Vietnam inspired me the moment I stepped outside of the airport doors. People dress in colorful clothing with many different unique styles. There are genuine smiles on so many of the people’s faces, the kind people have when they are unconditionally happy. Some might find Ho Chi Minh City to be chaotic and crowded, but I found bliss in the chaos.
The first detail about the city that caught my eye is the fact that everyone rides around on scooters wherever they go. There may be four or five people, sometimes including children or pets, on a scooter at once! I even spotted a woman knitting a sweater on the back of a scooter, and many women ride the scooters sidesaddle in the midst of heavy traffic while cutting in and out of lanes. When crossing the street, it was like the serenity of parting the Red Sea mixed with the fear of getting hit in the game Frogger. You must walk slowly and surely, and everyone (cars, scooters, trucks, busses) will somehow manage not to hit you as they zoom past you in every direction.
Even though many people are very impoverished, they are extremely friendly and do not let this factor lead their lives. They are often the first to interact with you, greeting you with an enthusiastic, “Hello!” When taking a look at the city, it was clear that many people don’t have access to a plethora of material possessions, but are better off for it. They enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
The cuisine in this city is also noteworthy. If you aren’t dining at a small, yet delicious pho restaurant, then chances are you are indulging in the experience of eating at a place that offers a thick book-like menu of choices. These menus often contain westernized food choices as well as a variety of delicious Asian cuisine from the surrounding countries. Any person from any part of the world would leave amazed by the city’s ability to excite their taste buds while barely lightening their wallets.
Also worth noting is the fantastic nightlife to behold on Phạm Ngũ Lão Street. This street is packed with fantastic sights, food, and entertainment. You not only can find authentic Vietnamese trinkets and paintings, but can also order surprisingly cheap specially tailored suits made from cashmere no less! Street performers of all kinds make their livings here nightly, and people of any age can find a restaurant or bar they will enjoy.
My travels to this brilliant city only served to further cement the idea that the true meaning of life is finding joy in your daily life, regardless of wealth, power, or perfection. This is an astoundingly magnificent and unique wonderland where people are intensely proud of their country and traditions. They do not pretend to be happy or worried about pointless, materialistic pursuits. People in Saigon live each day as if it were a gift, and treasure every moment as if it were their last.