Vietnam – Part 2

HCM

A typical street scene in Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon)

Moving from the laid-back peacefulness of my wife’s small hometown to the frenetic buzz of Hochiminh City takes some adjustment, but in the mindst of all the hustle and bustle, there’s still a relaxed culture at its core. A culture that appreciates good food and good company, and that enjoying the two is something valuable that should not be rushed. I admit I only have a shallow understanding of the place, having only spent a few days there at a time, but I couldn’t deny the highly social and life-loving population of the city!

It’s after sundown that the social side of the city really comes into its own. Large restaurants and small street stalls all open up to groups of friends and family members who enjoy fresh food and drinks in the warm evening air outside. It’s something I had experienced around ten years ago in China, but this kind of thing has become increasingly rare as local councils push for more “civilized” and hygienic conditions in their towns and cities. China is so busy trying to be “modern” that it’s losing its charm. Vietnam still holds its own charm firmly in one hand, with a Saigon beer, freshly-cut coconut or barbecued shrimp in the other.

HCM City 3

A small street stall selling various late-night snacks in a Saigon sidestreet

Hochiminh City shady dude

A local fetches more chairs for a streetside bar (I think it looks more like he’s trying to steal the scooter, but that could just be me)

HCM City 11

A streetside stall selling bread filled with barbecued meat (and other stuff)

HCM City 4 One of the more modern establishments preparing for the evening

In HCM City 21 Barbecued prawns at one of the outdoor restaurants popular with locals

HCM City 2 A peddlar sells nightlights to tourists near the hostel district

Now I’m not saying that Saigon is only active at night, or that there isn’t great food at any time of day. You can get amazing food at any time of day. The pork chops in the picture below were tender and coated in a layer of the most amazingly complex combination of herbs and spices. It’s the balance of sour, sweet, salty, spicy, and bitter that makes Vietnamese food one of the finest cuisines in my books, and it’s all so fresh and light. Perhaps the superiority of the food is why you won’t find a single McDonalds in Hochiminh City (although I’m sure there are other reasons too)…

In HCM City 11

I do have to admit though, that I love Hochiminh city at night more, partly because the lights make for some more interesting photos. The right balance of light and shadow can make the ordinary become something much more extraordinary.

This is Hochiminh City

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