Thursday, November 4, 2010

Surviving 'Nam

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on November 3rd.  Upon arrival, I was nervous to spend another week in a third world country.  However, Vietnam is quite developed and everyone is extremely friendly.  There is a shuttle to drive us from the ship to the Rex Hotel located downtown and everything is walking distance from there.  Downtown there is a Burberry store which opened yesterday and Zadia & I went in on opening day and I discovered it was part of a larger mall with Chloe & Marc Jacobs.  The boulevard is lined with trees and I felt that I was not in an impoverished nation until I began walk three blocks to the Ben Than Market.

The Ben Than Market is massive and is where the locals shop.  There is a giant fish & food market along with clothes and bags: the North Face factory is in Vietnam and bookbags are $10 while the large duffels are $20.  They come in all colors and sizes.  I even haggled for shampoo & water: something I had not experienced before but it was enjoyable because the retail price was already reasonable.  The exchange rate is quite an difficult because $1USD = 20,000 Dong.  I found the most amazing coffee chain: Highlands Coffee, basically the same font and interior as Seattle's Best and English bands play as I watch motorcycles fill the streets.  I had a delicious mint chocolate milkshake and since I have been here daily, I am a regular and the waitress Tram & I just exchanged emails.  Vietnamese are so friendly and hospitable.

Pho (pronounced faa) is a typical Vietnamese noodle dish and very popular because there are varieties of humorous t-shirts, my favourite being iPho and pictures of cattle, noodles, and the bowl underneath.  Another cheap item at the market are the complete series of every TV show: Will & Grace, 24, Sex & the City, Friends, etc. for only $15.  Movies are only 50 cents and they work: I watched Time Traveler's Wife last night and had no issues.

Afterward, I went to the War Remnants Museum.  It was eye-opening to see the opposing side of the Vietnam War and their opposition to the American invasion and being anti-nationalism.  Agent Orange was a gas mass-sprayed over the entire country and third-generation children are being born deformed.  The ramifications are evident after 35 years, yet the country is pretty well developed and the people are extremely welcoming to Americans.

The first night I, along with 8 friends, went to Blue Cafe and found the strongest, most reasonably priced beverages.  Long Island's were $2 and I ordered Tequila Pop which ended up being 3 shots of Tequila.  Aveni ordered one too so we just laughed at the lack of 'pop' and took the shots at once.  Afterwards, we went to Club (literally the name of club) where the welcomed our group and gave us a nice table but messed up our drink order (even there the drinks were only $5 and Vietnamese alcohol is surprisingly stronger than in the US and they sell hard liquor at the market as well, unlike Singapore where I only found it at 7-11s).  We danced for a while before heading to the SAS hangout spot for the night: Apocolyse Now.  Overall the nightlife is vivid, especially on a Wednesday.

Ben Than Market

War Remnants Museum

Coconut Milk Vendor

Aveni & I & our Tequila <3

The Beautiful MV Explorer

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