By Maddie Oaks
Wow the last five days have been a whirlwind! I am happy to report that Julia and I have made it safely to our home in Can Tho with all of our belongings, minus a pair of my sun glasses…whoops. Our trip over seemed almost too easy so I’m very thankful for that. We left Seattle Monday night at 2 am and arrived in Ho Chi Minh at 9:45 am Wednesday morning. Upon our arrival we found our hostel, dropped our bags, and hit the streets. All I have to say is motorbike pandemonium. Ho Chi Minh is crazy busy and probably the most urban place I have ever been. Every five steps there is another cafe or pho cart, each right after the other. It is a pretty incredible thing and everyone operates seamlessly into the city flow, so watch out. Jules and I were both overwhelmed with the commotion of the city so naturally we opted for some iced coffee and vermicelli noodles to ease our sheepishness. After some more exploring, we headed back to our hostel. We stayed at The Hideout, which is a great place to stay if you’re looking to be centrally located and are down to explore the city’s night life. Our first night out did not disappoint.
The next afternoon Jules and I went to The War Remnants Museum with two of our bunkmates who were from Germany. This experience was really hard and highly emotional. The museum showcased photos of war victims from the Vietnam War and also the generations of agent orange victims. The images were beyond graphic and mind-numbing. However, it was refreshing to finally see the war from the perspective of the Vietnamese and not the muted U.S. representation that focuses mostly on the peace movements back home.
That night the jet lag finally hit us and we were in bed by 8 pm. It was necessary. In the morning we began our hunt for breakfast and we had only one thing on our minds: PHO. Lucky for me Julia found a blog by a traveler who had recently done a trip in HCM. Let me tell you he knew a thing or two about where to eat. His blog (in case you want to check it out): (https://migrationology.com/vietnamese-food-guide-saigon/) Based on his recommendation, we went to Bún bò Chú Há and OH MY GOD I went to noodle heaven. Literally the best pho of my life. It’s a crazy thing how you can be sweating from head to toe and still finish a bowl of piping hot broth…and we have done so many times over. I feel like I am made of noodles at this point, but I’m okay with it. Another one of my favorite meals we had in the city was the Banh Mi found at Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai. We arrived after being caught in the rain leaving the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a moment of blissful confusion, running between streets trying to find cover, and a memory I will treasure forever.
On our final day in the city we visited the Emperor Jade Pagoda and the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Thankfully we befriended a man at the pagoda who taught Philosophy at a near by University and spoke a little English. He told us about the history of the Pagoda and the powers of the Emperor Jade. We learned that the pagoda is a place where people come to pray, especially for issues concerning fertility. He was there with his girlfriend to pray for a child.
Friday morning we were picked up at 10 am by our driver and made it to Can Tho by 12:30 pm. Our house is surprisingly big and Julia and I both have our own rooms/showers. However, I have already been acquainted with some unexpected house guests within my first 24 hrs of arrival. My favorite moment of the day has been in the shower due to the overwhelming heat, but this morning I was surprised by a crab. I know what you’re thinking and I have no idea…I think he must have crawled up through the drain. Luckily for me he seems to enjoy showers just as much as me and remained pretty chill the whole time. Hopefully I arrive home with all my toes. :/ Jules and I thankfully found a Mega Mart yesterday and got plenty of supplies to start making our home a little more homey. Once we have our house together I’ll post some pics. For now, we have two bottles of wine and a whole lot of cleaning to do. I’m excited to feel settled and start establishing a new routine in the city! I’m loving everything about this experience so far!