Sunday, August 16, 2009

Asia Adventures - Post 12 (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

After a few relaxing days on the Thailand islands, Dana, Olga, and I hoped a flight to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. The people of Vietnam were not used to seeing a group of Western girls traveling alone because we were like C-List celebrities there. All the men working at the customs booths stopped what they were doing and walked over to our line. One woman searching our luggage pulled out something from Olga’s bag. Air port security “what is this?”, Olga “um…a tampon”, then the woman silently puts it back in the bag. While we were getting money from an ATM, a Vietnamese family was watching us and I immediately worried we were about to get robbed. Turned out, they had NEVER seen Western women before.

They are serious about the 3oz liquid limit rule at the airport.

In Vietnam, the transportation of choice is motorbike. EVERYONE rode one. They would cram anything onto the back of a motorbike, packages, furniture, livestock. Hell, we saw a family of five riding on one (there is no limit to what a length of twine can accomplish). The streets also didn’t have stop signs or street lights, so crossing was a game of Frogger. From watching the locals, you just step out and walk across the street at an even pace and let them drive around you. To make it more interesting (because stepping out into traffic isn’t daring enough), they would drive the wrong way on a one way AND on the sidewalk. Imagine this, you are looking out at traffic and take a step back only to get blindsided with a motorbike cruising down the sidewalk with a hog tied to the back.
Here is proof that five people CAN fit on one motorbike.

As opposed to Thailand, NO ONE spoke English in Vietnam. We stopped by a French-Vietnamese bakery and were given the picture menu. Actually, everywhere we went, they always knew to give us the picture menu. Dana pointed at a cheese sandwich and asked what kind of cheese came on it. The waiter smiled, shook his head, held up one finger and said “one”. Dana rephrased her question and the waiter held up two fingers and said “two”. Yeah, he thought she was ordering.

We wandered over to an open air market that the locals must use because the prices were dirt cheap. 32,000 dong was equivalent to $1 US, so seeing prices of 20,000d was jarring at first until we realized it was like a $1.15. We made some coffee guy’s day (week, month, year, etc) when we all bought several bags of rich Vietnamese coffee from him. His wife and two sons all came down to watch us and insisted with giant grins we take a few complimentary bags of lavender tea. Vietnamese coffee is roasted in butter and served with condensed milk (yeah healthy to the max).
Pictures from the open air food market. The saying "like shooting fish in a barrel" comes to mind.

We went to the night market and picked up beautiful large rice paper paintings for 60 cents, t-shirts for $2, lacquer boxes for 80 cents, etc. The night market also had impromptu restraints which consisted of a few outdoor lawn chairs and a hot plate. I tried traditional spring rolls (excellent) and pho bac (chicken soup with slices of pig skin floating in it…not so much). With the attention and exchange rate, I really felt like we were living large. The Vietnamese people do need a lesson on personal space though, because in the crowded markets, they would get your attention by grabbing you. I kept smacking hands and shaking my finger at them “no touch”.

Our first night out on the town, a 40-50ish old drunk American man approached us at the bar GO2. He slurred at us “let me guess, you ladies are from somewhere it ends in land…Poland, Finland, Switzerland…cuz you are definitely not from Ireland. Must be Finland…(we stare blankly at him)…you know why I like talking to white girls here…cuz it reminds me how much I love Asian women!” He then stumbled away and left us all shocked into silence. Later a Vietnamese guy approached Dana and attempted to say something (trying to hit on her we guess). He fumbled with his words , and before Dana could say anything, they guy walked away to another group of Western looking guys. We overhead one of the guys say to the failed suitor “don’t worry, we will work on that”. I guess he was getting coached or something.
At GO2 bar

Saigon Beer...yummm

Sampling the local 333 beer

The wiring in Vietnam is not quite up to code.

I think the signs say, beware of climbing electric poles or sticking your pick axe in the ground.

Dana cutting her meat with chop sticks. Ah ha ha

Enjoying a cool drink out of a coconut.

Eating at Pho 2000 - where Bill Clinton once ate at.


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