News Satire People Food Other

The Hustle And Bustle Of Ho Chi Minh City

By The Bondi Travel Bug on October 22, 2015 in Other

Photo: The Bondi Travel Bug

Photo: The Bondi Travel Bug

With a population of over 20 million people, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the busiest places in the world. Add nine million motorbikes/scooters, plus cars, trucks and cyclists, and the volume of traffic is overwhelming. At peak times the vehicles seem to morph into a river of metal and it’s hard to comprehend how the city doesn’t come to a complete standstill. Quite incredibly, it keeps on moving, albeit with a lot of horn blowing.

As with all major cities, there is much to do and many attractions to see, but for a day’s relief from the crowds and humidity, respite is only a short two-hour drive away to My Tho, the capital of the Tien Giang province in Southern Vietnam, for a Mekong River Delta tour.

From My Tho port we were transported by boat on a 15-minute murky Mekong River journey to Thoi Son Islet and then transferred to a three-person wooden canoe (usually paddled by women) which snaked through one of the many peaceful tributaries to where we disembarked.

The pace of city living was cast aside briefly as we discovered how this renowned river is such a vital life force not only to Vietnam, but also globally courtesy of the produce cultivated on its bank and the fish caught in its waters, much of which is exported. Here we got to see where much of the country’s tropical fruit and rice is grown. The Mekong Delta is one of the greatest rice-producing regions of the world.

After a short introduction by our guide, it wasn’t long before we were being entertained by a charming group of local musicians playing ‘Don ca tai tu’ (southern traditional music) and getting offered a variety of tropical fruits and tea served with honey from locally bred bees. Fruits grown in the area include rambutan, mangosteen, star apple, durian, pineapple, papaya, jackfruit and more.

There was one negative element of my tour that came about as a result of my love of sugar, and my love handles were the victims (and the beneficiaries). The culprit was Thoi Son Islet candy production, another major business in the area. We got to see how all the sweets are made and packaged and we were seductively enticed to sample local products including coconut candy, peanut brittle and moreish dried banana. The idea is that you will buy some of the products and it really worked a treat on me. I hauled a few kilos back home.

The Mekong Delta day trip was certainly worthwhile as it gave a great an insight to how huge the Mekong River really is (it’s the 10th largest river in the world), not just in size but in its importance to the Vietnamese economy.

To really see the Mekong River at its busiest I would suggest an overnight stay so that you can see the exciting and eclectic river markets very early in the morning. This is when you get to witness colourful and explosive Vietnamese culture at its best.

After my busy day-tour of the Mekong I bid farewell to Thoi Son Islet. Tired, full and content I spend the next two hours observing the local scenery on my drive back to Ho Chi Minh City. Once back in the madness of this bustling metropolis it wasn’t not long before I was walking the streets in search of one of my favourite Vietnamese institutions: the street food vendors.

Any spare areas on the footpaths of the city are dominated by food carts and portable cookers, with little plastic chairs and tables full of hungry locals situated nearby. I chose a place and sat down for a Vietnam favourite: Pho soup (rice noodles, beef or chicken and herbs), which is consumed at any time of the day.

Wherever I looked there were Vietnamese women carrying traditional wooden poles with baskets on the ends laden with fruit, nuts or spices, or on pushbikes jam-packed with colourful tropical fruits or other produce.

Vietnam is unlike any other Asian country and the people are some of the most hospitable you’ll ever meet. It’s an adventure like no other and I hope to return soon to continue mine.


How to get there:
Flights leave Sydney and Melbourne daily

Where to stay:
Rex Hotel