All right, after years of refusing to go every time my dad went to Vietnam, I finally went this year since I am completely free for the summer. In the middle of the trip we visited Thailand for my dad's business trip, which I have written about here.
First and Second Day
Upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City I was welcomed with an immediate rush of humid heat. I found it hard to breathe and wondered how I would make it through the entire two weeks if it was already this hot on my first day. As we left the airport and looked at the city buildings flying past us as we traveled by car, I could see numerous buildings typical of a bustling city. The streets were populated with motorbikes. I hear a lot that there are no road rules here and seeing that in truth is terrifying. Even the car we rode in had no seat belts. I was very confused and concerned about that fact for awhile.
HCMC looks nice though. My grandma says this ain't even the nice part.
When we arrived at my aunt's house, my dad showed me where the bathroom was. He showed me a hose that sits right by the toilet and I was very confused about it. It wasn't until after visiting Thailand and talking to my friend Nel did I understand that this is the Southeastern Asian thing. I have since gotten used to seeing hoses in the bathroom, but I still find it very strange that the showers are in the same room with no ventilation. I worry about mildew and athlete's foot.
Actually, it's pretty funny. Nel and I laugh at my misunderstanding now, but at first I was so nervous about leaving water on the toilet after a shower (there was no glass case separating the shower from the bathroom that I have in my house in America). I would get so concerned about leaving a wet bathroom floor and toilet seat after a shower that I spent time sweeping water over to the drain and using toilet paper to wipe up the toilet seat. I later found out the bathroom was for the guest only, as there was another bathroom outside or something. Who knew! Also, paper is valuable here. Whoops!
By the way, my aunt's house rests on just the outskirts of the city of My Tho. On the way there, I was surprised to see just how poor the area was. Businesses are opened directly in front of the house. Floors are literally the cement base for housing construction. When I was in Thailand, I went to the tourist spots of Bangkok so I did not get a chance to see houses in Thailand to compare. HCMC was the prettiest I had seen of cities I had visited, but even then it is interesting to note that while there are many buildings and establishments as you would expect to see in a city (I compare to America, since that is where I live), the architecture is very simple. My aunt told me when I came back from Thailand that her daughter who had also visited Thailand had told her that "Even in 2 year's time, Vietnam would not be at the technological level Thailand is at." I had to tell her that I agreed with the statement very much. My cousin goes so far as to say 15 years, but who knows. My main reason as to why I agreed is based off what I remembered my dad saying when he rode the Bangkok Sky Train with me for the first time, that he wished Vietnam would have something like this. Indeed, for I also remember reading that a first would country would be one where everyone takes public transportation. It made me think about how important it is to have public transportation in a modernized world.
Regardless, on my first night I made the mistake of not turning on the air conditioner. Sure, it was hot, but I'm used to sleeping even in heat. (It makes me tough, I believe). Apparently because I didn't turn on the air conditioner, I got a ton of bug bites!! As of now, I have had over 30.. I ended up having to go to the dermatologist later in the week and ingest 3 pills twice a day and apply cream.. Don't make this mistake.. Bug bites are really itchy and it was scary to see how swollen my legs got from these bites!
Dad's memorable places
My dad showed me some places in his hometown to talk about his childhood. He showed me the river where he used to jump from the bridge, except at the time there were no bridges. To cross the river to the other side he had to wait for the tide to recede before crossing the little strait. On the other side of the bridge was the house where grandma, he and his siblings used to live. I asked why they moved and dad said it was because the household numbers had gotten too big for the house. He also showed me the spot where the cafe my mom used to sell cigarettes used to be (It's no longer a cafe). He said he would follow my mom when she walked across the bridge to church. I asked him why did he just follow and not talk to her. He said he was shy. =P
Vietnam has changed a lot since my dad left. I hear on TV from Anthony Bourdain's visits that the "Vietnam of today is no longer your parent's Vietnam." The only understanding I have of that that I can compare with is how the city I grew up in has also changed a lot. Even if my dad shows me these things, I don't know what things used to look like back in his day.
After that, I finally got to meet my grandpa. Changing into long pants and sleeved shirts even while the weather was still scorching, my dad and I walked along a road where his father's grave lay. We had to cross tall grass and beat down a trail since nature had taken its course and hid the old path with trees and leaves. You wouldn't expect to find coffins where we went. We lit two sticks of incense, dad bust open a beer can and we said a few prayers and left.
On the way to grandpa's grave
Later in the day, my dad took me to something like a river walk in My Tho. It was very beautiful. Dad says he thinks it's the best spot in My Tho and I agree. It's empty too, but once industrialization picks up the place I can see it could be a really big spot. We could see the bridge my dad rode the motorbike across.
Oh, by the way, something I like is that chickens are everywhere. I know that's not too uncommon in some other places but I just like seeing chickens so I'm saying so now.
