Tag Archives: ho chi minh city

Same, same…but different

That’s a saying that I heard repeatedly in Vietnam. It’s mostly a good thing, I think. Sometimes it means you’re not getting what you wanted (the wrong hotel room, maybe), but more often I took it to mean, “it’s all good.” People assumed that I was Vietnamese, and would either speak to me in Vietnamese, or ask me where I was from. USA was not the answer they were looking for, so I just started saying I was Chinese. The response? “Same same!”

We wrapped up our Vietnam adventure by returning to Ho Chi Minh City for some last minute shopping and relaxation.

We were within walking distance of the Hotel de Ville, which houses the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. No visitors allowed, but the outside is beautiful. A remnant of French colonial times.


The Municipal Theater is in the same neighborhood.


One of DH’s quirky pastimes while traveling is looking for a BIG cup of coffee. He was thwarted in Paris (2003, pre-Starbucks); the closest he got was a bigger cup but the same amount of coffee. In HCMC, we found a Starbuck’s lookalike, Trung Nguyen Coffee. Definitely not a Starbucks experience, though. We were seated, menus distributed, cool green tea served. And then we ordered. DH ordered a drip coffee, and it was definitely a drip! Same same, but different. BTW, that’s an avocado shake/smoothie the College Guy is trying; it’s very popular in Vietnam.


The next day, we wandered into another Starbuck’s lookalike, Gloria Jean’s Coffees (turns out this is an Australian company), and it was a familiar feeling. Order at the counter, pick up at the counter. Big cup of coffee available, as well as fruit smoothies and my beloved iced latte. Same same, and same. Except the cute little chocolate croissant. Perfect size, just big enough, 18,000 VND (about one dollar, US).


Prescription glasses are ridiculously inexpensive in Vietnam, so I took the opportunity to have some sunglasses made. This can be done in a day. I don’t wear my glasses that often during the day so I couldn’t justify the expense of having this done at home, but at 600,000 VND (about $34), it was a bargain. College Guy also got new glasses. Then we decided to get sunglasses for the Teen, but his glasses were back at the hotel. No problem. We put him on a motorbike cab with a card for the hotel, and a card for the optical shop. After he left, we wondered if we would ever see him again. While we waited, we consoled ourselves with a traditional coconut treat from a street cart. Drink the juice, and then scoop out the young coconut flesh. Delicious!


DH bought hot coffee from a nearby shop. This is how it’s packaged for takeaway service. Same, same? Completely different!


The Teen did return, and we all ordered our glasses, to be picked up the next day.


We wrapped up our stay with massages. We were going to do the $11 hour massage, but after a bit of discussion, opted for 75 minute shiatsu massages for $20. Best. Massage. Ever. Perfect pre-flight relaxation.



And yes, this will return to being a knitting blog, soon…

Every story has a beginning…

…and our trip to Vietnam is no different. It was sparked by a post on friend Susan’s blog, inviting friends to come visit during her three month stay there. I mentioned it to DH, and he thought I was nuts. Then he reconsidered, and I thought *he* was nuts. Then there were Vietnam guide books for Mother’s Day. The rest is history. It would take some creative calendar juggling to make it work for the whole family, but that’s par for the course around here.

Since we’d be flying through Tokyo, I thought it might be fun to hang out there for a few days on the way back. The Teen is studying Japanese in school, and what better way for him to get an earful than to be immersed in it? That part of the trip would just be the two of us, as DH and College Guy had to get back to work and school.

We flew 16 hours to get to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon, airport code is still SGN). I got a lot of Ishbel knitting done on that trip! Arriving at 11 p.m., we were treated to a taxi ride where we were amazed by the way traffic works there. The motorbike is the predominant vehicle in HCMC, and there don’t appear to be many rules of the road. Usually the right side of the road, but sometimes the left side. A big vehicle can do whatever it wants. The motorbikes part around it, like schools of fish. The same is true for pedestrians: step off the curb, move slowly, keep a steady pace, and the motorbikes will flow around you. Don’t make any sudden changes!

It’s amazing what can be carried on a motorbike. Entire families. Baskets of produce or chickens. Building materials. Office supplies. Mattresses! And people. It’s easy to hire a motorbike driver to take you where you want to go.


Sunday morning found us bright and early at the Sinh Cafe. (I love the irony of that.) Sinh Cafe is a travel agency that books tours. We went on a bus tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where the Viet Cong used to live under ground during the American War (that’s what it’s called there). History is definitely written by the victors, and the US was not on that side. We passed banana and rubber tree plantations on the way.

Here’s a demonstration of how small the tunnel entrances could be.


Now you see him:


And now,


You don’t!


We had the opportunity to crawl through some of the tunnels. DH and College Guy did; The Teen and I were too claustrophobic.


Of course, there’s always a souvenir shop. The Teen bought a hat, and we looked at this snake wine.


We spent the afternoon touring Ho Chi Minh City via chauffeured motorbike. We saw the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral.


There was some music going on at the entrance to the cathedral.


The afternoon ended with hair washes for me & the boys. A hair wash involves shampoo, scalp massage, and facial massage, for about 30 minutes. It costs about 30,000 Vietnamese Dong, which is less than $2 US. Very relaxing, and cooling too. Perfect after a hot tropical day. The guys were skeptical at first, but once the cool water started, they were fans! Me, too. Couldn’t talk DH into it, though.