Motorbikes surround us on all sides, pushing and weaving their way up the ever-flowing congregations of traffic. Parents calmly hold their toddlers on their laps as other motorists pass mere centimetres away from their motorbikes. Horns blare, engines rumble and I inhale deeply through my unmasked nostrils, breathing in the air of Ho Chi Minh city; a city I struggled to digest when I first laid eyes on it.
My first experience of Ho Chi Minh city (other than the hour wait for my luggage) was in the traffic, on the way to the hotel. Luckily, we had a car to transport us, and hence we were surrounded on all sides by a layer of metal. For the first few minutes all of my warning bells were flashing as we navigated the busy roads, forcing our way through the bikes and other cars lining the area. Our driver didn’t give way, he didn’t hesitate to blast the horn and he had little regard for traffic lights. My sweaty hands gripped my knees as my westernised instincts adapted to the new culture.
Once I overcame the initial shock of the city, I could relax and look more intently at my surroundings. What I saw was both shocking and surprising. The shops on the side of the road, selling various bits and pieces, the tangled wires running between the houses and telegraph poles, and the people! The people, who accumulated everywhere I looked. Some had fallen on tough times, others were tourists and many were locals on their motorbikes. It was just incredible.
I quickly learnt that the safest way to navigate the city was by car. Attempting to cross the road as a pedestrian was a daunting experience, considering the traffic would not stop for me, even if I were crossing at the pedestrian crossing. The shopping at Saigon Centre was fun and exciting, as I purchased a few shirts and jumpers from the clustered stores inside. Just a couple of hours out of the bustling city are the Cu Chi tunnels- remnants of the Vietnam War. I was able to navigate some of the tight tunnels and taste some of the food grown in the area. It was another eye-opening experience.
Ho Chi Minh city has to be one of the most unusual cities I’ve ever visited. It was a rewarding experience, even if the busy lifestyle took some getting used to. To anyone thinking of travelling there, I’d recommend venturing outside the city centre, because the culture and history was by far the most rewarding part of my time there.
Any questions/advice, feel free to ask.