Ho Chi Minh City – First Impressions (December 29, 2016)!

by FI Fighter on December 29, 2016

in Travel Updates, Vietnam

Day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City got started bright and early for me! I guess you could say that I’m still not well acclimated to my new environment, as I found myself waking up numerous times throughout the night, and around 5:30 AM, I got up for good yesterday after hearing a bunch of roosters start going off and doing battle with one another…

But when you are a tourist off exploring uncharted territories, it’s all so exciting that you pretty much don’t mind at all…

Yesterday morning, I spent an hour or so blogging while the sun was rising, and I’m at it again this morning writing this post…

Let’s start by recapping Day 2, my first FULL day in Vietnam!

Public Transportation

We got the party started around 11:00 AM, and here’s me getting ready for my first ride on the mean streets of HCMC on a motorbike…

No, I never actually know what I’m doing, but I just try and go with the flow… Unfortunately, sometimes I can’t help but resort to being a “dumb” tourist… 😉

Please forgive me, as someone who had never set foot in Vietnam before, you can certainly say that I was in AWE (and shock) with how the whole public transportation system works around here… Most people get by on motorbike, although there are buses, taxis, etc… No question, though, Vietnam is vastly different from places like Hong Kong or Japan, where travelers rely heavily on the subway…

In Ho Chi Minh City, there are literally motorbikes EVERYWHERE… and they are hitting you from every possible angle, because when it comes to the Rules of the Road… ummm… there aren’t any…

There are essentially only stop lights at major intersections… The streets are shared amongst: motorbikes, cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians, garbage trucks, people pushing garbage, etc…

Traffic comes from all angles, and you just never know when someone is going to emerge right in front of you… Yes, even from the sidewalks, so it’s a lot more complicated than just having to worry about the upcoming intersections… And most definitely, people drive on the wrong side of the road all the time!!!

It’s funny, we passed by one busy intersection and there was a traffic cop trying to direct people where to go… Of course, no one listened, and the only thing this guy could do was blow his whistle… to no avail.

Scared of “breaking the rules” and getting pulled over by the cops?

Not in Vietnam…

As for the noise? Well, it ain’t quiet, that’s for sure… Horns are going off repeatedly, probably every 10-20 seconds or so (on the busier streets)… Coming from HK, this was quite the “culture shock”, as I can recall many, many instances when I’ve been riding on a bus from Tuen Mun to Causeway Bay (over 1 hour travel time), never hearing even a single instance of a car horn going off… Out in Vietnam, people honk their horns (for the most part) more as a courtesy notice (it’s usually just a light tap, not a full court press) to let other drivers know what’s going on…

Anyway, if you’re new to Vietnam, you had just better get used to it, because it ain’t no thang here…

For the locals, I’m sure it’s no sweat… In fact, in many instances, I was observing really young girls, and even the elderly going full throttle on one of these motorbikes without a helmet… No fear at all…

And on some bikes, you’ve got a family of four all riding together (quite amusing to observe for the first time)… Again, even the young kids aren’t wearing helmets…

Quite the sight to behold if you’ve never seen something like this before…

Local Eats

One of the great joys of traveling is getting the opportunity to take in the local cuisine. As a huge fan of Vietnamese food, yup, you could say that I was most anxious to start indulging in some of the local dishes.

Good thing I had a local tour guide to “show me the ropes”, as his first recommendation turned out to be a smash hit.

We visited a very busy (that’s a good sign) restaurant where many of the locals like to dine… I didn’t get the name, but here’s the menu.

I went with an order of Xôi Gà Chà Bông

For 22,000 Dong ($0.97 USD), I experienced what might arguably be the best tasting meal I’ve had since arriving in Asia this past half year… Yes, the shredded chicken and sticky rice was just that damn good!

Who says you need to spend a lot of $$$ to thoroughly enjoy early FI?!?

So much for that myth…

Family Roots

After a quick snack, the next stop was to visit what will without question go down as the most important landmark that I will ever see in my life — The neighborhood and house where my mom and uncles grew up and were raised in.

Here is the entrance into my family’s history…

287/62, my grandma’s “beautiful home”…

So many stories I’ve heard about Vietnam and this place… Seeing it in person for the very first time was surreal, to say the least…

We also made sure to stopby and check out the house where one of my uncles lived…

Local Eats Round 2

After some more sightseeing, it was time for Local Eats Round 2!

