Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The month away (part 5)

I will dedicate the next three posts to my Vietnamese trip to Ho Chi Minh City. The words that best describe the city would be pandemonic (traffic-wise), dirty (dust-wise) and expensive (everything-wise!). To be able to cross the road without your heart jumping out of its cavity would be sheer luxury and to spot a traffic light would be equivalent to finding gold in a trash can. The number of motorbikes and scooters were just phenomenal and this rhythmic and structured chaos itself could very well be one of the wonders of the world!

Also, for such an under-developed country with such an under-developed tourist industry, to be charging everyone in US dollars is just insane! At a tourist trap shop, I found a 2-kg bag of roasted cashew nuts selling at US$24! Too bad I forgot to take a picture of that. Well, I did take a lot of other pictures that are just as eye-opening so enjoy these shots fresh from the picture book of my Vietnam travels.

Structured Chaos

There are a lot of such Vietnamese shop names that will appear funny to English speakers. I also saw one called “Hung Kim” but I was on a cab then and didn’t manage to take a picture of it in time.

I first saw this picture in a pho restaurant in Melbourne and was feeling a tad strange that a US president would go all the way to Australia to eat Vietnamese food. I finally realised in this trip that that was the Melbourne branch and here I was at the HQ—in Vietnam!

The spread of the Singapore brand. Given how poor the country is, the very highly-priced NUM clothes (even in Vietnam) would certainly be out of a lot of the locals’ reach. No wonder the shop was totally deserted that night. It makes you wonder who the target consumer group is…

An outright safety-violation according to Australian standards but when the combination of efficiency and poverty rules the day, safety is always the first thing out the window.

These were items on sale in Ho Chi Minh City’s version of Sydney’s Paddy’s Market called Ben Thanh Market. Top left: fresh lotus pods (I have never seen them sold like that before). Top right: I would assume those were pig hearts (if someone told me they were human hearts, I would believe him—they were just the right size!). Bottom left: The liquid bottled with the arachnids was not tea (Duh! Misleading signs though). Bottom right: There’s nothing special with these longans except if you compare the size of one with the man’s hand, you will see that these longans were huge!

I bought this bag at Ben Thanh Market as I promised my mum I would bring something back for her and she wanted only bags (and I bought two for her). She really loved this when I showed it to her, which always makes me happy knowing that something I bought would be put to good use by someone else.

We were at this café specially- and favourably-mentioned in Lonely Planet but were sorely disappointed at the variety of ice-cream and the cleanliness of the water served. We have had so many instances when Lonely Planet recommended sucky food places. You know why? The Vietnamese edition of that book was written by darn Caucasians! So next time you read Lonely Planet, be sure to also check whether or not there are some local writers included (it is like judging the quality of an Asian restaurant by the ethnicity of the clientele).

Slices of Aussie life in Vietnam. Don’t you find the last line of the travel ad a little curious? What makes an “Aussie Tour” Aussie in Vietnam?

This is the right-smack-in-the-city-centre park a la Central Park in Manhattan and Hyde Park in London except the weather is stinking hot and humid. Throughout the day you would see lots of people (more so than say in Singapore) in various recreational activities utilising the park to the fullest. I think this is one of the characteristics of a poor country—you don’t need to pay to use a park.

Talk about good service—tourists being given foot massages while ordering food at a restaurant.

The messy wire phenomenon again—another characteristic of a developing country. Again, I cannot criticise this because there were Wi-Fi hotspots everywhere we went to in Ho Chi Minh City which makes yet another third-world country better-wired than first-world Australia.

Animal encounter #1—Though gentle, the size of this beast (water buffalo) still scared me a little.

The best way to cool down in this numbing heat is to jump into the river—whole-family style. I would do so too if I lived there!

The video below shows the famous water puppet show. If there are no rules regarding flash photography and video-taking, you can be sure that people will do it. For a second we did wonder how the puppets were controlled but gave up after a while because we knew it would be revealed at the end of the song and it indeed was. There was really nothing else to shout about except for the respite we got from the heat in the air-conditioned theatre.

In the following clip you can listen to some traditional Vietnamese folk-singing. There were three singers that afternoon but I thought this one had the most authentic voice. I also liked the musical instrument used—the one with a single metallic string with tautness adjusted for pitch-variance using a flexible rod. What is the name of that instrument I wonder?

Stay tuned for more Ho Chin Minh City!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this !