A Travellerspoint blog

Put down that map and get wonderfully lost

10th and 11th November

sunny 34 °C

Wow, so I am three days and absolutely loving it here. And so much has already happened.
My first official day in Ho Chi Minh City on sunday (10th) after failing to sleep in to beat being in New Zealand time- 6hrs ahead, I ventured off to the find a supermarket. All the packaging being in Vietnamese made it interesting especially when I found so many new products. But like everything in Vietnam it was hustling with people and navigating through the people was a nightmare. I stand much taller than the regular Vietnamese, plus carrying my backpack and shopping basket I felt like a clumsy giant, having to awkwardly maneuver through everyone. I thought I should support the NZ Dairy Industry when I found their product.
When I got the meat section, it was self serve, so you could pick how much of each you would take. It did not seem that hygienic as it was hardly being chilled in the soaring temparture and the smell was intense.
My shopping cost me less than $20 NZD so it is amazing the value of money over here.
I am yet to find out what that fruit is called. Some sort of Guava maybe?

It was a stupid move going to the Supermarket first because I then was off to the Reunification Palace and had to carry my shopping for the day. The Reunification Palace represents the South Vietnamese Government and its architecture makes it one of the grandest buildings in HCMC. large_P1050072.jpglarge_P1050086.jpg

Made of 6 floors- 2 underground, it tells an introductory story to the Vietnam War and what occured in Saigon, the resistance of the South and the influence and aid of the Americans. The grand meeting rooms for the President with visitors and the entertainment floor.

The underground floors was where the work occured in the war, with phone lines connecting straight to the US Embassy and Washington. This photos show the support of Allies, New Zealand being Tan Tay Lan.
The bomb shelter was built when the Palace was rebuilt after being bombed in an attempt to kill the President.
The vehicle is the replica of the one used by the President to surrender to the Revolutionary Govt.

That afternoon the AIESEC local committee had organised a Vietnamese Language class. I got my first motorbike ride on the roads here when Hao, being driven by her mum picks us up. So it was the three of us, and mum don't worry everyone wears helmets here- and they cannot get very fast because there is so much traffic.
The other interns, Anna (Poland), Pjotr (The Netherlands) and Ish (The Philippines) and the local members participated although I was not very good. The Vietnamese language has 12 tones I learnt and this means that the same spelt word can have different meaning depending on how you say it. So musical. We learnt basic food and drinks and how to buy or order them -but have hardly remembered them. I got to try Sweet soup- Che, Green Bean and Black Bean flavours and I am still not sure what I think, the taste is very strange.


I start teaching on Tuesday so I had Monday free as well. I had set a plan to visit Ben Tanh Market and sorted the bus route and the stations as I thought it would be good to sort catching the buses before having to go to work.
Jayden, you are going to love this story, it is exactly like the bus we caught somewhere in Sydney that took us nowhere close to where we wanted to go and then it poured with rain.
Anyway, I am still quite disorientated with directions, simply because apart from the road I live on, I cannot remember the other ones, they are all at least three words long. So I headed off and quickly realised I was heading in the wrong direction but since it is a residential area and everywhere people are sitting on the streets so it really seems like "I Spy the Foreigner". So instead of turning around making it obvious I was lost I tikitoured around the block and got to where I needed to be. I had to catch the 65 bus, so I waited and got on and paid etc. When I was planning I saw that the bus ride was only about 2kms, so I waited out approx that distance and got ready for the bus got to the market which was the last stop and the bus would stop. It never came. I checked my location on my phones GPS and quickly realised I had got on the right bus, but was on the wrong side of the road, therefore I was about 4km in the opposite direction. Oh Crap. I thought it was pretty hilarious. I did not want to lose face, so I simply got off at the next station and started walking down one of the streets of the main highway. To put it simply, I was "somewhere in Vietnam", lol but no idea where.
On my walk, I passed a lovely family who was sitting on the street having a drink, I bought a drink from them and sat with them and tried to speak with the little English they knew. The two brothers, the wife and three children, explained how to get where I needed to and were fascinated with New Zealand, in the end they offered to drive (on motorbike) the 10kms.
They say do not talk to strangers, but in Vietnam that is everyone. This family is a prime example of the lovely people in this country.

Ben Tanh market is madness, I have experienced markets in the Pacific with the wooden handicrafts etc, but here, probably like all Asian countries they are masters of making replicas. My first rookie mistake though was buying at the first stall I came to, but they ended up fitting perfectly and beats the Glassons version I bought for $29 where these are less than $5. The market shopkeepers all know the same pestering words. "Miss, I help you", "Want you want", "I give you good price", "What price you want", "Miss let me help you", and of course the line "I have big size" :( haha.

In the afternoon I ventured off to the War Remnants Museum and it was amazing but incredibly sickening. On my way, I passed the first police officer carrying a weapon. That gave me a fright, being by myself, something you do not see in New Zealand. The Musem is a must-see for anyone who knows anything about the war and the horror stories of what both parties did.
The stories you learn of what occured, the inhuman events and the consequences. If you can zoom in on the photos you can read the captions.
New Zealand and almost every other country in the world was represented by their anti-war protests.


Ruby and Fady, if you are reading this check out the view from the Nuremburg Trials. I though that was pretty cool to learn, so relevant to what we studied.

