Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Coming Full Circle

11 Comments 13 October 2009

Full Circle in Vietnam

Full Circle in Vietnam

I spent the weekend going back to square one; back to where I started my life in Ho Chi Minh City. Let me back up a bit; I’ve been living out in a ‘suburb’ district for the last 6 months. Even though I have to come into the ‘city center’ (District 1) a few days a week, it’s not the same as living in District 1. Think Stanton Island vs. Manhattan. However, I started my time in Ho Chi Minh City exactly one year ago in the heart of the city; the backpacker district. I cowered in my little guest house hotel room a bit scared to go outside into the noise and chaos that was going to be my new home for the next year.

Purity in Chaos

Purity in Chaos

I spent this last weekend back in the backpacker district hanging out with some of my friends, ESL teachers, whom I started this adventure with. It was a walk down memory lane…one where I realized just how far I had come.

Some things were the same – old men with beautiful Vietnamese young girls, chaotic traffic going every which way, people begging you to come into their bars, kids playing out in the street with toilet paper on a stick and toy guns. Tons of video stores selling the latest movies that came out last week for a dollar. Knock off everything – paintings, purses, clothing; all flanked by souvenir shops. Oh and how can I forget the familiar sound of men driving around on their bikes shaking a metal ‘rattle’ advertising ‘massage’

I went back to old restaurants that I ate every day in the beginning of my stay here. Lam’s Café is still my staple choice in the Backpacker area. Sure, it looks a bit questionable – but it’s the best food for the money that you’ll find on Bui Vien street. Lemon grass beef with veggies, and a mango shake for $2.

Kids Riding to School

Kids Riding to School

However a year had gone by and you could also see the slow wheels of change in the Backpacker area. New western style dessert shops trying to fatten up the skinny Vietnamese. Cream Puffs, donuts, and yogurt – that should send the Vietnamese into sugar shock.

However one of the most shocking things happened while a friend and I crossed the street. We were going to cross a busy street, Pham Nu Lou; and we stood on the curb talking not in any hurry, when all of a sudden I saw a bright red narrow light coming towards me. As the figure came closer, I realized that it was some sort of security guard; he was carrying a light saber. Luke….I’m your Vietnamese father. The man with the light saber motioned towards us and started ushering us across the street with his light saber! He frantically waved it back and forth ensuring that the sea of motorbikes split with the magic light saber and we made it to the shore. We were tickled to get this ‘special foreigner service’ after year of living here, crossing the streets by ourselves and driving our own motorbikes! No matter how long you live here, I’ll always be a tourist in the local’s eyes.

When you are in the middle of change and chaos, you never think you’ll make it through; but you do. Sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you go back to the beginning.

Red in the Face

Red in the Face

Your Comments

11 Comments so far

  1. How well I remember the first time I had to cross a busy HCMC street! It took me forever to get up the courage to just walk out into the bedlam of motorcycles, keeping faith that they would all go around me. But they did! Asia is amazing.

  2. Nora says:

    What a beautiful way to come full circle! I love those moments, and you obviously made the best of it.

  3. Mark H says:

    I visited HCMC in the 90s and was blown away by the activity – everything seemed to be bustling within a maze of bicycles and cyclos.

  4. Anil says:

    I like the fond memories that flood back when revisiting a place. Usually has a touch of sadness as well to see all of the changes.

  5. Just came across your blog. Some awesome travel writing there! Love the beautiful photos too.

    This has made me want to travel again, not that I have ever lost my motivation lol

    Cheers,

    Marica

  6. Jackie Han says:

    Thank for good comments on Vietnam. Welcome you back with so much more than you expect.

  7. Janelle says:

    I so hear you….strange, indeed.

  8. maria says:

    I love how you title your photos!

  9. jessiev says:

    i love this. and you’ll recircle, once you get your bearings in a new place.

  10. blitz says:

    Just came across your blog….love the stories you posted about Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam has a “crossing guard” service which I think started about 3 years ago, free of charge to foreigners- who appear too scare to cross a busy street in Saigon City. It actually is a PR tactic to bring more travelers to Vietnam. This service is performed by the ( Doan Thanh Nien Xung Phong) Volunteer Vietnamese Youth Organization and the various University Students Groups.
    I currently am living in S.I. NY and planning to visit VN soon. I may even look for an opportunity to work there as an ESL teacher or some thing…


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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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