Hanging out in the Thu Duc district of Saigon…
My last post had us shopping for veggies and fish. I am sure many of you know that Vietnamese food is pretty delicious, but there is no comparison to eating the real thing, right here in Saigon. Everything is fresher, the spices are spicier, the sauces are more succulent, the fish so moist and tender, even the most sophisticated palate will dance with delight when slurping down the delicious pho soup made from the hands of my hosts, Hoa, and Ha. It was hard for Hoa to finish cooking; I couldn’t stop taste testing the broth she was whipping up on the simple propane burner that was her stove. I would challenge anyone to find a pho soup that tasted better than hers! Filled up on such a delicious lunch, it was time for all of us to beat the heat and take a nap.
The three of us woke up refreshed and ready for a short trip by motorbike to the Thu Duc District. This district is home to the Vietnam National University, the largest university in Vietnam. The university’s website shows that there are approximately 51,000 students currently attending classes there. The university has gone through a couple of different transitions since 1995. The first transition merged nine separate universities together, and then in 2001 these nine were reorganized to it’s current structure of six university buildings, one institute, and one faculty building.
This would be my home, with Ha and her sister Hoan, for the next few days. I couldn’t wait to meet Hoan! While Skyping with Ha over the last several months I had met her sister through the webcam, and she had always been such a breath of fresh air with her cheerful attitude and ready smile. With Japan heavily investing in Vietnam’s infrastructure, Hoan’s room was located in the university village so she could study Japanese in hopes of becoming a translator in the future. This area, the Thu Duc District, is far from the backpacking, tourist area of District 1, but is definitely worth a visit. The university’s market really comes to life at night when all of the students are out of their classes for the day, and Stone Lake, which is near the campuses and the market, is a beautiful lake to take a nice stroll around.
The four of us, Ha, Hoa, Hoan, and I, made our way down to the lake where we were able to watch a couple of photo-shoots. A quick Google search informed me this location was famous for couples to come and have their special day photographed, whether it was for a wedding or an engagement shoot. The four of us watched the lovebirds playing for the camera, and I was even allowed to take a few shots of them from a distance. After watching the two couples for a while we then moved on and decided to take some time sitting near the shore, enjoying the setting sun, and the peaceful evening, while taking in the sounds of the cicadas chirping in the distance.
It was starting to get dark, so we decided we better make our way back toward the university complex. Vietnam, at night, is even more amazing than during the day! With the sun now set, the evening temperature was extremely pleasant. I loved our walk back to the village; it was so peaceful and beautiful, with the full moon sparkling on the leaves of the trees, and the smell of eucalyptus in the air. The four of us laughed and joked all the way back to the village.
Once back, with renewed appetites, we were ready to eat more of the many different, delicious foods that Vietnam has to offer. Ha took us to a small food cart where we started off by eating some savory, crispy, rice paper wraps, filled with all sorts of veggies, and then we finished the night at a small café where the four of us shared a huge bowl of mouthwatering chao ga (chicken congee). Prices here were even less than they were in District 9. That huge bowl of the porridge cost us only about $1.00 USD.
Finally, full from all the great food we had been eating all day, it was time for us to make our way back to Hoan’s room. Hoa would bid us goodbye, and as she took off on her bike back to her home, we waved goodbye. Now it was time to turn off the lights, but I could hardly sleep after having one of the most amazing days of my life! For everyone that read my last post, the finish of the day was just more of the same. More reflection on the things that are truly important to me, and things that we think are but really aren’t. I laid there realizing that a simple life is a much less complicated, less stressful way of life. That our days are numbered, and we only have a certain amount of weeks to live. The older you get, the faster it seems to go, but really, it doesn’t matter how young or old we are, we all need to live them to our fullest! I hope everyone will continue to follow me as I write about my further adventures in Vietnam and Thailand.