We moved to Saigon in 2009 together with some other 30 families to work for an American company. So far, we’ve been enjoying our stay and it’s as if we’ve been in some vacation bubble — at least that’s how the home-makers and part-time workers like me feel.
Saigon for me is this relaxing, laid-back city where you can just chill. Although the weaving motorbikes in the streets can be frightening — when you’ve lived here long enough, they tend to become a blur (partly pun intended) in the background of Saigon living. The heart stopping sight and sounds of living in motorbike-landia represents the vibrancy of its people.
Can’t help but think of the enormous city of Manila compared to Ho Chi Minh City. I know I haven’t really explored HCMC all that much but the narrow streets and low-rise buildings is definitely not that overwhelming as the buildings and highways back home.
Honestly, last year when I visited a mall back home, I felt kind of overwhelmed by the sheer number of people. I actually had a headache after the mall-visit as I took in the sights, sounds, and smell that are awesomely Filipino. I missed what our malls and shops can offer and the affordability of the products — it’s just that I forgot how huge and expansive our malls are.
Contrastingly, Saigon has a lot of boutique-type stores. The malls offer branded shops but quite oh-so-expensive. Also, the malls are not really ‘conceptualized’ unlike that of the malls by the Ayalas and Sys in the Philippines. But the smallness and compactness of the malls here in Saigon, makes it all the more relaxing to shop — well depending on what you’re buying. Because malls here are not one-stop shop, it can get quite tiring hopping from one mall or shop to another. 😀
I love how easy it is to get around Saigon because there’s really not much traffic unless it rains really hard — and all the places that I want to go to can be reached by just walking and that forest trees are all around the city to shield you from the hot Saigon sun.
But then again, I miss the trains in Manila — that although it can be really packed, the ride is cheap and you can explore the city by merely getting off each station.
Because I’m not a Vietnamese, I don’t really understand what’s happening in the Vietnamese government. I’m not sure if the Vietnamese is just agreeable but I don’t see protests here all that much (just once regarding Eden Mall closing down). Here, when the fare price for transportation increased, you hardly hear a peep from the Vietnamese. They just accept it. While in Manila, just a 50 centavo increase can cause people to take up their placards in protests in front of LTFRB.
In my 2 years of living in Saigon, I haven’t really fully immersed myself into their culture and I know that there are some things that I will never be privy to. I can always look at Vietnam in my rose-tinted glasses because of the opportunity it offered me and my family. And see it in the eyes of a visitor while enjoying the benefits of Saigon-living of being a semi-local. I will be forever in awe of hidden gems of Vietnam — its people, food, and places. I think in the end, every creation of The Universe should be appreciated, that’s why tourism was invented. I think it’s God’s way of saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, kid!”
My heart still belongs to Manila but it sure is wonderful to have found a second home here in Saigon.