After leaving the airport, we hopped into a cab right outside of the airport. One thing to note is that cabs are not highly regulated in Ho Chi Minh so if you go, I highly recommend that you ensure you get into a white cab labeled “Vinasun.” These seemed to be the most reliable cabs that we utilized and our friend who lives there only uses that company. They are all metered with Vinasun which really helps. You can try barter if you feel inclined but I think you have less of a chance getting a different deal with that company as you would with others.
As we drove into the city, our friend gave us a little bit of a history lesson on the city. Fun facts:
- The city is separated by districts (similar to the Hunger Games…) and District 1 is the main shopping/business district where all the tourist activities will be.
- The infrastructure of the city was only meant to hold about 4 million people and last we checked, Ho Chi Minh was at about 9 million people.
- The scooters try to stay on the far right two lanes of the road at all times
- The best place to stay for hostels would be the Backpacker’s District which is also the best location to schedule tourist activities
- Vietnamese coffee is strong and thinking you can handle 3 cups of it in one day is impressive
We went to our hotel, dropped off our stuff and met up with our friends who were staying in the same place. We left the hotel as a group to go get lunch at a place called Cuc Gach Quan. This place was apparently made famous by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, if you want to feel really cool. It’s an awesome little restaurant that is located on two sides of the street so if you see one side that is super crowded, there’s a chance that the other side of the street has more seating.
I can’t tell you everything we ordered because our friend did all of it, but I know that we had fish, purple yam soup, chicken, beef, vegetables, and freshly squeezed fruit juices.
One thing that I love about eating in Asia is the fruit. There is something to be said about the fruit that you have in Asia because for some reason it is sweeter, it is fresher and it is more flavorful than anything I have had in the States. Even though it was the end of monsoon season in Southeast Asia, the freshly squeezed watermelon juice was more delicious than the packaged watermelons you have during the summer.
After our food came, we ate. And ate. And then ate some more. The thing about eating was that we didn’t really know what we were eating but we knew that it was good so we didn’t ask any questions. As weird as it is and as strangely purple as the purple yam soup was, it was so good. I was the first one to try it and ended up having about 3 bowls full. It was lukewarm (which sounds strange) but to be honest, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if it had been cold or hot. Lukewarm made it perfectly enjoyable and it allowed you to really focus on the flavors. Plus there were small amounts of chicken in the bottom of the soup and other mysterious things. I’ve learned not to question things…
This may have been my motto of the entire trip – don’t question it.