Arriving in Ho Chi Minh was an assault on the senses. The bright neon lights, the constant buzz of engines from the millions of motorcycles and the spicy scent of Vietnamese Street eats. I wasn’t immediately smitten. It took a few more days, tasting the celebrated street food and exploring the architectural cacophony of temples, Soviet housing blocks and French-influenced buildings, before I started to feel a romance for Ho Chi Minh.
Arriving to the hostel late due to the excessively long processing of the entry visa, I stealth fully slide into my bunk and got some shuteye. The adventures would begin tomorrow.
The next morning we started our cultural adventure by visiting the Reunification Museum.
This three story ode to the war in Vietnam covered, in chronological order, the events of the Vietnam war. There is also a special exhibition discussing the use of biological warfare, such as Agent Orange, during this time and the long term implications for the Vietnamese people’s health. It was an emotional challenge to read all the stories. The horrific tales and personal accounts of how cruel humans can be to each other left a lasting impression on me. The visual presentation was also deeply influential. Adorning every wall are photographs of the Vietnam war and reunification period. Some pictures taken only days before the subject was killed in action.
It is a strange phenomena you experience when you visit museums. People look at the photographs on the walls but rarely connect in their brain that the subject was a living breathing human. Call it self preservation, but i feel like our brain tells us that it is just a piece of paper and some ink, and not a 2D representation of a living being.
However confronting, it was worth the visit and was a solid foundation to begin my Vietnam Road adventure.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh on foot can be quite a challenge. Beyond being such a large city, crossing the motorcycle-choked roads takes a substantial set of proverbial ‘balls’. In saying this, my new friends had managed to purchase some motorbikes, so we took to the streets to take in some of the sites...and more food!
Now I’m not a foodie but I know what I like. And in the case of Saigon there is delicious food everywhere. One of the leaders in delicious tasting food in Ho Chi Minh is the ‘Lunch Lady’.
Tucked away in a random residential street is one of Vietnam’s most celebrated street eat chefs...the Lunch Lady. We parked our bikes adjacent to the stall and receiving the strange looks you would expect three 6’2” (188cm) blonde haired travellers to get in a local eatery, we sat down in the undersized plastic furniture. Not long had we been sitting there, than plates of delicious food started appearing.
Spring rolls, shrimp pancakes, and big bowls of beef noodle soup. While there is only one daily meal on offer, the Lunch Lady sure did it right!
Once they saw how much pleasure we derived from the food, the apprehensive first impression warmed and despite the language barrier, we managed a brief conversation. We even purchased the Lunch Lady’s recipe book.
Full following the feast of street eats, we made our way to the ‘Pink Church’.
It is a pink church, a very pink church. However, apart from being pink, the Church of the Sacred Hearted Jesus is a strong example of Vietnam’s oldest and significant Roman Catholic Churches. Fully restored in 1890’s, this church was originally built when Vietnam was a part of French Indochina. But mainly, it was pink and surrounded by Chinese tourists in pink dresses, taking selfies. Amused by this, my friends and I couldn’t resist taking a few of our own.
All in all, Ho Chi Minh City was a fun adventure. One I have just had a brief glance at, and one to return to in the future.