Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam
10.02.2011 - 10.02.2011 32 °C
Having finally shaken off a stomach affliction due to some dodgy Cambodian cuisine, we decided on a gentle stroll around Ho Chi Minh to see what it had to offer. We bypassed the Soupy noodle café at the end of our street, that has chunks of lung and god knows what floating in its beef stew, in the hope of finding something a little more palatable. It took a while. Prices were through the roof in this tourist hub, there wasn’t a 1 dollar pork and rice or baguette to be seen! We stumbled upon a tiny restaurant called THI Café that was shoehorned into a cranny, between two much larger eateries. It was dark inside. Was it closed? Nope, the door pushed open to reveal a funky little number that plays live music in the evenings. The menu was in English, so no problems there. We folded and ordered two spaghetti Bolognese; a Western fix. I had doubts about how authentic it would be, but so long as it didn’t have chicken legs, pig’s trotters or chunks of lung, then it would more than suffice. We even went all out and ordered a salad and bread as an accompaniment. Something worth noting was that in the ‘Sideorders’ on the menu, between your usual chips and garlic bread, you could have a side of Marlboro Lights…odd. Anyway, the food was pretty alright and only cost 8 dollars. It was a bit more than we would usually spend on one meal but I hadn’t eaten the entirety of yesterday.
We ambled along trying to avoid eye contact with the “Moto, moto?” guys. We were making good progress, until one guy armed with a notebook of tourist comments and an unusual fake thumbnail complete with intricate pink floral designs, chased us down the street. He thrust the book into my hand and pointed to some haggard passport photos “How many language you speak? I have comment in German too!” We gave him a thanks but no thanks, but it wasn’t working and every pace I took backwards he took two forwards. Determined was the word. I showed him Ste’s Koh Phangan Tattoo from the last incident – “He’s scared to go on scooter,” but it was to no avail and we ended up literally running away.
We crossed the hectic streets to the Ben Teh Market, dodging yet more moto drivers insisting that the Saigon market was better, and that they should be the one to take us there. We hurried inside. Hands grabbed and clothes were almost making their way onto my back as we worked our way along the rabbit warren stalls. “You want cotton shirt” “You want bag” “You want this or that”, it was manic. Fortunately, the further away from the entrance we headed, the more we lost our smell as fresh meat on the market scene. We were soon left in relative peace to sift through the endless snide stock, which included North Face rucksacks for 6 dollars! And they pretty much looked like THE real thing. The heat eventually drove us back out onto the streets where Ste purchased some snide Calvin Klein boxers and I, a pair of 5 dollar Ray Bans.
Onward! To Fanny! We made our way through the more up market side of town, which boasted all the big names, such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton - to name just a couple. But there is no forgetting where you are, as beggars and street vendors crouch outside these glamorous buildings, asking for a dollar so that they can feed their family. After passing a couple of 5 star hotels and making a few sharp turns, we finally arrived outside fanny. Fanny is an ice cream boutique and it is recommended in the Lonely Planet. We took a seat at one of the decorative tables on the outside decking area. The menu looked fantastic – it even had avocado ice cream! But I ordered a Cherry Bibbi that had something along the lines of macadamia vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream, oh and cream. This fanny ice cream had better pack the punch at 75,000 Dong a pop, I thought. It arrived. The aesthetics certainly didn’t disappoint; mine was garnished with 3 wafers, cherry and little shards of cinder toffee. Both ice creams even came with straws (amazing idea) to drink the melted mush. Needless to say, they didn’t last long and not because it was hot!
The day was drawing in as we headed down to the riverside to admire a huge boat that looked like a shark and also the amount of weed that was clogging up the river. But there was one last event for the day, crossing the Ho Chi Minh roads a rush hour! Considering the city has a population of over 16 million motocycles it should be eventful. It was. I have never seen anything quite like it so we stuck behind a dare devil 70 year old local, who had the guts to just march out into the battle zone! Hundreds of scooters zipped past us, literally a gnats breath away, I’m sure my life flashed before my eyes a couple of times, but we made it. And what better to celebrate than to collapse into an absurdly minute plastic garden chair and watch the traffic go by with a cold drink.