Today I went for a border run to Cambodia because I’ve been in Vietnam for three months now, so I thought it would be a good time to do a bit of a life update (I may try to do one every month from now on, like I did when I was living in Bordeaux).
Firstly, I can’t believe I’ve been here for three months already; it feels like 3 weeks and 3 years all at once. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of experiences that I’ve learned from – so many that I can’t even begin to mention them in this blog post.
Ho Chi Minh City is a very unique city. The first few days I was completely overwhelmed by the traffic and just everything about it felt so chaotic. Now, three months down the line, I feel so safe and relaxed (most of the time), and I enjoy living here more with the more time I spend here.
I have changed my mind a lot about the city over the last few months, and some weeks all I want to do is leave, and others I want to start a new business here and set up shop. My love and hatred for this city go hand in hand and sometimes it becomes a bit unbearable. I dislike living here mainly due to the pollution, air and noise, which is practically unescapable from anywhere in the city. There’s times at 3am when I get extremely pissed off at the karaoke blasting down the river into the room when I’m trying to sleep and working the next day.
I definitely don’t see myself living here permanently by any means, but there are a lot of things I love and will miss when I leave; the café culture, the amazingly friendly people, the variety of bookstores, the weather, driving my bike around the manic traffic, the sunset, the pho…! There also seems to be so much going on all the time; wherever you walk there seems to be some sort of market or event which I absolutely love.
One thing Liv and I absolutely love to do is go and sit at Bili, a coffee shop next to our flat. We have a pretty great location for living as it’s right on the canal, and it’s usually very peaceful and airy. At least several times a week, we’ll go and sit at Bili and have the best peach tea in the world.
It’s a great space for just chilling and people watching. The canal that our flat (and Bili) sit on is the prime spot for people exercising. In parks or green spaces all over the city, there are these weird exercise machines that people absolutely love to use.
Another thing I love to do is just drive around the city. Ever since I started to rent my beautiful bike (her name is Minh – a Vietnamese name), I’ve felt so much freer to explore the city and I’ve been much happier. Having the freedom of not just eating at restaurants very nearby the flat, or walking in 30 degree heat for 40 minutes has made me experience a lot of different parts to the city I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see.
An amazing experience I got from having the bike was riding to Binh Quoi Tourist Village, which had surprisingly little Western tourists, which was nice. It was Liv’s idea to go, and I had no idea we were going, so it was a wonderful surprise. It’s a beautiful area of HCMC that hasn’t yet been built on because the government plan to do something with it, so they’ve made a very green and fresh area that’s meant to replicate the Mekong Delta, a famous agricultural area of Vietnam. It was so nice to be surrounded by nature and have some fresh air for once.
What’s also amazing about riding around the city on the bike is the sights you see along the way. Absolutely anything goes on the roads here and you can see the most random things – dogs chilling perked on bikes with sunglasses on, people carrying 6ft ladders on a tiny motorcycle, people taking god knows what out of vans into buildings/shops/homes/side streets. I’ve had a business idea to start a website with photos of all the random crap people take on their motorbikes, because it’s usually very impressive to be honest.
One thing that is really special about living here is the people. They are extremely friendly and helpful people, and have such a nice spirit in them that makes me love Vietnam. What I particularly love about them is their entrepreneurial side; I had no idea how many businesses there could possibly be until I came here. There are stores for EVERYTHING and you will see people selling absolutely everything or offering services for the most random things on the streets. There are mannequin stores, office chair stores, stores with one specific book genre, or men putting shoulder poles on people’s shoulders for photos to get a few extra quid.
One thing I haven’t managed to do much of yet is travel the rest of the country. I’ve travelled to two different cities in Vietnam, Da Lat and Vung Tau, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s such a diverse country full of all different types of landscapes and experiences. I have so much more to do whilst I’m here! Sadly, however, working and saving money is the priority at the moment – so that I can travel loads later on!
All in all, it’s been a pretty amazing three months, and I’ve seen and done so much I never imagined I’d do. I never, ever thought I’d get a motorcycle, never mind in Asia, but here I am, absolutely loving motorcycling to work every day! There are definitely (a lot of) days when I want to leave and the city gets a bit much, but I suppose it’s all part of HCMC life.
À bientôt !