Ho Chi Minh City will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first international city I traveled to eight years ago and the one which ignited my passion for the travel and love for SE Asia. Coming back was a bit surreal and especially getting to see Vietnam again with Katie. Side note – the first picture below is a side by side image of me on a scooter right after I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City eight years ago and a picture from this trip.
We arrived via a six-hour bus from Siem Reap and were dropped off in the center of the city. Our Airbnb was only 1 km away, so we grabbed a taxi waiting there instead of calling an Uber. Rookie mistake as the cab scams are rampant here. We realized quickly we were in a shady cab when we arrived to the Airbnb after only a five-minute ride and the meter read the equivalent of $18 in local Vietnamese dong. Which obviously was a scam because Vietnam is ridiculously cheap. We might look like normal doe-eyed tourists, but let’s just say our mamas didn’t raise no fools. While many people would just pay because they feel they have to, we flat out said no and refused to get out of the car. After his protests and insistent pointing at the meter, I just gave him equivalent of $3 US. After realizing we weren’t falling for his shit and I was twice his size, he grudgingly said okay. This is where the second part of the dance comes in as you have to orchestrate a deliberate way of exiting the cab so he doesn’t drive off with our stuff in the trunk. Basically Katie had to get out and get both big backpacks out of the trunk while I stayed in the backseat. This means if he drives off I’m still in the car and would put an end to the getaway. It worked like a charm and scam averted. Cue us only using Ubers from here on out.
Our Airbnb was great and ironically managed by a younger couple from Spokane. Was pretty crazy to be able to talk with them about home and even Priest Lake (our favorite place in the states). They were really fun to hang out with and we ended up going out to grab drinks and food with them one of the nights.
Going out with them also teed up one of the craziest things we have done on the trip…drive a motor scooter in Ho Chi Minh City. For those of you who have been there, you get why that is nuts. For those of you who haven’t, the reason it is crazy is there are more than eight million motorcycles/scooters in the city alone and basically no road rules. Everything is up for game regardless of laws. When red lights hit people drive on sidewalks, everyone literally goes straight through roundabouts instead of around them and you only stop on red if your pack of motorcycles are smaller than the other coming. Combine this with the fact I have only driven a scooter a couple of days ever and never in any major city AND never driven one with a person on the back. Let’s just say it wasn’t the smartest idea. Admittedly the only reason we did is the peer pressure as the couple we were with had two scooters and that’s how they were getting to dinner, so we figured it was our only way too. For the record, we made it safely across the city and back without any issues. Though Katie and I might have lost a year off our lives out of pure fear the whole time we were driving. But hey, this trip is about pushing those boundaries!
We also lucked out while in Ho Chi Minh City as our friend Naomi was traveling through Vietnam and happened to be here the same time. So we got some much needed friend time. We went out the first night with her and her friend Lacey for Indian food and drinks. Then the next night we did a well-rated food tour. This had to be one of the best food tours we’ve done on the trip! It filled us to the brim with good eats and the foods ranged from vegetarian friendly (Katie’s happy place) to ice cream to fear factor style eating (my happy place). By far the most “interesting” thing I ate while on it was Balut. It is basically a fertilized duck egg which is cooked so you crack open the shell and it’s half egg and half baby duck. So you get some egg, some feathers, some bones, etc. Tasty.
After a few days in the city, we said goodbye to Naomi and Lacey and flew up the coast to Hoi An to get out of the big city scene and enjoy a more laid back vibe.