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One Year in Ho Chi Minh City • Travel Lush


I’ve formally lived in Ho Chi Minh City for a full yr. Man, how time flies. I truly moved to HCMC (aka Saigon) on Christmas Day final yr. I keep in mind the second so clearly it’s onerous to consider it was over a yr in the past.

Aaron and I had simply hopped off a red-eye from Beijing, the place we’d lived for 2 years. Exhausted and bleary-eyed we lugged our 10 suitcases – which contained all of our worldly possessions – by way of Vietnamese immigration and walked out into that sticky Saigon air. I keep in mind beelining it to an outside café, ordering iced Vietnamese espresso and speaking excitedly about our new expat journey as we watched the solar come up.

In some methods, that day looks like a lifetime in the past and in others, it feels prefer it was simply yesterday.

So one yr later, how am I discovering life in Ho Chi Minh City? Listed here are a couple of ideas, observations and anecdotes about my time in Vietnam up to now.

I like dwelling right here far more than I assumed I might

I didn’t actually know what to anticipate once I moved to HCMC. Positive, I’d been to Vietnam a handful of occasions earlier than I moved right here, however the majority of that point was spent in the beachside metropolis of Nha Trang. Earlier than touchdown in HCMC on December 25, 2017,  I’d solely spent 4 fleeting days right here again in 2006. And to be trustworthy, my reminiscence of these days is spotty. It was a very long time in the past and this metropolis has modified dramatically since them.

vietnam-coffeeAnd the espresso’s not dangerous both.

Whereas I used to be excited to reside in Vietnam, I wasn’t precisely thrilled on the concept of shifting to a different big metropolis in Asia. What can I say; I’m not a metropolis woman. I got here in with low expectations however truthfully, this metropolis is a reasonably nice one to reside in! The meals is superb, it’s ridiculously reasonably priced and there’s no finish of issues to eat, drink and do.

Ho Chi Minh City is a superb place for vegetarians

Because of the nation’s giant Buddhist inhabitants, Vietnam is a deal with for vegetarians. However HCMC is among the most veg-friendly cities I’ve been too — at the least relating to native meals.

vegetarian-food-vietnamMmm…noodle soup with mock meat.

In Vietnam the phrase “chay” means vegetarian and there are a ton of chay eating places round city. Critically, there are a minimum of eight inside a 3 block radius of my condominium, that I do know of. I’ve carried out lots of consuming since shifting to this metropolis and had extra noodle soups and banh mi sandwiches than I can rely. For those who’re a vegetarian (or vegan) who’s dwelling in or planning to go to this metropolis, I wrote an entire vegetarian information to HCMC right here.

Ho Chi Minh City is freaking loud

Critically there are research on how the ultra-high decibel ranges are impacting the inhabitants’s listening to. It looks like there’s all the time somebody close by who’s banging on metallic or hammering a wall or honking a horn.

construction-ho-chi-minh-cityThat point I lived throughout from a development website in Saigon.

I relish my peace and quiet (once more, not a metropolis woman) so the fixed noise is one thing that also irks me although I’ve spent 5 years dwelling and touring in Asian cities.

Ho Chi Minh City is polluted

As I write this the air pollution is so dangerous I can see it in the air. Days like this aren’t all that widespread however they do occur and once they do I can really feel it in my nostril and lungs. Coming from Beijing, a notoriously polluted metropolis, I’ve develop into considerably of a air pollution skilled. It’s to the purpose that I can go outdoors on my balcony and pinpoint the AQI (Air High quality Index) degree with disturbing accuracy.

ho-chi-minh-city-skylineOn a polluted day, I can’t see any of the buildings in the background.

I knew the air pollution can be a problem once I moved right here however I didn’t anticipate it to get fairly as dangerous because it does. That being stated it doesn’t get almost as dangerous as Beijing and it ought to undoubtedly not deter anybody from dwelling or touring right here!

Issues do appear to get higher relying on the season. I really feel like through the wet season (spring and summer time) the rain and wind assist to scrub the air pollution away. However proper now, when it’s dry and stagnant the mud from the ever present development websites and the particles from the town’s 7 million motorbikes simply sort of cling in the air. It’s gross and it’s actually, actually unhappy.

There are such a lot of locations to go to round HCMC

Being based mostly in Ho Chi Minh City is a traveler’s dream. There are such a lot of superb home locations which might be only a stone’s throw away. The magical Con Dao Islands and Phu Quoc Island are each a cheap one-hour flight away.

con-dao-islands-vietnamI’m obsessive about the Con Dao Islands.

I visited each in the previous yr and whereas I’m a fan of Con Dao, I liked my time in each locations. I nonetheless have a whole lot of touring to do in Vietnam however one other wonderful thing about dwelling in HCMC is that the Mekong Delta and Vung Tau Seashore are each tremendous shut. The purpose is that if I’m ever sick of metropolis life it’s straightforward to flee for a couple of days.

The language is so arduous

I’ve by no means tried to study a language anyplace I’ve lived and I swore this time can be totally different. I took Vietnamese classes as soon as every week once I first moved right here. I discovered the way to say the alphabet (kinda), greet individuals, order meals, rely to 100…and that’s just about it. Simply kidding, I’m positive I discovered greater than that. Nevertheless it was a sluggish and painful course of and I truthfully got here to dread Vietnamese classes.

I give up about 5 months in. And no, I don’t really feel notably pleased with that. It’s simply so arduous and I can’t think about ever attending to the purpose of getting an precise dialog in Vietnamese. Critically, these tones! I ought to begin taking classes once more although.

