In Retrospect: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (The City of Love)


The name City of Love, is a christening I gave to this lovely city, owing to many many reasons. But please let me tell you the story from the beginning. Ho Chi Minh is one of my best homestay experience, so it deserves a proper post.

When we berthed, it didn’t seem like much. I didn’t have high expectations of the country. Most of us were dreading homestay even. I don’t think I can ever explain how nervewrecking homestay matching actually is, especially for me. I hate surprises, and this was nothing short of a blind date.

All of us were very much encouraged to bring backpacks for homestay, instead of the usual rollie pollie ollie overnight luggages. Why? Because about three quarters of the Ho Chi Minh population drives a motorbike.  I was optimistic, hoping maybe we’ll get a taxi, but also feeling rather “mati tah ku ni naik mutubiskal”.

Pont, my Thai "boyfriend"

But before homestay, we do our institutional visits, as part of the country program. On the bus was my Solidarity Group (SG) mates. An SG basically contains a few members from each contingent. Travelling by SG in every country is a safety precaution whereby in case anything happens, whole contingents won’t be wiped out. It’s a lesson learnt from the great and devastating tragedy of 2001.

We were transported to this place I can’t pronounce where we had a mega huge lunch, sponsored by Becamex. I will never forget a place where I almost ate sand while watching a Shakira lookalike belt out her rendition of Gina G’s “Ti Amo”.

Hehe, we all took this in great humour, despite the serious hygiene breaches. After visiting 4 countries, I learnt that sometimes, I need to overlook certain things in order to enjoy the bigger picture. It’s all part of growing, it’s all part of understanding.

Hafis and Sun (girl is one of my very cool cabin mates) who are both from Malaysia

Another bus ride transported us to the weirdest and irrelevant institutional visits. Hehehe. We went to a fishing line assembling factory! And no, we did not get free samples.

Some fishing enthusiasts will recognise the brand name Varivas. I for one, have no idea that it is a well established brand, nor am I the least bit interested in it.

It was, however, very interesting to see how a factory works. So many.. machines.

Kayo, member of Admin in charge of SGB.

Another bus ride took us to the youth centre, for homestay matching! Finally! I learnt that my homestay will be in District 1. Apparently, Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, is divided into District 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. It goes on till District 10 I think. Do Google it up to be sure.

More performances from the local youth. They really like to perform over there. By this time, the Nippon Maru song was sang about 5 times already. Anyway, there I met my host family, and my homestay mate, Meika from Indonesia (IPY).

Meet our handsome Vietnamese… chaffeurs cum translator cum tour guide. On the left is Anh, and the right is Tau. They are really the sweetest! However, *kwang kwang kwang* they drive motorbikes. Thankfully, both Meika and I brought backpacks, as per strong suggestion from SSEAYP admin.

We went home, and that was the first ever motorbike ride of my life. Guess what? I LOVED IT!

We met the other members of the family, and had the loveliest home cooked almost vegetarian somewhat pescitarian dinner! I’ve found that Vietnamese food is deliciously simple, just the way I like it.

After dinner, Meika & I were brought out to tour around the city on motorbike. It was all very romantic. The picture above is taken next to Roberto Cavalli (the boutique, not the person) in front of the nicest Christmas decorations in Ho Chi Minh.

Yellow lights, beautiful French-inspired architecture, and not to mention that there is a lovey dovey overtly PDA couple everywhere we turn. It was all very Parisien.

Many whimsical things around the city. For example, this man stopped in the middle of traffic just to reply to a text message. Hehe.

And here is Zina Restaurant. Hehe. Need I say more?

Next morning, we had a long day ahead of us. Woke up in the morning and went to the roof to take pictures.

Ok is it just me or does the view reminds you of… the movie Rattatouille? Or Aristocats. The morning was very cold. Ho Chi Minh was just overall quite chilly all day, but the morning was quite cold.

We went to the Reunification Palace

… where I discovered that my small Sony camera actually has a black and white function…

… and a sepia function. So I took a lot of artistic-ish shots with my newfound knowledge..

… hehe, or somewhat artistic shots. Here is the cloudy Vietnamese sky…

…and here are some of the MANY PYs that I bumped into while we were at the Reunifiation Palace. Throughout the homestay program, I think I met more than 30 or us.

After the visit, some of us walked all the way across a park to the Notre Dame Church which was just nearby.

Where I continued to abuse and overuse my camera’s black and white function.

We didn’t go inside the Church. I don’t think we were allowed to…

…but there was a wedding photoshoot going on outside of the church.

Then we walked some more, to a famous post office. Meika bought stamps, while I still fiddled around with my camera, taking pictures of silly things.

A lady was selling snacks outside for 200 Dong, and Anh bought us a pack. It was really delicious!

It’s a dessert snack, tasted like honey ice-cream cone wafers. Crunch crunch crunch it goes, pulverized by the power of my chewing jaws.

Went home for another delicious biiiig mega huge lunch after that. Which resulted in us getting all sleepy. Hehee. Took one of the most satisfying afternoon naps in a long while.

Went to a business school Anh and Tau goes to…

… and met students. I think we explained abit on the SSEAYP programme and what we do on board, judging from he things we wrote on the whiteboard. It’s all a blur now.

We spent the rest of the day shopping at Ben Thanh Market, where I only bought a hairclip and earrings.

At night, we went with some other PYs to Acoustic Bar for a little party for Nene from Laos. It was her birthday! Acoustic was a great place as well, we got really nice seats in front.

Then us girls left for a little Arabic shisha, at a place called Warda.Warda is actually featured in The Miele Guide, and rightfully so because it has beautiful interior, great ambience, and serves one of the best Persian Tea ever! The shisha also did not hurt. 🙂

Maurina and Meika with birthday girl Nene. After that we all went home by taxi and called it a night.

Then it was our last day in Vietnam. I was actually feeling kind of sad o leave. Three of us, Meika, Anh and I, slept sooooo late just talking.

After buying fuel and a quick stop at the supermarket, we had our last ever meal in Vietnam.

Funny story here. They actually served chicken! The night before, Anh was looking through my camera, and he saw a chicken dish (atcually duck, but it looked like chicken). Then he assumed that I could eat chicken eventhough they were informed that we could only eat fish and vegetarian meals. Hehe. It was rather awkward telling them that we can’t eat it because it was not halal.

We went to the port by bus, and at the bus station met the rest of the PYs in the same district as us! Here is my darling cabin mate Pori from Japan, with her 1 million dong worth of SNACKS! Hehehe.

After the open ship, we said our goodbyes. Though it was not tearful, I did feel like I left some part of me in Ho Chi Minh city, the city of love.

Good bye Vietnam. I will see you again.

11 thoughts on “In Retrospect: Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (The City of Love)

  1. Thanks LIW! Haven’t heard from you in a while. 🙂 Anyway, Vietnam’s a very nice country to visit.. So many places to go, many things to eat. It really has its own little charm. The Vietnamese in HCM don’t reallly speak English all that well though, so be sure to learn some Vietnamese before setting foot there.


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