(Cover image: Small city of Chau Doc)
This post is long overdue! It’s been 6 months since I was in Vietnam, and it’s a damn shame that I still haven’t posted about it. I’ll make this quick. Just to get it out of the way…
I loved Vietnam. I was only there for 2 nights and 3 days, but I must go back and explore it extensively. I need to see Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hanoi and so many other places! It’s such a beautiful country, with great food, stunning landscapes and a rich history.
People make a place, and I found the Vietnamese to be aggressive business people. They came across to me as more aggressive than Thai and Cambodian people. They are to me, what Kenyans are to East Africa (debatable). At the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC) for example, it’s common to find buyers and vendors haggling. You may even get grabbed by a vendor trying to sell you something! But it’s all so thrilling.
HCMC is formerly known as Saigon. It is the largest city, and former capital city of Vietnam. Like any large city, it is full of crooks. Bag snatching is very common in HCMC and I heard lots of victims’ stories. The population of HCM metropolitan area is around 11 million people, and there are about 6.5 million motorcycles! Would you believe that? The ratio of man to bike is about 2:1! It was total chaos during rush hour. Motorcycles EVERYWHERE, like a swarm of locusts. I nearly got run over. Have you read a poem called ‘On the move’ by Thom Gunn? Here’s an excerpt…
“On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boy,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt–by hiding it, robust–
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.“
That is Vietnam and its motorbikes! They are everywhere, and they don’t necessarily stick to the correct side of the road. From the age of 16, children can get a motorbike license. In fact, highschool fields are hardly used for playing, but rather as motorcycle parking. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in my life. Worse than Uganda. Worse than Kenya. There’s nothing like it.
Vietnam was good to me. I did a village homestay, had lunch at the restaurant that Bill and Chelsea Clinton dined at, tasted jackfruit for the first time, visited a floating market on the Mekong delta, learned to make Vietnamese pancakes, had lots of Vietnamese iced coffee and learned about the country’s history during the war against America. The history of the Viet Cong’s lives in the forest was amazing. Their war against the Americans was a classic playout of brain beats brawn. They built an entire network of underground tunnels, kilometres long, and 3 levels deep, as escape and protection. And they were built incredibly narrow, so that the Americans couldn’t fit in them. They were so smart, the Viet Cong. I can’t describe it. I can’t describe the stories I heard. One would have to visit Cu chi tunnels themselves.
Floating markets are common across S.E. Asia. The one I visited had traders sell from 5am to 10 am, after which it got too hot. They live on the boats for about 3 days or until their produce sells out, then sail upstream to the farms to restock. What a wonderful lifestyle!
During the homestay, one of the locals informed us that they eat snakes, frogs, mice etc. Apparently the Mekong delta has no crocodiles because they ate them all! I’m not sure if that is true, or merely folklore, but I wouldn’t put it beyond them. Crocodile meat is a delicacy after all.
Enjoy the pictures, and do some reading about Vietnamese history!
Love, light and knowledge.