Today I wandered primarily in District One (I think). I had decided to spend a day downtown and see the malls, the city center buildings, the post office and that kinda stuff. It was a pretty good day except for some continuing rather sad personal news of a friend I worked with previously. There’s nothing good that comes out of divorce folks. I’ve tried mightily to not say much about it here if anything at all besides maybe a passing bitterness. In my own case, I have left so much behind but in all honesty divorce is never-ending. You do not just wake up one morning and say,
well so much for that. New start. Gonna take care of some new stuff
At least it was not that way for me.
So I thought a bit as I walked the city about my friend. Then it dawned on me there are actually two people going through the same thing at the same time. So I guess I count my lucky stars that I was able to get through that, reach a point where I could retire, and then hit the road forever. The path to get to the retirement is always interesting but what really is unique I think for each person that leaves forever is how they did it.
I thought about that walking in the Vincom Mall and having Ice Cream today. Thought about it over Vietnamese Coffee and banana bread this morning around the corner from my home stay.
Enough said on it. Too bad I cannot do that with the thoughts that come.
I do want to say some things about the downtown area where the huge blocks are, with malls and banks and small blocks with restaurants and little shopping districts. Ho Chi Minh City is unbelievable folks. The idea you can walk a block or three and go from local shops to mega-malls, upscale restaurants I would never eat at is amazing but has to be seen to be believed. Then there are the backpacker millennials, the old guys like me, the urban socialites and a whole bunch of Japanese people suddenly like a mixed salad and tossed together. Combine that with a hearty dose of beautiful architecture, wondrous places to stop and examine like the Post Office, and the government buildings and you have this city that is truly amazing to spend more time in.
Each day after the morning coffee wherever I go, I can decide on a basic direction that my walk will take me but it never ends up that way. I alway find myself down other streets, looking at the street food stalls, saying hello to friendly young people and kids and taking pictures of security guards all over the place.
If you are gonna travel Asia and are casting about for a place to go, may I humbly suggest a few weeks in Vietnam? I would set an itinerary to cover at least:
- Hanoi. You must see Hanoi so you can see the differences between it and Ho Chi Minh City. But go to Hanoi and exit the old quarter. Get yourself to other places and see what Hanoi really is. I was always amazed by the change in walking just a few blocks there.
- Hue. You must see Hue. Take a day tour of the tombs of three of the emperors and see the difference in how they lived and prepared for the after life waiting for them. Eat the local foods in Hue. See the forbidden city and palace. Also walk the non touristy parts and see the genuine people that live there. Fascinating and wonderful and such a glimpse into the imperial past of Vietnam.
- Hoi An. I would say this place offers a few things. If you want clothing made it could be that you should wait and get there. But most of all go there for the nights when the city is lit up. You must see it.
- Finally, Ho Chi Minh City. I think you do this last because it will assault your senses and make you question all the other places. What a mix of things! A beaitful skyline, small shops, wondrous restaurants, a true international flavor.
I’ll finally put a plug into walking. For the most part I walk the cities. I do this because with a camera in hand, you stand the chance of seeing things completely missed on tours, on buses, bikes, cars, or tractors or whatever. Foot power is the most basic of methods to see it all and be a part of it all. You are at the level of everyone else and smiles, hello’s, places all come alive.
So there in a nutshell you have my recommendations for some weeks in Vietnam. You can tie this all together in many ways. The truth is that Hoi An and Hue are close to Danang. You could just add Danang and use it for a base of operations for a few weeks. Maybe you need a month in Vietnam. Don’t hurry. Take your time. So much to see and you will see more if you travel slow. Remember to bring your appetite. Because eating and drinking here are the things! And you so want to be a thing, right? 😉