MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Vietnam - The Land of Motorbikes and Pho

Vietnam is our first port of call after setting up our "base" in Hong Kong. It's probably also the most significant, since Linh would be revisiting places from her childhood and seeing family and friends for the first time since leaving twenty years ago. We spend three weeks in the land of pho.

I don't think I'll ever forget arriving in Vietnam for the first time in my life. We landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon) today and the impact of a mid-30 degree climate hit me literally as we stepped out of the air conditioned plane.

Linh's father, his wife and daughter met us at the airport and had arranged an air conditioned minibus to transport us straight to his home in Saigon. We're lucky since we benefit immensely from their hospitality during our stay in Vietnam - its always good to know someone local when visiting a foreign country.

The drive from Tan Son Nhat to Linh's father's place would take twenty minutes without traffic, but it takes an hour as we arrive around 5pm during rush hour.

Now as anyone who has been to Saigon will probably know, "traffic" is an understatement. As soon as we left the airport, our comparatively large minibus has to slow down to inch its way through a seething river of motorcyclists, each over-and-under cutting anything and everything.

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Two wheels are king here with relatively few cars and my eyes are wide open not believing how much chaos the road carries. Except I'm guessing, that it just looks chaotic to the untrained eye, and that really, there is a system that all the drivers and riders understand to allow everyone to make some kind of quick progression across the tarmac.

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From my seat in our air conditioned minibus, I'm bemused at how our (large) vehicle can get through the crowds of motorbikes, but actually, the driver just seems to move forward carefully with some kind of sixth sense awareness and the motorbikes just flow around us.

Everyone beeps and flares their horns if only to make sure that everyone around them know they exist. I'm imagining how a road-raging Brit would handle it here. There's apparently alot more accidents on the roads of Vietnam unsurprisingly, but with all the noise (and heat), I didn't once see any angry driver.

Looking to the heavens for some kind of enlightenment brought another thing to my attention. I've never seen so many wires strung above and along all the roads!

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Anyway, we soon got to Linh's father's place in District 5 where we retreated to our air conditioned room for a couple of hours until the cooler evening air (which actually was still just under thirty degrees) made it more comfortable to go out. We visited a buffet restaurant which was a nice idea since we could see and try out a whole pile of unusual dishes and drinks. Lots of seafood on offer as well as desserts of varying consistency and colour!

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After dinner, we took a stroll around some of the streets of Saigon which didn't seem to have slowed down at all, since the cooler climate apparently encourages more people to leave their homes then.

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I was particularly fascinated by the various stalls dotted along all of the roads selling anything from food to toys. What else would make you smile more than a wheeled cluster of Hello Kitty balloons?

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More Ho Chi Minh street scene photos on Flickr...

Oh, and though I mentioned pho in this post title, we didn't have any. I naively thought it would be for sale everywhere!


This entry posted in : Food. Vietnam.

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