Saigon still sounds alot more appropriate to the country. Everything – what little I know from my growing years of the country, seems to be magnified five fold. The added clarity when in an unexplored territory, little understanding and yet taking in all the similiarities that is truly asian, open mind to all things non Singaporean. That said, like what Anthony Bourdain mentioned in his 2nd time in Saigon. There are pieces of the old Vietnam, if one looks hard enough.
I spent 4 hours before my flight just walking. Getting lost in a way but never really. People there don’t seem to have a fear of foreigners as much as I thought, seem to speak english (Once out of the Pham Ngu Lao area). If they don’t, somehow handsigns and expressions makes communication easy too (I barely knew/remembered a word of basic Viet).
Being cheated an Extra 60,000 dong for a cup of street coffee – in return for 10mins of chat and an extra cup of tea (Usually offered free instead of water at streetfood stalls). I guess I paid for abit of extorted friendliness. I will treat it as donation to a group of 3 persons who probably earn peanuts a day..
Meeting 2 men on the street while searching for a real cup of simple chai, whom in return for our exchange in conversation an afternoon talking and free tea. Really nice of them. The young girl in the shop who helped take a photo for us, seemingly un-oriented with new technology – smart phone and digital camera says alot. The rich/poor gap.
The ladies from the beauty shop from the Mekong Delta, all seemingly street smart, keen to practise their english and carving a niche out in the big city.
The security guard who were very amused at me eating my rice roll in hand, while exploring the city. Laughing out loud at me – the foreigner. I have not seen people eating while walking yet.
The group of workers who gathered watching a cock fight. What entertainment – I know about never seen before. A lone female walking past, who probably should be afraid of the large group. Out of curiousity paused and trying to take photos. One of them suddenly noticing me, shooed a few of his friends aside so I can partake in the amusement. Not gambling all of them, just watching.
A group of labourers in an engrossed afternoon game of chinese chess. Another guard smiling at my amusement and curiousity.
Old ladies on the street who gets grouchy if I took a photo for too long, or try take a photo without buying anything.
The street hawker for seafood, whom on my 1st day in Vietnam ran over after we orderd, signing us to hug our pouches tight. And the next time I saw him, all macho and muscly in a singlet and cooking this time (How sexy is that? And filial to family to help?) Something very attractive in that moment. If a business is ran there, it could be like what my mother told me about the past of my grandmother. Everything self runned, progressive and family managed.
I guess that sums up my simple pleasure and little cons of Saigon for now. Too little time to judge. It could be a country I will come back to for sure.That tenacity to survive is deeply felt here. Perhaps the fact that poverty and poor salary. The Viet-American war was just 10years the day I was born. Being only 2hours away from Singapore by plane, it says alot about how we – here in our home country is actually aware about the neighbouring country. Was I too young to understand then or have we really care all that much about others?
Saigon has done well for sure, from what efficiency I noticed and the way people can be – for the better. I think in the travels in SE Asia for now, Vietnam holds the best in sights and taste (food). Never once have I had a meal that wasn’t delicious. Be it a backpacker’s joint, or street stall.
Food can be cheap, public buses seems consistent.
The pavements are well paved with tiles. The roads wide. Prior to ariving, I was told/read about the traffic. it was a breeze. The many bikes/scooters just shuns you as one crosses. The cars honk but ultimately if possible they do the same. Nobody really abides to the traffic lights when crossing – Not that there were many anyway.
Now that I have visited another city, I think.. That in a city where the crime rate is alot higher than Singapore, there should not be fear. Travel with your guts, abit of luck and be wary always. That said, this is just my 2 day impression of Saigon.