So once again we went on a city break to start our Christmas holiday. Going by the law of averages we hoped that it would be the success that Beijing was and not a testing, tortuous trip like Hong Kong. We figured we’d have a few days in UB to wind down from the usual end of term madness any teacher can empathise with, and would then be ready to deal with a new city.
Any city has a certain vibrancy and life of its own but even though we’d read the Lonely Planet introduction it didn’t prepare us for the frenetic whirlwind of culture, modernity and tradition with a constantly pulsating energy that was Vietnam’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh.
We arrived late at night so it wasn’t until after breakfast the next day that we went for a walkabout to see what this new city had to offer. The first thing to hit us was that lovely tropical warmth, such a welcome contrast to UB, next was the traffic, although thankfully not literally! Since living in UB we’ve had to teach the children a new green cross code, involving ignoring traffic signals and sometimes just going for it. In Beijing you had to have eyes in the back of your head to avoid the plethora of bikes, mopeds, mini vans, taxis, cars etc but in Ho Chi Minh the whole process was ramped up another notch. I have never seen so many mopeds in a city and if you actually want to cross a road you just have to walk out in front of them and trust they go round you. If you don’t you’ll only ever be able to walk around the block! The method seemed to work and by day 3 we had it down to a fine art, despite this Noah hated the process and never quite relaxed when walking in the street especially as when there was a red light all the mopeds take to the pavement to avoid the jam so you’re never quite safe even when just strolling along. Seb and I laughed when on our final day we were walking across a zebra crossing when a red light for bikes was showing but there was actually a wall of mopeds coming towards us from the pavement on the other side – anything to avoid a traffic jam – we just went for it and they drove round us.
Traffic asside, Ho Chi Minh was a great city. It gave the children its fair share of toy shops, Pete and I enjoyed our share of coffee shops and street food and we all enjoyed a trip up to the 52nd floor of the Bitexco building plus a trip to the cinema.
The city had modern malls, lush green spaces that we crave in Mongolia, all alongside traditional street food vendors and shops where there is a constant buzz and friendly energy. Due to the French influence there are also some beautiful European style buildings. Everyone was happy, especially as the best thing of all was that we could view all this in shorts, tshirt and flip flops, no woolly hats or thermals in sight.