her life has been growing up.  She told me about her younger sister and brother and how hard her parents work to provide.  She tried to teach me some Vietnamese words, which ended in hysterical laughter because lets be real, I sucked.  After we had sat for awhile her father came over and told her it was time to go.  I gave her a huge hug and thanked her for the great conversation.  I told her father how wonderful and special a girl she is.  He grinned from ear to ear with pride.

At my second hostel I made several friends that I sat and hung out with each night drinking beers, listening to music and talking about anything and everything.  The entire group was all from Europe.  I was definitely the outsider but enjoyed it none the less, especially since they all spoke English.   We would take turns doing beer runs and I stayed up far too late with them each night, but I loved their company.   On my last day in Ho Chi Minh, two of my new friends invited me to go with them to a rooftop infinity pool with a bar.  It was located in a giant hotel.   They just walked in like they owned the place and voila we’re at a rooftop bar drinking beer, swimming in an infinity pool and enjoying the beautiful views of the city.   I’m going to start doing this in every big city.  I would have never thought to do such a thing!  Thanks Gracee and Ollie, you’ve changed my world.  Also, can’t forget to tell you how Gracee thought I was in my early 20’s!!  Seriously, what a gem.  And GO ME!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
 
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I have one more thing to share with you about Ho Chi Minh City, and actually goes for all of Vietnam.  Crossing the street is like a live, human game of frogger.  I know you remember the game from the early 1980’s where you have to safely get your frog from one side of a busy street to the other.  This is the best way to explain crossing the street here.  There are very little cross walks with signals, if you do have a signal than it means nothing at all.   What I mean is, if you want to cross the street, you just go.  You just step onto the street and do your best to weave your way through the cars and motorbikes until you reach the other side.   It’s best to set a steady pace and stick with it.  They will stop, slow or go around.  I haven’t been hit yet (knock on wood for me), so I feel like this is solid advice.  I’m not suggesting this, but it would almost be best to shut your eyes and go because the more timid you are, the worse it is.  Stay confident and just go, those are rules to live by!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It was finally time to leave Ho Chi Minh City.  Even though I had been there a week, I still wasn’t ready to leave.  However, I picked my next stop and bought my bus ticket to Mui Ne, a cute little seaside fishing village with some fascinating natural beauty to explore.  While on the bus to Mui Ne I received a message from a WorkAway host about a volunteer opportunity.   Such is my luck.  I guess it just wasn’t time for me to work.

Lotus Flower- Vietnam