October 14, 2013

Day 5 Vietnam – Saigon

First impressions – landed in the city on Thursday evening, already dark outside and hot in the airport! Very busy, lots of people in and around the airport, once in the cab, roads are busy, endless motorbikes, with a few cars and buses.

Transport – I’ve seen motorbikes carry anything and everything possible, provided it can stay on the bike! Speed is not key on the road, what is important is to keep moving! The bigger the vehicle, the more road power they have but again no sudden braking.  People are at the bottom of the food chain, pavements are scarce so when walking on the roads, it’s good to be mindfull of what’s behind you and not just what is coming straight at you! Buses are good but again you jump on and off whilst it is still moving.  The constant beeping is something else that never stops! I’ve seen no road rage but plenty of motorbikes weave through the traffic.

Weather – It’s hot, humid and the air is mosit.  At this time of year, it’s the rainy season here and boy does it rain – I will never complain about rain in London again! Here it rains cats and dogs and then some.  It doesn’t hail but the downpours can last for hours.  As a result, the other day, we saw roads flooded and whilst cars/motorbikes struggle to drive through, we had to walk through it! I didn’t pack wellies but I’m sure that they too would not do the trick. The key is to be prepared but not much can be done when roads are flooded and you’re only half way to the hostel!

Down pour in the streets of Saigon

Down pour in the streets of Saigon

Flooded streets of Saigon

Flooded streets of Saigon

Insects – Before setting off, I was informed about many things such as; ensuring my vaccinations were up-to-date, that I had maleria tablets and that I had taken rabies jab.  What someone failed to mention was the amazing set of creepy crawlies! I’ve been welcomed by more then 3 cockcroaches here and check this here, they are 10 times bigger and they fly!! You then have the regular lizards, ants, spiders – oh it’s delightful! I’ve yet to see the rats and mice!

Volunteering – I started my volunteering today at Shelter 8, teaching English to 9-15 year old boys.  Now whilst I’m a native born and my English is good, I’ve never taught English so for me this was a first! Have to say that it was enjoyable but also a little challenging, trying to ensure all students are engaged.

Culture – Whilst I’m Asian, I’m an Indian and from my experience so far, this city doesn’t have many of us Indians here yet!  Aside from the staring and people talking to you, I had one guy randomly stand next to me and had his friend took a picture!

Food – People here love food, only trouble is being vegetarian! It’s not impossible, just hard and the question often asked is not why am I a vegetarian but am I on a diet! Tofu and vegetables are plentiful here which is great and rice of course!

Fried rice in a pineapple, one of the many amazing vegetarian options in Saigon

Fried rice in a pineapple, one of the many amazing vegetarian options in Saigon

Thoughts so far – this city definitely reminds me of London – the busyness on the streets and sense of urgency to get to places! It also seems to be a city that never really sleeps.  At the same time, roads remind me of India- the sheer craziness and managed chaos is remarkable!

The main backpacker street in Saigon, photographed from a roof top bar

The main backpacker street in Saigon, photographed from a roof top bar