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Ho Chi Minh City - First Impressions


Ho Chi Minh City has the same population as London. Like any big city it has a lot to offer: cultural events, attractions, shopping, entertainment, etc. However, also like most huge cities, it is uncomfortable and unpleasant for living. Traffic, noise, dust, exhaust fumes, poor attitude towards pedestrians, lack of public transport - this is my first impression of the city. There are definitely some things I like about this city, but they are somehow obscured by constant coughing due to exhaust fumes, constant noise from mopeds, the impossibility of a pleasant walk through the streets, and the stink of garbage.
1. Mopeds have taken over the streets of this city.
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2. An obstacle course on the way to the cafe.
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3. Due to the ubiquitous parked mopeds, pedestrians are left with only a small part of the sidewalk. But even this part of the sidewalk is often used by mopeds to avoid traffic jams. Where can one walk?
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4. Did you already notice in the previous photo? Curbs are sloped here. This is a way to create a barrier-free environment for mopeds.
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5. If every “real citizen” of Amsterdam has a bicycle (or two!), then the real citizen of Ho Chi Minh City owns a moped. Check out the number of people in masks!
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6. Mopedisation defines fashion.
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7. At first I thought that these colourful skirts are a local fashion trend.
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8. And the skirts are trendy in a way. However, they are there to serve as practice purpose: covering the moped rider’s normal clothing from the dust of the streets. It looks especially cool when the mask and the skirt are in the same color or pattern.
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9. Everything can be transported on a moped, even the flower pots...
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10. ...even big flower pots.
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11. Oh! And here is the delivery spot. :)
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12. Driving around on a moped without a protective mask can cause lung problems. Protection is more important than you might think.
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13-1. Some people use simple medical masks, which one can buy in any mini-market. Others choose thicker and more cheerful protection.
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13-2.
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Due the abundance of mopeds, the city feels like an anthill with never-ending traffic on the roads. And, it seems, no one minds. Everyone is accustomed to living like this.
Ho Chi Minh citizens are also accustomed to good coffee. Everyone here is constantly drinking coffee: in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. Coffee houses always have visitors.
14. Traditional Vietnamese coffee is prepared with a drip filter called a ‘phin’ that is put on each individual cup. The coffee comes out very strong and saturated with flavour. The version with condensed milk is my favourite. Coffee is always served with green tea. If coffee is ordered hot, then they also serve hot tea. If you order iced coffee, then the tea will be also served with ice.
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15-1. Coffee houses are on every corner. In most places you can find both traditional Vietnamese coffee and espresso coffee. Some establishments prepare other types of coffee, using different varieties of beans and methods of roasting and brewing.
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15-2. In many coffee houses you can directly buy coffee (beans or ground), which you just tried.
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16-1. There are small cosy places.
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16-2.
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17. There are many big coffee chains.
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17-2.
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Later I want to write a separate detailed post about coffee in Ho Chi Minh City. Here I fell in love with coffee again. I am very sensitive to coffee, and I drink it rather rarely. But here, in HCMC, I was ready to endure the trembling in my hands and bubbling in my stomach in order to try another new recipe and feel another unprecedented aroma of coffee. Unfortunately, on the way to a coffee house you not only have to bump into mopeds, but also jump over garbage.
18. Where to put large-sized garbage? Of course right on the sidewalk!
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19. Due to the fact that most containers are opened and overflown, with +35°C outside, an unbearable stench spreads within a radius of five meters around.
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20.
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21. This is one of the most hipster places in Saigon. The old apartment building was transformed into a loft with numerous cafes, restaurants, designer shops, galleries. Here I could spend a whole day, going from one cafe to another, trying coffee, and writing the next post about Ho Chi Minh City. Oh, we were talking about garbage...
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22. ...Indeed, while sitting on the balcony of the hipster house from the previous photo and enjoying your coffee with ice, you can enjoy this view. And nobody minds, not even the cat relaxing in the pile of garbage.
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23. Garbage floats freely along the Saigon River towards the ocean.
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When I come to a new country I notice a lot of details about the organization of life, some of which are radically different from those I am accustomed to. Sometimes, things that I've heard before become much clearer and more obvious. What I really like about traveling is the opportunity to see and experience things that would never have occurred to me in a familiar setting at home.
24. In Vietnam, I have never received a knife in a set of cutlery in a restaurant. Chop sticks, spoons, and forks, but they do not use knives here, it seems.
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25. What to do if you want to cut a baguette?..
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26. ...Just do it with a spoon!
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27. Have you heard that Asian women are obsessed with skin whitening? On the shelves of cosmetics stores it is difficult to find a face cream without bleaching effect. Why? Because on the advertising posters the models always have perfectly white skin. Girls have to match this ideal of beauty.
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27-2. Protect & White
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28. A subway system is under construction in Ho Chi Minh City. The first line, 19 km in length, was supposed to open in 2014, but, the opening was postponed until 2018. And then it was postponed again until 2020. At this time, public transportation consists solely of buses.
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28-2. Therefore, Grab is so popular in Ho Chi Minh City.
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29. McDonald's and the communist government coexist amicably. I still do not understand how. And so far I have not been able to get an adequate answer from Vietnamese people. They seem to have little interest in politics.
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30. This is how Ho Chi Minh citizens spend a romantic evening on the river bank. Such a beautiful reflection on the water!
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Fancy living in Ho Chi Ming City for some time? There are so many fresh fruits. Drinking a coconut every day can easily become a healthy routine. Here you don't need a sweatshirt. You can walk around wearing T-shits and shorts all year long. Renting an apartment is cheap. You can drive around with a moped and park it on any sidewalk. The closest beach is just two hours away, reachable by road and water. Feeling tempted?
31.
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Wait for the next posts about Ho Chi Minh City! First impressions are not the last :)

Comments (3)

  1. Bikram:
    Feb 22, 2018 at 06:23 PM

    Beautiful photos. Nice blog.

    1. iklesch:
      Feb 22, 2018 at 07:59 PM

      Thank you for the feedback!

  2. Marga ;-):
    Feb 26, 2018 at 09:25 PM

    Love your post. The part about you falling in love with coffee. When I was there I was not really checking that out. Next time I will. Open my eyes and keep on posting.
    The trash views I remember that about most city's in Asia.

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