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Travel Diaries: Ho Chi Minh City

Dates: 01/02 – 03/02

The much-awaited trip has arrived, and I find myself in Ho Chi Minh. What can I say about this experience? First off, I was NOT expecting to find a Jurassic Park cockroach in my room. It was the last thing I needed after 25 hours of travelling, with two delays, may I add. Anyway, Google Translate helped as the hostel staff sprayed some flower bug spray (or was it?) and I settled in the room. 

Less than half an hour later, a lioness of a cat ran out from under my bed – gave me the fright of my life. Welcome to south-east Asia!

I was off to a rough start, but it wouldn’t be me otherwise. I was lucky and I managed to sleep at my usual time, so I didn’t suffer from jet lag. I woke up at 07:15, got dressed, and was out by 08:30.

I felt like something familiar for breakfast. I know, I was in Asia, but I was too tired to begin experimenting, so I found a cute little breakfast place about 35 minutes away from the hostel. Getting there was an adventure – there were motorbikes absolutely everywhere. It looked like there was an invasion of helmets and revs that wouldn’t stop. I had been warned about crossing the roads in Ho Chi Minh City, but people tend to exaggerate so I didn’t think it was that bad. 

Oh, how wrong I was to think that. If you want to know why the chicken crossed the road, it was to practise for Olympic extreme sports in Vietnam, as that’s how I crossed the first road. I looked like a chicken trying to escape the endless wheels and horns that were coming my way. 

I made it, and it got easier as I crossed more roads. The Maltese in me thrived as I took over the pedestrian crossings, signalling motorbikes to slow down and stop as I walked across. By the end of the day, I became a master at manoeuvring through the motorbikes and I no longer felt like a scared chicken.

I walked to The Vintage Emporium, which is where I had granola with fresh fruit and Vietnamese coffee. They have their coffee with ice here. Not what I’m used to but I like it, especially in the scorching heat. Reminds me of Malta, it is one of the reasons I left there. I don’t understand how people enjoy this weather – give me cold and snow any day!

From there I started exploring Ho Chi Minh City on foot. My first stop was Book Street, which is every writer’s paradise. The street was full of stalls selling all kinds of books, journals, and postcards. There were even a couple of cafeterias that were nicely decorated with, you guessed it, books. 

From there I found the post office, where I looked through hundreds of stamps and bought my magnet. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t go anywhere without buying a magnet. I left there and kept walking until I found the Independence Palace. I just wanted to look at it from the outside but the security guard told me I needed a ticket. It was only €5 with the guide so I decided to go inside.

I spent about an hour going around, appreciating the beauty of the palace, the simplicity of the maps, and the antiquity of the telephone and communication system. There were two vintage cars close to the exit, a Jeep and a Mercedes. They made me think of a Maltese friend of mine, who loves cars, and his dog who looks so much like my Alpha.

I kept on walking around the city after that. I found a beautiful park with a pond and koi fish. I had only seen those in the slot machines I review. I followed a dog into a Buddhist temple and witnessed Buddhist prayer rituals. It was something I had never seen before, and it amazed me.

My next stop was a Hindu temple. I saw descriptions of all the different Hindu gods and goddesses. What an experience. I really hope to come across more of these temples on my travels. I was careful not to step on their sacred places with my shoes. I wanted to leave a donation but I saw a notice saying it is against the religion to accept payment for visiting, so I had to refrain.

My next stop was the market. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. The market looked like a massive maze with corridors everywhere, each one walled with stalls and just enough space for one person to walk through. I lost count of how many times I was told “Lady handbag for you”, “Lady t-shirt for you”, and “Lady shoes for you”. I wanted to buy trainers, but I was feeling too claustrophobic. Besides, my foot injury requires me to buy quality footwear, so I decided to check out a shopping mall later in the day.

My feet were hurting so I sat down for another coffee, this time at a cool place called COME. The floor was full of pebbles and there were larger stones that formed a pathway to the seating area. I spend a good hour there before continuing with my walk.

I was running out of things to see so I decided to look for a Nike store to buy a pair of trainers. I walked for 38 minutes until I found it. I walked in and the shop assistant followed me around like a puppy dog. He was less than 2 metres away from me, which quite frankly made me rather uncomfortable. So I left and started walking back. I felt disappointed after having walked such a long way, but what could I do? 

So I found another shopping area that was another 40-minute walk away and started making my way towards it. I was about halfway there when it started raining. I spotted another shopping centre and ran inside for shelter. The first thing I saw was a massive cat, a typical Asian symbol for the Lunar New Year. Fun fact: the term ‘Chinese New Year’ is only used in China. This celebration is referred to as the Lunar New Year in the rest of Asia.

I found my animal, the horse, and translated my Chinese zodiac and read that apparently, I’m going to say bye to my single life this year. I laughed as travelling is my priority this year, but you never know! 

I decided to have a look around since I was there and the shop assistants followed me around again. I wrote it down as a cultural thing, but I was still quite annoyed. I didn’t have a handbag so I don’t know how these people expected me to steal something. But anyway.

I sat down at a cafeteria and had a strawberry iced tea. Yum. Caught up on my messages and started making my way to the other shopping centre. I bought a pair of Adidas shoes there and started looking for a place to have dinner. 

I ended up at a restaurant called Chả Cá Đế Vương. It has almost 5,000 positive reviews so I decided to give it a try. I had no idea what anything on the menu was, and the English translations were ‘fish 1’, ‘fish 2’, and ‘fish 3’. I asked the waiter for his recommendation and boy did I enjoy it. The waiter cooked the fish on the table in front of me, something I had never seen before. It was divine.

That led me to my last 38-minute walk back to the hostel. Google Maps took me through alleys with oncoming motorbikes. Between my exhaustion and fear of alleyways, this wasn’t the highlight of my day, but I made it back and checked my smartwatch stats. 36k steps, 25km, and 900 calories burnt. Not too bad for a day’s worth of walking!

I’m not a city girl but I am grateful for this experience in Ho Chi Minh City. Having said that, I’m looking forward to what’s waiting for me in Hoi An. Stay tuned for more!

You can find photos of my walk around Ho Chi Minh on the official Alpha Content Instagram page. Follow @the_life_of_a_creative_writer for more.

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