Welcome to “District 9″…no, not the movie, silly! Saigon/HCMC, Vietnam
I showed everyone this map, courtesy of Cody Leseman, that lays out the many districts of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City in my last blog post, and thought I would share it again so everyone could better understand where District 9 is in relation to the rest of the city, and also how large the district is. Most of my experiences for my two weeks in Vietnam will be centered around this district, and District 1, also known as the “Backpackers district.” I will also be sharing my experiences with another region in Vietnam in later posts, but for now, back to District 9!
If you’ve been reading my posts, I’ve been referring to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City as “Saigon.” Many of the locals will call it by the same name when referring to Ho Chi Minh City in an informal manner. In addition, when using Saigon, typically people are referring to the 19 urban/suburban districts, not the outlying five rural districts. When talking about all 24 districts (this map only shows the 19 urban districts), the entire area is called Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC for short. There’s obviously a LOT of history that goes with this city, and here is a fairly short synopsis of HCMC provided by Wikipedia. You can find out a lot more from this link about the different names, and how each name evolved, but after the communist takeover in 1975, it was renamed in honor of North Vietnam’s first leader, Ho Chi Minh.
Okay…so, I had that CRAZY, unbelievable, awesome motorbike ride all the way from the airport to District 9 on the back of Hoa’s bike. I thought I would re-post my photo just to remind everyone how wild the streets get with all those motorbikes! As I said before, it’s pretty damn exhilarating riding around in all that chaos.
I was really excited to stay with Ha, Hoa, and Hoa’s brother, and see what it was like to live in a more traditional setting than my last trip to the city. I spent my first night learning how to get comfortable sleeping on the floor with a bamboo mat, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as you might imagine. I tossed and turned a bit, but finally was able to get comfortable, and enjoyed a pretty good night’s sleep. Now it was time to wake up, walk around the area and soak up some of the culture and social life of urban HCMC. Talking to Ha over the last year on Skype and Facebook, I was convinced my time in Vietnam would be something I would always treasure. I was so excited to begin the adventure, and start photographing all of our escapades during the next two weeks for her tour guide business. I knew she wouldn’t disappoint me in where we would go and what we would do.
I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Vietnam is the world’s number two exporter of coffee, second only to Brazil, so one of our first stops would be to a coffee shop! I am not much of a coffee drinker myself, but I was open to trying some new types of drinks, and this was definitely the country to do that…there are a lot of delicious things I could try with my coffee such as chocolate, condensed milk, or maybe some fresh coconut milk.
The coffee shops also serve many other delicious drinks, like the avocado drink I decided to order at this location. If you have never had an avocado smoothie, they are absolutely, mouthwateringly, delicious! I don’t know, for the longest time an avocado smoothie was just something I couldn’t quite wrap my taste buds around, but then after trying one for the first time several years ago, it is now one of my very favorite types of smoothie drinks! To go along with whatever drink you order, you will always be offered a complimentary iced tea, as you can see on our table in the photo.
It’s hard to go wrong here, in the land of coffee, if you don’t like your drink you are only out about .50 to .75 cents! For that price, I couldn’t pass up a second avocado shake. Ha and Hoa joined me with a second drink of their own, and the three of us passed away a good part of the morning hanging out with the owner and sharing stories about our lives.
Next up was a stroll around the surrounding neighborhood for some authentically flavorful, savory Pho Bo, or pho beef soup. There is nothing better than eating pho soup in a small street-side café in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
It doesn’t matter whether it is beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood…just pick a protein, or go vegetarian, and I can assure you that the pho soup is going to be out of this world delicious…and again, it’s only going to be costing you something like a dollar, maybe $1.50 to $1.75 on the street, for a LARGE bowl. Don’t worry about eating the street food, it’s actually very safe, and tastes much better than most of the fancy restaurants you will eat in. Ask pretty much any traveler or local about street food, and they will tell you the same, nothing beats it! Just take a few precautions, look for things like how the food is being prepared, etc., and you will be just fine!
What a great way to start my two weeks in and around Vietnam…I can’t wait to continue to share more stories, along with more of the savory cuisine I will be trying, and the fun-filled tours Ha will be taking me on. I do hope everyone will continue reading about my adventures, and I hope some of you will actually take the plunge, and make a journey to the other side of the world, as I have. I can almost promise you will never regret it!