Saigon First Impressions

I didn’t bring shorts to Siagon.

I didn’t bring shorts, I didn’t bring singlets, I didn’t bring anything light or airy and I thought I would be fine! I was fine in India wasn’t I? I would wear black every day, my legs and arms smothered in tight cotton and my waste hidden behind a loose smock of some sort, and sure I would sweat like a waterfall but for some reason I don’t remember it bothering me much.


I just sort of oozed liquid all day, and my body stabilised at a productive and comfortable temperature. Simple! But it is very different here. I don’t know if its my winter-worn body being tardy in its adjustment or if its just plain hotter here than in a South-Indian summer, perhaps the air is wetter or the sun less sympathetic?


Saigon is a metropolis of West meets East, especially in the backpacker district Pham Ngu Lao.

A 20 minute walk into town and you’re struck by the gleaming glass of ‘Channel’ and ‘Guchi’, 5 minutes back and you’re buying peanuts from a walking vendor, a few streets to your right and you’re lost in the bars and brothels of Siagon’s red-light mayhem, and in the maze of alleyways that link all these together you will find the smallest and most friendly people you have ever seen. They are almost warm in their friendliness.

The Vietnamese here in Ho Chi Minh are, yes, brilliant scam artists, speakers of many many languages, and entrepreneurs of the most sophisticated degree. But besides all this there is an inherent and deeply seated smile in all of them which seems to grace them with the sort of approachable friendliness that we so lack in Sydney. Saigon, from what I have seen so far, is busy, colourful, smelly and bloody hot from its weather to its inhabitants.

And the heat isn’t just a product of an aggressive sun. It seems to emanate more from the roads, the plants, the very city dribbles waves of the stuff like its trying to beat the sky at its own game. The huge clusters of jabbering people block the steamy alley they are squatting in with steamy heat of their own; the giant cloud-tickling business blocks and their shiny glass make it a business to throw the sun in all directions, flashing your skin from every angle; even the trees are sweating and with the advent of every lush leaf the very air of Saigon must get a little hotter


And as a result, I have in the last few days officially been transformed into a human heating system. Chilly at night? Is the air-con I covet so much getting to you? Well here just grab a hold of my hand for a few minutes and you’ll soon be so warm you’ll forget you were ever uncomfortable…

How I Lived in HCMC on Under $200/Month >


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