Crossing the road nonetheless scares me

HCMC is sort of notorious in relation to its visitors and the entire crossing-the-street factor. Don’t consider me? Simply watch this video. The visitors right here is intense and there’s truthfully not a lot rhyme or purpose relating to driving. Individuals simply type of weave round one another and one way or the other it simply works.


If you need to cross the street nobody’s going to cease for you. You simply should stroll into oncoming visitors and belief that folks will go round you. (The motorbikes will. However please don’t stroll in entrance of a automotive or bus. They may run proper over you.)

One yr later and I nonetheless don’t really feel settled

My dwelling state of affairs is a bit odd. We subleased our condo in District 1 for 3 months again in February 2018. Our plan was to stay downtown for a couple of months after which transfer to the suburbs the place Aaron’s college is situated. However we couldn’t fairly tear ourselves away from life in our downtown condominium, regardless of by no means actually shifting into our place.

Our condominium is nautically themed. Oh, apart from the second bed room which has extra of an intergalactic vibe. None of that is by selection. Had I deliberate on staying in our condo for a full yr I might have taken down all the pictures of clownfish and dolphins and boats. I might have gotten rid of the blue-hued vases with pretend flowers that sit on the shelf in our front room. I might have purchased non-aquatic-themed decorations and furnishings to make the condominium extra snug and homey. However I didn’t.

apartment-ho-chi-minh-cityIt’s like dwelling in an aquarium!

We simply type of stored extending our lease month by month. One yr later and I’m nonetheless watching that very same rattling clownfish photograph as I work, questioning why I by no means bothered to take it down. (In all honesty, I used to be afraid of offending our very good landlord who loves these decorations.)

Our lease is up on the finish of the month and we discovered a reasonably unimaginable condo in the suburbs. I’m unhappy to go away downtown, and all of the vegetarian eating places I frequent, however shifting to District 7 may have its perks and our new condo is fairly unbelievable!

ho-chi-minh-city-apartmentA sneak peek at my new place. It has two tales!!

Making pals continues to be a problem

Am I the one expat who suffers from this? I’m undoubtedly a social individual however I’ve zero concept of how you can go about randomly assembly individuals. I’m simply not all that good at placing myself on the market. I suppose the entire working from residence factor doesn’t assist with this.

I’ve developed a meals supply habit

I get meals delivered means too typically. It’s a must to perceive that I spent two years dwelling in the suburbs of Beijing. There was no option to get any meals delivered on the market until I have been to have been fluent in Chinese language. (If my Vietnamese talents are any indication, I undoubtedly was not.) We cooked each meal in China and went out for pizza or dumplings as soon as every week.

So once we discovered how straightforward it was to get burritos or hummus or palak paneer delivered proper to our door right here in Saigon we have been a bit of too excited. I’m making an attempt to work on this and prepare dinner extra, primarily as a result of the quantity of plastic and waste meals supply in HCMC generates is disturbing. Oh and I’m feeling more and more out of form and unhealthy lately.

I miss having a spot to train

Talking of well being, I miss having a spot to stroll or jog outdoors. I’ve by no means been a fitness center individual. I choose to train outdoors however that’s actually onerous the place I reside. I often wish to take a stroll on the finish of my workday, not solely to train however to ensure I get out and about every day.

However that additionally coincides with rush hour, which means there’s sometimes a variety of air pollution from motorbikes. Strolling can also be difficult as a result of there are motorbikes driving on the streets and sidewalks and, like I stated earlier than, crossing the road is all the time a problem.

I really like watching soccer video games

Maybe my favourite factor about dwelling in HCMC is watching the town root for its nationwide soccer workforce. Vietnam hasn’t precisely been aggressive in the game however this yr they’ve type of a dream group. Win or lose the town goes loopy each time they make it far in any competitors they usually’ve made it far in three since I’ve lived right here.

My very first storm.

Actually, everybody busts out their Vietnamese flags and vuvuzelas and purple headbands. Your complete metropolis erupts in unison when the staff scores and emits shrill screams of worry when the opposite groups threaten to attain. And win or lose all of them “storm” the streets and honk their horns, in full mania. It’s the most effective factor to expertise!

A yr of visa runs

I got here to Vietnam on a one-year vacationer visa. So whereas I’m allowed to remain for a yr, I’ve to go away each three months. I do love visa runs as a result of I’m principally being pressured to journey (often solo) — poor me. This yr, I’ve gone to Chiang Mai, Thailand; Lombok, Indonesia; San Diego, California; Hong Kong and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

chiang-mai-templesI liked my journey to Chiang Mai!

Whereas I’ve relished being pressured to discover new locations, these journeys all value cash that I don’t essentially need to spend. It additionally signifies that I by no means have the time to discover Vietnam. I’ve finished little or no touring in-country since I moved right here. The excellent news is that I’m now on a one-year enterprise visa, which suggests I can keep for a full yr with out leaving Vietnam. I’ve a sense I’ll be doing much more touring in Vietnam this yr. I’m additionally hoping to get some visits from relations in 2019 (I’m speaking to you mother!).

Positive, the previous yr has been filled with ups and downs however general I’m fairly glad dwelling in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m excited to vary issues up slightly bit and transfer to a brand new condominium. Typically somewhat change is an effective factor. General, I’m excited to see what yr quantity two brings.


Living in Ho Chi Minh City: It's Been One Year! - Travel Lush

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