I started with my very first visit to Asia in one of the craziest cities in the world, Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam, on January 1st after spending the New Year’s Eve in Doha Airport. It was early afternoon when I landed, but on my Eastern European time it could still say “Good Morning”.
The first thing that hit me was the heat considering that I had left my country at -15ºC and the thermometers in Vietnam were at 30ºC. I ditched the taxis, and took the bus (152) towards the city center. The ticket cost me 10.000VND which I had no idea what it was, but I do now – it’s about 0.5$. I was tired and jet-lagged but once the bus started to move, I forgot about all and posted myself by the window watching the colorful, bustling city life and urban scenery, dominated by the overwhelming hordes of motorbikes and scooters trundling around everywhere.
I got off the bus at Cho Ben Thanh (main bus terminal) and head to Pham Ngu Lao Street (District 1) where I was staying. Pha Ngu Lao is the backpacker area in Saigon and where you can find anything you need as a first-timer in the city. Many cheap hostels and guest houses are clustered everywhere on the street along with a multitude of shops, bars and cafes. Also, there are numerous travel agencies that offer excursions and bus tickets to anywhere around Vietnam and the neighbor countries. Another very common thing are the street vendors. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is selling something: products like sunglasses, fruits, cigarettes & marijuana (aka “something” or “something else”) or services like: motorbike taxi, shoe shine, massage & sex (aka “boom boom” or “lady”).
Pha Ngu Lao is one of the busiest streets in HCMS and the traffic is absolutely insane. Crossing the street is a near death experience every time. I’ve been told that road traffic injuries are among the leading causes of mortality in Vietnam.