Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our Days in Ho Chi Minh City

So we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at about 12:35AM-ish local time without too much trouble traveling from Hong Kong. Our biggest problem was that there was  no one to really show us what to do after getting off of the plane, so when we saw some other foreign-looking people around a station we figured that was the way to go. It ended up being the visa station and a little bit of paperwork and $100USD later we were allowed through security with our temporary traveler's visas. Crazy, crazy stuff. Thomas, the department head over all of Vietnam design (and one of the only other Americans here) was kind enough to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. It was hot and sticky even at that hour of the morning but we got to the hotel just fine with plans to meet Thomas for breakfast later on. What we weren't prepared for was this:
Welcome to our 10X10ft Sparkling Princess Cave. I (Risa) admit it, once we were in our room and the helper guys had left, I totally broke down and cried for awhile. It was a bit too much for me to take in after traveling for about 24hrs straight. All I can say is at least it had good cable - I was even able to watch some Phineas and Ferb on the crazy Asian Disney channel with strange shows set all over Asia. 

 In the morning I was feeling a little better and we had a relatively normal breakfast with Thomas at a French bakery nearby. Then we ventured out to the local market - which happened to be one of the biggest ones in town. It was the rainy season there in HCMC, thus the need for full body tarps to keep you dry. We've never seen so much rain before; Michael says that in Missouri it would rain like that for a little while, but definitely not all day like it did sometimes in HCMC. The market was fun but crazy and overwhelming with so many people, things, and smells. Just behind me in the photo is the meat area, the next day when we came there were all sorts of things from intestines to animal brains available, yum yum!
 This is a photo of some of our favorite fruit so far. The good thing about HCMC downtown is that there were vendors everywhere so you never had to go really far to find something to eat or drink. We bought some fruit for breakfast and lunch every day. The spiky looking red fruit is called Rambutan - shout out to my friend Loli for telling me about it in the states (love you Loli!) and the one on the left is called Mangosteen. Inside the 1/4inch purple-black peel are some awesomely sweet white segments of fruit. They look like tangerine segments kind of but they aren't so stuck together. The fruit here is much sweeter than back home, but it is really really yummy.
Our first meals in Vietnam ended up ok actually, though maybe a bit more expensive than we were planning on at first as we ate in a restaurant instead of a small shop. Michael went out to eat first as I was falling asleep by 5pm, and he got a seafood soup that he really really loved. He said it was awesome except for the small pieces of shell you had to watch for. I had a bowl of Phu (pronounced fuh), the traditional soup dish here that has a broth base, rice noodles, some veggies like onions mostly, and some meat. I didn't eat a lot of the meat but it was really good soup, just what I needed to relax my nerves.
 This is a statue in the middle of a huge roundabout on the other side of the market, we should have taken a picture of the streets because it really was death-defying trying to cross. For those of you who aren't aware, street lines are kind of just for looks here in Vietnam and there aren't many stop signs, and with the large population of drivers it can get really crazy. On Friday we were going to take the bus to the Gameloft offices in HCMC to meet Thomas and the other managers for lunch, it was quite the journey trying to figure out how to navigate the bus system but we made it just fine.
 Here is the interior of a Vietnamese bus. The good thing about the bus is that it only costs like $7000VND, less than $.50USD, and they are everywhere in HCMC. Through hand signs and landmarks we were able to communicate with the lady who handled tickets on the bus and she helped us find our way just fine, though I was a bit nervous. After calling Thomas like 4 times about where we needed to go after the bus we realized we were just across the street from him, but it all went well in the end and Michael got to meet the managers at the two offices in HCMC. They took us to lunch which was an adventure - a little shop full of people with little metal tables and stools. The hardest thing for me (R) is that there was food and garbage all over the floor, something I've heard is common in Vietnam but it was quite intense for our 2nd day in country. Lunch was some rice with some pickled vegetables and either chicken or other meats by request. It was okay but my stomach still had disagreements with my choice to try and eat meat again, plus Thomas told us they cut meat differently than we are used to so there are a lot more bones in the meat and you have to be a bit careful. None of them could believe we didn't drink any coffee, alcohol, or tea, it was quite the surprise for them as they are fairly standard practice here (and probably everywhere outside of UT I'd imagine). After some hot (and cold) chocolates while the other guys drank coffee we headed back to the hotel for our crazy motorbike tour Michael arranged with some guy he met at the restaurant the night before, but that is another story.
It may be hot and muggy in the city but one of my favorite things was the fresh coconut water you could get at any of the vendors on the street. They just used a giant knife to cut a little off of the top for you and they they pop in a straw and voila! The best drink for a hot day anywhere, especially when they were nice and cold. Coconut water is full of electrolytes so it's especially good when you are sweating through 2-3 layers of clothes, like we were (honestly I don't understand how the pioneers made it with petticoats, dresses, and g's). So good!

1 comment:

Tabitha said...

I wondered what it was Mike was drinking in your photos - now I know it was coconut! I'm so glad you've written this stuff down in the blog - so many details it's so fun to hear about!