To be on the safe side, once again we picked out a restaurant that was more populated…

A nice warm bowl of Hu Tieu… For less than $3 USD

Looks pretty tasty doesn’t it? It was… Unfortunately, this place seems to use quite a bit of MSG… Bummer, because I think it was overkill and completely unnecessary… For the record, no, I don’t do MSG, so I won’t be coming back here…

And in general, I’ve heard lots of horror stories when it comes to eating out in Vietnam… Lots of “fake meat”, dirty/unsanitary working conditions, and well, as I observed for myself, flies/insects everywhere… At one particular banh mi shop, I noticed that the ingredients are placed in bins with no form of shielding whatsoever… So, naturally, the flies (I think I counted 15 or so of them) swarmed all over the meat/produce…

No thanks!

Health is way too important to jeopardize over a “tasty” meal!

So, if you’re visiting Vietnam, I’d say please be extremely mindful of your surroundings and pay extra close attention to what’s going on “behind the scenes”… You can’t just rely on your taste buds! The local tricksters have already figured that one out, and have perfected the art of making spoiled/dirty/contaminated/fake food taste divine…

Buyer beware!

Drinking Water

To take it one step further, I was also advised by my local tour guides to err on the side of caution when it comes to the drinking water… In other words, stick to bottled water, as the tap water can really be hit or miss here… Since I’m a tourist, of course I’m a total noob when it comes to knowing how to pick out the right sources, so to play it safe, I’ve made the conscious decision to just not touch the tap stuff…

What can I say? I really like green tea… So, hopefully I’ll be safe sticking to it and bottled water.

Home Cooking

Continuing on with the topic of health, for the most part, I’m getting the strong impression that the majority of locals prefer to eat at home, whenever they can…

It’s just a lot healthier…

And often times, even more delicious…

Yup, this hit the spot (one of my favorite dishes)…

What a wonderful late-night dinner!

Late Night Bike Riding

Right now, the weather in HCMC is pretty ideal… It’s not too hot and not too humid…

Just right… I was told I got “lucky” with the timing of my visit…

We took to the streets at night, and it was an awesome time circling around the city for a “guided tour” through all the Districts of HCMC…

Yup, the streets are still jam-packed with people, even late at night… But the air was cool so the breeze was totally refreshing…

Coupled that with the bright lights and you could say that I got lost in the moment…

 

Early FI… What life is all about!

 

Tomorrow, we go hunting for my first bowl of pho and some Vietnamese coffee!

 

Can’t wait!

 

Fight On!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ChenNo Gravatar December 29, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Jay, are you flashing gang signs?? 🙂

Wife and I enjoyed our trip to Hanoi and Saigon although Hanoi had a more chill vibe. We were pretty selective of where we ate at and didn’t get sick. Everyone was friendly except a few scammy taxi drivers so I ended up sticking to Uber which was super cheap. Enjoy your time there.

Reply

2 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 24, 2017 at 2:34 am

Chen,

LOL! Just trying my best to fit in with the crowds 😉

Yeah, Uber has been working great for me! Cheaper and the prices are extremely reasonable.

All the best!

Reply

3 Midwestern LandlordNo Gravatar December 30, 2016 at 7:31 am

Jay,

Hope you are having fun experiencing / exploring new adventures. I was going to ask you a question regarding the prevalence of people wearing face masks in the photos but a quick google search answered the question. Lots of reasons, partly cultural as well. Just don’t see that much in the states. I can see where you are coming from on the food angle. That would make me a bit nervous as well.

Have a great new year.

Reply

4 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 24, 2017 at 2:35 am

Midwestern Landlord,

Thanks! Yeah, the pollution and air quality isn’t the greatest here, so to err on the side of caution, I decided to wear a mask when I’m traveling by motorbike, like many of the locals do.

Cheers!

Reply

5 No Nonsense LandlordNo Gravatar December 31, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Vietnam has come a long way since the 1960s… It looks like a great place. It is interesting to see your travels.

Reply

6 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 24, 2017 at 2:36 am

Eric,

Yup, Vietnam has progressed a lot in the last few decades… The cost of living is very affordable for most Americans, so it’s quite easy to live the good life out here.

Take care!

Reply

7 Dividend DiplomatsNo Gravatar January 1, 2017 at 10:34 am

Woah, looks like you are having an amazing trip. Food looks delicious, transportation looks like it is fun/entertaining. I didn’t read articles before the trip, but that is really cool that you are finally tracing back your roots and seeing the origins of your family. One of these days I’m going to go to Europe and see where in Germany my grandparents came from, and hearing stories like this get me motivated to book such a trip.

Keep the updates coming and enjoy your time in Vietnam!

Bert

Reply

8 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 24, 2017 at 2:37 am

Bert,

Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, it was definitely great getting the chance to retrace back the steps to my heritage and see what type of environment my parents grew up in… Truly an unforgettable experience.

Hope you get a chance to visit Germany in the near future! Keep up the great work!

Cheers!

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