I read about the overwhelming abundance of motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City prior to coming to Vietnam, but no amount of reading prepares one for trying to cross the street with a stream of honking traffic flying straight at you. The general rule of thumb is to walk at a steady pace and let drivers maneuver around you-easier said than done. It is hard to quell my impulse to stop abruptly when I see a moving vehicle heading rapidly in my direction. Nonetheless, in the not-quite 48 hours I’ve spent here I am beginning to get used to the bustle of Vietnam’s largest city. Since arriving I’ve been acclimating to the time difference and the heat while taking care of some logistical tasks such as registering with the consulate. It has been an interesting, albeit confusing, few days. Communication is difficult-part of me definitely feels like the silly American speaking to people in English and expecting a response-but I have found other ways to communicate and I am attempting to learn some Vietnamese phrases. That said, I am looking forward to heading up to Dong Hoi to begin work at the LSN-V office. Compared to HCMC, Dong Hoi promises to be quite tranquil.
- Statue of “Uncle Ho” in central HCMC
Walking around HCMC I have begun to see the stark contrast between the old and new, rich and poor. With a booming economy, Vietnam has been very successful at reducing poverty. In 1975 roughly 80% of the population was living in poverty; recent estimates put the current poverty level at under 20%–quite an impressive transformation in a relatively short amount of time. This morning I walked over to the Ben Thanh Market, one of the largest indoor markets in the city. As soon as I entered the market I was hit with sensory overload-the bright fruit stalls and the numerous vendors selling Pho offered much to see, hear and smell. Yet on the periphery of the market, the lingering poverty was apparent. At this point I am still in processing mode-taking in all that is going on around me now that I’m finally here.
- Bright, Tropical Fruits at Ben Thanh Market
Soon I will leave HCMC’s busy streets and head up to Dong Hoi via the Reunification Express, a train line that runs the length of the country. It is a long ride to Dong Hoi-some 20+ hours-and although there are relatively inexpensive flights that would get me within driving distance, I thought the train would be a great way to take in some of the country I might not otherwise have the chance to see. I will certainly be taking some pictures and posting them here, so check back soon!
Posted By Gretchen Murphy
Posted Jun 3rd, 2009