Thursday, 31 December 2015

Ho Chi Minh, Diamond of the Far East - 17-23 Dec

Posted by Xian Jin

I had a very memorable trip to Vietnam recently. It really was an eye-opening trip, because the life and culture there was totally different from Malaysia. Despite staying there for only 7 days, we took the opportunity to uncover this city as much as we could, to blend in with the lifestyle of the people who, only a few decades back, had gone through terrible sufferings of war.

I could see that the Vietnamese loved being outdoors, and I liked how they can always be found in groups scattered around parks or in shops just to chitchat or play some games. Unfortunately, this is something uncommon in Malaysia. 

Even at night, people crowd around in squares to watch musical performances, a mini-football game or to just gather around and chitchat.

Ho Chi Minh is known for having rows and rows of shops selling the same things, be it guitars, sports equipment or shoes. I enjoyed visiting these shops, as I could join in with them or even just watch them.


To be honest, I didn't know much about the Vietnam War before this trip. All that I knew were just facts which anyone could look up in Wikipedia. When I visited the galleries, museums and even watching the people's daily lifestyle, I began to see the War in a different point of view. I could see how much the war has impacted their lives, to make them who they are now. I was horrified after reading about the things they had to go through, like the hazardous Agent Orange. 

"A death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic"

Despite the historical tragedy, the Vietnamese are very forgiving and kind people. They may be shy, but they are actually really friendly.

The war had affected their attitude, their behaviour, and even their food! As delicious as their traditional dishes are, they are just made with simple ingredients, like the famous beef noodle soup - ph and spring rolls. Due to the French colonization for 100 years, the French have influenced Vietnamese food too, bringing in the baguette. If you travel to the outskirts of Vietnam, you can try some exotic food, like the elephant ear fish. Be sure to try the coconut candy too!

You can't say you've been to Vietnam if you haven't cross a single road there! The traffic is crazy, with motorbikes and cars coming towards you from different directions. But if you want to wait till all is clear, you would still be waiting when the cows come home. Just cross the road, and watch the motorbikes swim around you like fish. It was a whole new experience! Crossing roads now in Malaysia is a piece of cake!! 

We visited other places, like the Ben Thanh market, the Notre Dame cathedral, War Remnants Museum, Saigon Central Post Office, art galleries and even the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh. It was like a whole new world, so remarkably different from the other countries I've been to. Sadly, this would probably be the last time I see Vietnam as it is today. Already, you can see subway stations being constructed and skyscrapers filling the landscapes. I am really thankful for the opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh, before this rapid change is complete.

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