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Kalye Serye Ho Chi Minh: The Walking Spree

Kalye Serye Ho Chi Minh: The Walking Spree

Setting foot in Ho Chi Minh City is like setting foot in Cebu for the first time. At least in my experience. It took some time to finally sink in that I wasn't in Cebu anymore, and that I was actually in Vietnam - a new country with much different language, with one hour time difference (Philippines is one hour ahead), and with most likely different culture. 

Although I felt that Ho Chi Minh was like Cebu, it's also so much different in so many ways. For one, we only encountered very few people who spoke English because it isn't one of their national languages. Most of them were store attendants or cashiers. More often than not, it was very challenging to ask for directions. Nonetheless, it was so much fun getting lost in the city. Like literally getting lost, my friends.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
*Background: Highlands Coffee - they made my heart literally skip a beat, haha! 

Yes, we were so lost! Ha! But eventually, we found our way. Thanks to GPS, we found our way after an entire day of walking around. I swear I could barely feel my feet from all the walking. But if you know me, my trip wouldn't be complete without street photography. So going around the city, although exhausting, was pure delight to the shutterbug in me. Yay! 

In this edition of Kalye Serye, let me bring you outside Cebu and see for yourself how similar or different it is. Since this is a new experience, you'll find that I'll talk a lot here today. ;) But first.. a little background. 

Ho Chi Minh City

Formerly called Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is a city in the south of Vietnam. It played a very crucial role during the devastating Vietnam War. It's where the Vietnam War Remnants Museum is located as well as the famous Notre Dame Cathedral which was made completely of materials from France. Also, just beside the cathedral was the 19th century Central Post Office

I originally preferred going to the picturesque city of Hanoi, and towns of Sa Pa, and Mui Ne up north; however I really wanted to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Ho Chi Minh is generally nearer to the border of Cambodia so we opted for it instead. 

Tan Son Nhat International Airport

It's supposed to be the largest and busiest airport in Vietnam but it was like a ghost town when we arrived. Maybe that's because we arrived at around 2:30am (Vietnam time). It was very quiet that we were a bit hesitant to even whisper. 

So off we walked to the arrival area where the immigration officers were waiting to stamp our passports. I was keen to remember that they wore uniforms similar to the ones soldiers wear. 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

District 1, Ho Chi Minh 

If I am to describe Ho Chi Minh, I'd say it's a vibrant and lively city with so many different stalls of street food and cheap finds. District 1 is said to be their central urban district where all the buzz, tourists, and backpackers are. Think Colon - if you're in Cebu. The streets are very clean, by the way. 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
 *This is the street where our hotel is located. 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

One distinct characteristic of Ho Chi Minh is the obvious existence of motorbikes. I'd say it's the easiest and most convenient mode of transportation for the locals. With so many around, I felt like it was their birthright or like as soon as they can pedal, they should own a motorbike.

I generally suck at crossing the streets until I realized years back that it's an important life survival skill next to breathing. But crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh is so different!!! At first, we were so comfortable walking around. We felt safe from any raging vehicles until we didn't anymore.

We would always laugh when it's time to cross. We even likened it to that of Super Mario because we had to go through several obstacle courses to get the princess to reach our destination. 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
*There are soooo many coffee shops lining the streets! We were also trying to count how many Starbucks we see along the way. Just for the heck of it. 

Everywhere we went, we had to remind ourselves to look left, right, front, and back because motorbikes could be everywhere! The worst part was they wouldn't pause or slow down at all. It's like they're not seeing human beings crossing the street. Most of them are beating the red light too. It's literally breathtaking.

The traffic situation in Cebu is probably no different but the main difference I've noticed is that... in Ho Chi Minh, the motorbikes and cars have a life of their own, lol. And they never slow down. I even held up my hand once to signal that we were crossing but eehhhh, nothing happened. I think they have a Vietnamese sign for that?

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
*We couldn't differentiate which was the sidewalk and the real road. ;) 

But I actually love these fruit bikes. I have lotsa photos of them! And I love that signature Vietnamese hat too.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Something Pretty

Just to get a nice photo of the City Hall, I unknowingly stepped on a puddle of mud and I was wearing white shoes. Ahhh, the things we do!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
*Story behind my "selfeet" photos soon on the blog, hahaha! ;) 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Around Notre-Dame Cathedral & Central Post Office

Vietnam is a largely Buddhist country and Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, officially known as Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, is one of the remaining fortresses of Catholicism in the country.

It's also a famous landmark for tourists but we didn't go inside the cathedral. The Romanesque architecture is a sight to behold though and if you're like me who love buildings with so much personality and character, you'll love it too.

Yes, I really have to post 3 pictures of it because my feeling is intense. Haha!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Saigon Central Post Office was built in the 19th century which makes it one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh. The interiors and exteriors are both fascinating. You will feel like you're transported back to the colonial era because of its French features - high ceilings and stunning pattern-tiled floors. It's big, spacious, and grand.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Meanwhile, outside the Central Post Office, you will see this. I have to say it's a pretty unique way of selling donuts.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Then there's this. ♥♥♥

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Food Stalls All The Way!

My friend, Alic, loved their Banh Mi - it's the Vietnamese word for all types of bread. It's typically like a sandwich filled with meat and vegetables. I've never tried it (boo!) because... okay, I will tell you in my next blog post about Ho Chi Minh. ;) 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I ate some of these though. They're like different kinds of empanadas. And the obvious donuts. On the left side, there are those that resemble a shakoy or lubid-lubid (twisted fried donuts coated with caramelized sugar), only that they don't look like lubid or rope and there's no sugar.

And if you see the ones that look like squid's arms, we don't know what they call those, hehe! But they're like bread sticks.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

And interestingly, they have their own version of pungko-pungko too, yes??? Pungko-pungko (or squat) is what Cebuanos use to describe a dining style where customers are made to sit in low benches or chairs. They're all over the streets of Cebu.

We often spot locals and some foreigners drinking traditional Vietnamese iced coffee in the streets too. Morning, afternoon, and evening - locals are all over.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

These are only 1/4 of all my photos and I don't wanna make this blog post burst so this is it for now, lol! I hope you somehow got a feel of how the city is like. For me, the vibe is really like that of Cebu, only different people and different language.

Ultimately, the comparisons I made here are not meant to point out which city is better over the other. It's just that when you embark on a journey to another place you haven't been to yet, there's this human nature of searching for something familiar or something that speaks a little or a lot like home.


“A photograph has picked up a fact of life, and that fact will live forever.”
 by Raghu Rai

♥♥♥

Kalye Serye, formerly Snapshots Saturday, is a weekly blog series featuring my street photography venture. Kalye (street) and Serye (series) aims to build and promote social awareness in the community and the world by creating and sharing meaningful photographs. 

Street photography is mainly the act of taking photos candidly which doesn't necessarily have to happen in the streets all the time. Read more about it here - Why Street Photography? 

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