Eating my way through Saigon

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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City
June 15th 2009
Published: June 13th 2009
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Any money earmarked for museums and tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh went to eating instead. Not out of any sense of traveller poverty but because I could eat, and eat well. I delighted in eating breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snacking, and dinner. There is a wide variety of food choices - ranging from the plastic chair street food stalls, french-influenced bakeries and western-style restaurants favoured by ex-pats. The time in between eating could easily be filled by sipping a cool Vietnamese iced coffee while watching the world pass by (incidentally, they taste just like Tim Horton's iced cappucinos but use all real ingredients!).

It has also been great relaxing with Kevin & Lori - a couple originally from Calgary but now living and working in Vietnam. They may have sold me on the working abroad idea and its certainly something to consider a few years down the road. Hanging out with them also gave me the chance to play up local stereotypes. Last night at a Chinese restaurant, it was being mistaken as the young Vietnamese girlfriend of a Caucasian ex-pat. Today, it was the assumption I was the young nanny to the foreign western couple. It was amusing and I got free dinner and iced coffee out of the deal.

Local Observations:
There is a scooter for every man, woman and child in Vietnam. If the scooter wasn't fast enough for you, the country has recently allowed the import of high performance motorcycles. However, you may want to budget a higher tire allowance as the treads seem to melt off quickly in the heat.

If you have a western baby suffering from self-esteem issues at home, bring him to Vietnam. He'll be fawned over by all the locals eager to touch & pinch him like the semi-god that he should be. You may want to bring some wet wipes for the occasion as you're not sure where those hands have been.

The last name Nguyen is very popular in Vietnam. Apparently it was also the surname of the last Vietnamese emperor and many people appropriated this name afterwards in their attempts to be associated.

The markets here have been fantastic. Whenever I see brand name goods in a market with no listed prices, my initial assumption is that they are knock-offs. However, there is the distinct possibility that these are genuine goods that are factory-seconds are slightly imperfect. Why else would they sell North Face ski jackets in Vietnam? The locals certainly have no use for it here. A large percentage of clothing destined for western markets is actually made in Cambodia or Vietnam. Production costs are supposedly lower here than in China.

And a random anecdote:
After 8.5 years of post-secondary education, I feel like I've forgotten the basics of Canadian geography learned in elementary school. I had my best Canadian moment while on the cruise that I thought I'd share. So I was doing this daily trivia quiz and this particular day happened to be a travel themed quiz. Did I know the capital of Newfoundland? Nope, but I knew where Death Valley and Abu Dhabi were loccated. Funny enough, I was asked the exact same question 9 years ago by a war veteran at an Encounters with Canada luncheon in Ottawa. I'm pretty sure he had a look of disgust on his face and asked, 'what is up with today's youth?" Didn't know the answer then and certainly didn't learn from that experience.

In my defence, I did later read the book "How to be Canadian" by Will Ferguson. One of the questions testing your canadianness, asked what was the capital of New Brunswick. If you didn't know the answer, you got 10 points (increasing your likelihood of being Canadian).

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15th June 2009

Good Food!
I concur, I ate and drank my way through Vietnam. So many different kinds of food and its all sooo good! Enjoy your trip!

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