Ho Chi Minh: Part 1

14 April 2014

Sài Gòn

I wasn't really sure what to expect, but one thing I didn't consider, despite all my research, was the weather - it was hot! Another challenge was the traffic. Motorcycles outnumber cars in this city and there aren't that many traffic lights, so crossing the street was a daily adventure.

The place itself reminded me of provincial cities in the Philippines - small stores, narrow streets and very few skyscrapers. On one hand, it gave me this feeling that a wonderful shop could be lurking just around the corner. On the other, I would have preferred that everything be grouped into one area as it wasn't a picnic walking under the scorching sun.

We were based in District 1 and there were hardly any malls. The ones that do exist are high end with very few shoppers. We also tried to find a supermarket comparable to what we're used to, but that too was not easy. The handful we found were small, had dim lighting and mostly empty shelves. Abigail and I were starting to get discouraged. We wanted to go shopping, but since most of what they sold is also available in Manila, we were pinning our hopes on supermarket finds.

When I'm in a foreign country, one of the first things I look for is a grocery store. To me, it's like a treasure trove of things that you can't find at home. Luckily, we finally found Siêu Thị Tax (Tax Supermarket) the day before we left.

I was able to buy coconut candy (VND 13,500) that turned out to be quite chewy, sugared lotus seeds (VND 29,500) and watermelon seed candy (VND 20,300). Of the three, I loved the sugared lotus seeds as they reminded me of the sweet beans from my childhood.

There was one thing the grocery stores all had in common - lockers located at the entrance. At the Tax Supermarket, we were not allowed to bring our bags into the store, just our wallets. I didn't understand this at first until the electricity died on us thrice in less than an hour - and the security guards came running down each aisle with flashlights pointed at the shoppers.

It also took some time to get used to large bills and no small change. For example, if your you're supposed to get VND 13,500 back, they will not give the VND 500 as they kept telling me that it's worthless. To me it's not - you'll never get to a million without that one cent - you'll only have 999,999.99. Also, since they keep skipping out on the change, it adds up to a figure that is worth something.

What I did like was that their restaurants and cafés had character - at least the ones we went to. I don't remember seeing so many nicely decorated venues in other places I've visited. I think it was due to the bricks - they were all decorated with brick walls which exuded a feeling of warmth thus making things seem quite cosy.

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater

Based on what I've read, water puppets have been the traditional form of entertainment since the 11th century, so of course Abbie and I had to see it for ourselves.

The puppets are controlled from beneath the water - how I couldn't figure out, and everything is in Vietnamese.

The theater is in dire need of updating and I'm thinking that they should be able to afford it. We went during the second showing on a weeknight and the place was packed. The earlier show also had huge tour buses parked outside.

For me, this is good to experience at least once.


Linking up with Postcards from Rachel.


Julie Arthur said...

Here in Brazil they don't give exact change, either. They round up or down. It's so annoying! Also they get mad if try to pay with larger bills... the stores never have enough change in their cash registers... I think it's very strange!
- Julie // alonewithmytea.blogspot.com

Nicole said...

Julie, annoying is right and strange is a nice way of putting it =)