Ho Chi Minh (former Saigon) is the economical centre of Vietnam, a metropolitan region of over 10 mio. people. Can you imagine so many people in one place? For me that’s almost impossible. Still, that number explains the thousands of motorbikes you see in the city everyday. It’s like crazy. You may not own a car or you may not be rich, but you will certainly own a motorbike!
The air might not be the cleanest too, no wonder every Vietnamese wears a face mask.
Besides most Vietnamese wear long clothes when they go outside – and that in temperatures of over 30°C! Why? Well simple: fare skin is an ideal of beauty here. Tanned are the people that work outside on the field…
It’s not uncommon to take a siesta after lunch, the heat is just so enormous that nobody really feels like moving (including me).
What I really liked about Ho Chi Minh City is how green it is. There are many parks and trees line the streets. Moreover, the balconies lushly are decorated with plants.
You may try to avoid rush-hour where the traffic moves much slower and where I personally felt a bit more scared than usual that someone may drive into me. Still, over all, I cannot complain about the way people drive motos in Ho Chi Minh City, my expectations here were much worse.
In different categories, I’m going to take you through the city now. By doing so I will cover the colonialistic-influenced District 1, markets, pagodas, the gap between rich and poor, motorbikes, the tea and coffee culture as well as food.
This is the district in which the French colonialists resided. I was totally overwhelmed by its partly Western neo-classical appearance! Have a look for yourself…
Shops and small markets can basically be found everywhere and they also basically sell everything – from food to clothes to household utensils…
Pagodas and temples
Although many Vietnamese do not believe in any religion, pagodas and temples can be found everywhere. I even heard people build temples after spending huge investments in other kind of housing or residential complexes… (a new form of selling of indulgences then?)
Villa district vs. poorer district
In Ho Chi Minh City, 7% of the inhabitants can buy everything, while the remaining 93% can buy nothing. The average population lives on 300 – 400 $ per month, the minimum wage for an assembly-line worker is 150 $. That being said, a place in the kindergarden costs around 250 $ per months and an international school 1000 $ per month. Students who want to start in university have to calculate with around 1500 $ per semester. Education is very important for Vietnamese people, so many people try to raise this money.
There are currently many construction sites for new appartment towers throughout the city. And that while there are 25,000 empty flats in the city..! It is important to mention that these buildings really are only for the upper class, unless you can spend 5000 $ for a small 2-room apartment. These buildings accordingly only seem to serve as prestigious objects (or for money laundering). Billions, even trillions of dollar are invested here for the sake of following the newest trends and for the joy of the super rich. Older apartment buildings are just being torn down.
Of course poor people will have to be expropriated in turn for new projects and are reimbursed with a little amount of money – and that while land is a very precious good in Vietnam. You can build your house and your shop on this piece of land or grow food. Plus, Vietnamese people usually are not interested in renting a place, meaning in paying a monthly rent, when you can own a piece of land!
But how is this supposed to work if there are no social housing projects at the same time? Where shall those people live? Apparently investors are not interested in building apartments for the less fortunate people – well of course! – if you don’t give them an incentive, why should they?
It’s a delight to see what people actually carry on their motorbikes – and the thing is: it works! 😉 So why renting a transporter anyway?!
Coffee and tea culture
It was interesting to learn that many Vietnamese dislike alcohol. Instead cafés, which offer a great variety of coffee and tea, enjoy considerable popularity.
The following pictures where taken from a café house at N°42 Nguyen Hue, Ho Chi Minh City. Every window belongs to another fashion boutique or café here. I recommend coming here!
Thanks to my couchsurfing host Simon and his friends I got re-introduced to bubble tea — and kind of relearned it was not my thing… Still liked the way they make it look! 😃
Saigon is famous for Hot Pot (well, our group of 30 Germans did not like it) and preferred Pho and rice instead.
I can recommend a really authentic restaurant for Pho in the middle of the backpacker district with many local costumers (the picture was taken there):
This was a vegetarian dish, but they got also plenty of meat options in this fancy restaurant:
21 Hàn Thuyên, Bến Nghé, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
To be eaten soon….
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On that note, I wish you all some nice moments and good luck and safety whereever you may be at this moment. I hope you enjoyed the picture sceries and could learn a thing or two…
If you liked the picture sceries, why not leave a comment at the bottom? Plus ‘sharing is caring‘… 💕 Or just jump to the next one about Hanoi.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam yourself? What where your impressions?