First day in HCMC 

This will be a simple journal style entry about my first full day in Viet Nam, with no fancy structure or catchy title.

9/6/11

Today was challenging. For starters, I did not sleep at all last night. Jet lag has gotten the best of me, and I was super exhausted all day. During orientation I was trying hard to stay awake and alert, but I must admit that I drifted off quite a few times. During our walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I felt super weak as if I had not eaten all day (although I did have breakfast). The humidity in HCMC is killer! I have never sweated so consistently in my life!! I tried my best to stay hydrated, but it seems that the only remedy for my ill feelings was a cat nap. Now that I have complained my butt off, I can talk about all of the awesome things I experienced today. After orientation, myself and the other students had a group lunch at a restaurant called Pho 2000. Pho seems to be the signature food of Viet Nam; Pho is a noodle soup served with either beef, chicken or vegetables. Based on my experience back in NYC with Vietnamese food, I decided that I did not like Pho. Although it is not my favorite dish, having the authentic taste in Viet Nam has made me much more fond of Pho. After lunch, I took my first bus ride back to my dorm hall. There are a few differences in the way HCMC’s bus system operates compared to the MTA in New York City. For starters, passengers do not hold metrocards/tokens, and there are two employees on the bus. The driver is solely responsible for driving, while there is a second person responsible for walking around the bus at each station and collecting cash payments of 4.000 VND (about the same quantity as 1 U.S. quarter) from each passenger. Navigating the streets of HCMC can be difficult. There are hundreds of motorbikes on the road at any given time; therefore the second worker must help guide the driver around the motorbikes as the bus pulls into each station. Getting on and off the bus is also quite the task; the bus never comes to a complete stop it simply slows down as passengers jump on and off. While there are differences between HCMC and NYC transportation, there are also a few similarities. Passengers can press a button to inform the driver that they need to get off the bus at a specific station. Passengers can choose to sit in very similarly styled seats, or stand and hold the silver poles. Passengers can enjoy the comfort of an air conditioner, or simply open up a window. One of the most profound similarities between the two systems is the use of the bus as an extension of the market place. Women sell their food products on the bus as they ride, or even before a bus pulls out of the main terminal. Initially, I was shocked by this and did not recognize that NYC public transportation is also an extension of the market place. On any given day in NYC, you can find children selling candy bars, performers show casing their talent for a quick buck, and bootleggers selling DVDs at super cheap prices. Because of my vast experience with public transportation, I felt silly when I assumed “transportation culture” would be a completely different experience in Viet Nam. Nonetheless, I am so excited about all of the experiential learning that awaits me. Stay tuned for more of my rambling on just about everything!

  • TJ