At my accomodation, two girls from Hanoi have moved in next door, Hang and Hanh. Doctor and Nurse they are completing the studies in HCMC in optometry, They were heading out to find dinner and invited me along. Hang speaks pretty good English so she was the middle person. Being Vietnamese, they knew where to eat and we found a place selling a Saigon-only noodle soup dish. We sat at the tiny table on the street and of course my legs were to long and could not fit under the table. (Step 1 to look like a dork). We were served and I saw that it is eaten with chopsticks and a spoon. I am okay with chopsticks, but using a spoon as well means that the chopsticks go in the right hand - a tad difficult for a lefty. (step 2). But it was delicious and beats Mee Goreng 2min Noodles anyday.
I will tell you what I mean about how lovely the people are, I went to pay and they tell me it was their treat and they had already sorted it. Talked about it in Vietnamese. The night before, when I was out grabbing dinner, I walked in and the only English speaker was a older Vietnamese man who lives in the US now and invited me to join him. And again I went to settle the bill and it was already paid for. Even though the NZD equivalent was only about $2.50.

Starbucks is newly opened in HCMC and it is the only place in Vietnam, so feeling quilty the girls had paid for me, I got them there first frappucino.
Got called Rihanna as they could not hear the BRE.

You see some interesting sights when wandering, like the Catholic female only church service outside occuring in the middle of the public area.
or the pump bikes which you use you arms not legs
or the number of drivers being able to sleep like this on their bikes

I get to see how many people are visiting the blog, so do not be afraid to leave a comment if you are viewing the page.

Posted by breannamorgan34 16:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged adventure city lost chi ho minh Comments (7)

Cyclone Haiyan Update

sunny 32 °C

just in regards to the cyclone coming towards Vietnam, I have had a few people checking if it was coming near to where I am. So it made landfall at 7am (currently 8.30am) but after devastating the Philippines initially it was headed towards Ho Chi Minh City but changed to the north while over the South China Sea. So north Vietnam, the capital Hanoi and surrounding areas are facing the storm. It has also been downgraded to a category 1 storm, much less severe than the Category 5 it was. There will be no effect here where I am.
Thanks for the concerns. :)

Posted by breannamorgan34 07:15 Archived in Vietnam Tagged storm typhoon haiyan Comments (2)

Oh the places you'll go

Nov 8/9

sunny 30 °C

So I made it. Few long hours sitting on the plane and wandering a Taiwanese airport I arrived at Ho Chi Minh City. I was lucky enough to be on an empty flight so sleeping was easy.
The sweet Vietnamese-America lady I sat next to on the plane guided and translated my way through security. But it was slightly different to NZ airport security. I went straight through even though I was declaring pineapple lumps. Exiting security I found out meant leaving the building, which I found fairly strange as the public waiting area was outside in the heat. I was faced with over 100 signs from a wall of people to sort through to find my name and Linh.
This is where the organised chaos begins. Into the taxi and all I saw was motorbikes. I thought the stories I were told were exaggerated from the South East Asia traffic but no. And the number of times the taxi slammed on their breaks to avoid hitting one of those bikes that cut us off was crazy. They have adopted some ad hoc road rules but everyone seems to manage. a three lane road become 6 lane, pedestrian crossings are simply black and white ignored lines, the stop line at a intersection was invisible and they crept as far forward as possible and largely ignored traffic lights, red lights meant if you are on a motorbike, approach and go with caution.
It was amazing what the locals can carry on their little scooters, 20 dozen eggs, their 4-member family, but the number of face masks that are worn show how bad the air pollution on the roads are.

I arrived at my accommodation, an alleyway in the residential area of District Three. My hosts Mr Hung and Ms Hoa, the most lovely people, who speak little English and their grown up daughter helped initially translate.
After getting my SIM card sorted and being shown around the neighbourhood, I returned to the house where my family had kept me a serving of their traditional lunch they had with their family while I was out. It was very generous and tasted delicious.
It was also far more than I could eat especially under the scrutiny of 7 people watching. I am yet to learn what each dish is.

Thu and I had spent over an hour visiting stores looking for a New Zealand to Vietnamese plug adaptor, with no luck, I though I would ask Mr Hung if he had a similar battery pack on his computer, with difficulty through the language barrier, I got the message "I go get" and he jumped on his motorbike and left. Within 5 minutes he returned with exactly what I needed and at the price of $10,000 V dong - the equivalent of NZD$0.56 cents. Beat that Auckland airport selling them at $25 each, without even knowing if they will work here.

After facing this language barrier I used my Lonely Planet Vietnamese book and Google Translate to have a mini Vietnamese language lesson much to the hysterics of my hosts. I'm not sure if they were laughing because they were enjoying themselves or if I pronunciation was that bad - probably the latter. But they were loving teaching me and showing me places I could walk to from here on the map. They kept asking "can you walk 1 km?".

My room here is very good. Almost as big as my box at JSH in Wellington. I also get my own little bathroom with an odd place for the shower if you look at the photo. But the heat means it dries quickly.

When I visited the Supermarket which turned out to only be a chemist last night, I walked past this statue, the first story reminding me this country has recently faced their war. The statue I was told represents a monk who in protest of the Vietnam War burnt himself (across the road in fact) and is now celebrated here by this spectacular statue. I will find its official name one day.
So everyone who has managed to read this far, I am safe and loving it here. I have good access to the internet and am with great people. I begin work on tuesday with a class I have been allocated to work with for the next 5 weeks :)
Also there is a government ban on Facebook here, so I am having slight problems getting past the bans. Therefore this will be the best method of contact.

Goodbye for now.

Posted by breannamorgan34 05:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged flights first days early impressions Comments (2)

Two days left...

Set to go?

overcast -14 °C

So the plan is: Travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and join the 'Hope for Children' Project while experiencing a whole new way of life.
The rest: unknown.

But they say - uncertainty creates the adventure.

From deciding early in September that I could afford the time and money to take this trip, to now, amidst packing, realising I am actually going so soon and still wondering what I am even getting myself into.

I must admit I have a few nerves but I know I am going to expect (1) the humidity, (2) the language barrier [and my poor Vietnamese skills], (3) the amazing food and (4) a city of chaos.


Posted by breannamorgan34 02:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged preparing Comments (1)

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