The next day we visited old friends of dad. My grandma wanted us to deliver a few gifts to the wife of the man who built the boat my dad used to get to America. Afterwards, we visited my dad's cousin's family. They had a giant jackfruit growing in the backyard! My dad's cousin then took me around to the market to show me some live fish they were keeping to sell for the next day.
After we said goodbye, my dad took me to the river where we took a ferry to get across. Once on the other side, we rode the along the path going south where we took a bridge across the river to get home again.
I've been telling my dad I really wanted to go to a bookstore so we went hunting for one. The first one we went to had no air conditioning so it was really hot! The second one we went to was inside a kind of super mall with air conditioning, so it was way more tolerable. The bookstore here was quite nice! They had surprisingly high quality manga of the Vietnamese translation of One Piece and Black Butler. English adaptations of manga tend to remove the outer cover of the manga, but the Vietnamese version did nothing of the like. I was very impressed. I also bought some book covers just because it was cute.
We went for a long drive to an area where roads had not existed previously. We took a round-trip ferry to the other side and back. My dad says if we kept going and took another ferry across another river, we'd reach one of my uncle's wife's hometown.
After returning home, we set out to go to a far away church across five rickety one way bridges. It was only wide enough to allow one car traveling at a time. One would have to heed to the other if two wished to pass. It was also kind of scary because it was made out of wood and some of the bridge posts were missing. I couldn't help but whisper "Oh my God" when a post was missing. I freaked out over where the bridge went! As we went across another one of these bridges, we saw another being constructed to "reduce traffic". I thought it was weird that they would still be building another exactly like it. I would think it makes more sense to make a two way bridge.
For dinner we ate some frogs and clam at a restaurant.
The clams were super spicy!
I met my cousin, the daughter of the aunt and uncle I was staying with Sunday morning. She arrived with her friend bearing gifts, scarves. After talking for a bit, she took me to a salon where I dyed my hair. I got it ombre. It was a very interesting experience since I had never done anything with my hair. It took 2-3 hours, but the stylists were nice and served me some drink that tasted like diluted mint mouthwash (I got the pleasure of drinking that two more times after visiting a few coffee shops). While washing my hair, the lady also took her time washing my face. It was very excessive! My dad told me that was normal here. If I had known I wouldn't have said something like, "We're not done?!" when she still continued to massage my face XD
Right out of the salon vs a day. It got yellower! (right) I just woke up... why my hair curls XD
Later that night when the rain let up, Thy took me to a curbside restaurant for some.. tiny clams? As far as my poor Vietnamese understanding goes, they call it a name used to describe snails, so that's what I was expecting when our dish came but...
It was more like tiny clams (dish on the right)! All the dishes here were delicious! The scallop was my favorite and the whelk was a new experience!
I was already full, but we all went to a very nice milk tea shop called Socola (or "Chocolate" in Vietnamese). I got some green milk tea and we also ate some corn dish.
Thy had to leave to go back to the city for work the next day so after she and her friend left I went with my dad to see the night market I had seen setting up before store hours. I was looking for a jersey but couldn't find any. My dad asked a girl we saw wearing what I wanted and she told us where she bought her jersey. That was our destination for the next day.
Shopping + Snake Farm
We started off the day with Pho Bo Kho at a restaurant my dad says he always eats at whenever he comes back to Vietnam. He told me he and his brothers all ate at that very restaurant when one of them got married here a few years back. After that we just drove around My Tho on motorbike and finally found the sports store selling the jerseys I was interested in. I bought one for FC Barcelona!! FOR OBVIOUS REASONS (Tsubasa). I also hit up one or two stores looking for some cute clothes and bought a skirt.
After most of the morning in My Tho, we spent the rest of the afternoon at a snake farm back in my dad's town. We passed by it before but didn't go in. Heck, my dad was reluctant to even buy a ticket and told me to go by myself. It's called a snake farm because that's where they.. *drum roll* farm snakes! For medicinal purposes or study I would guess. Anyway, it was more like a zoo because there were lots of cages with a variety of different animals! I felt I saw more birds, monkeys and mammals than snakes.
It was very cool and I didn't know Vietnam had a place like this. We tried to catch up with a random tour group but they dispersed.
Oh! I caused a birdcopalyse because I whistled to some birds in a cage and as one responded to me all the others followed suit then hell broke. It was fun. XD
- went to a church party celebrating the 40th anniversary of a very important priest's priesthood
- milk tea at a place called Sweet Home - very pretty!
- ate broken rice and meat plate for dinner
- searched night market for items requested of my cousins - found nothing
- ate hu tieu mi sate with aunt and uncle and dad.
- went shopping with aunt afterwards - bough clothes and ink.
- rain!! So nothing else