Cultural Learnings Of Ho Chi Minh City For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Malaysia

I realised I haven’t yet blogged about the trip to Vietnam I had last year.

You can obviously tell that the trip was from a long time ago because that pic was from when I still had hair.
Actually I had wanted to blog about this trip earlier, but as soon as I returned from Vietnam, Israel launched an attack Gaza. A lotta people were getting emotional as a result. Considering I couldn’t blog about Ho Chi Minh City without mentioning the horrors of the Vietnam War, I decided to put the entry on hold.
Until I kinda forgot about it. Hehe.

There is a reason why people described George Bush’s war in Iraq as a repeat of the Vietnam War.
Back in the 1960s, Vietnam was split into two halves, the communist north and the democratic south.

The Americans weren’t even involved in this conflict at first. But because this was during the height of the Cold War, they were desperate to “spread democracy” and rid the world of communism in order to assume world domination.

So they sent in their troops into Saigon help the South Vietnamese fight the war, thinking that it’ll be an easy victory since they have bombs, tanks and planes. All the North Vietnamese had back then were primitive sticks and stones.

What the Americans thought was gonna be a swift one-sided war turned ugly when the they find themselves ambushed repeatedly by pro-communist soldiers and civilians alike hiding inside tunnels and Vietnam’s thick jungles. The Americans responded with more shock-and-awe, poisoning jungles with Agent Orange, wiping out villages with napalm bombs and indiscriminately killing innocent women and children.

By the end of the war, half a million 50,000 American troops perished and millions more Vietnamese from both sides suffered casualties. American troops were forced to leave Vietnam due to pressure from the hippie movement, and this immediately paved way for the North Vietnamese to capture Saigon and renamed it Ho Chi Minh city.

I gotta be honest here.
I didn’t enjoy Ho Chi Minh City. I loved Hanoi to bits when I went there two years ago, and I thought HCMC would be something similar. Instead, we were confronted by depressing sights everywhere we went.

The museum we went to that showcased photos from the war in particular brought our spirits down and made us feel so depressed. It’s almost as if we paid for this holiday just to feel depressed. 🙁
Even the sight of this grown man holding onto his massive collection of colourful balloons didn’t cheer us up.

I think part of the reason why I lacked enthusiasm had to do with the fact that we got ripped off like 3 hours after we touched down from the airport.
My travel partner Nadia and I were at a market 5 minutes away from our guesthouse, and we decided to take a cyclo (Vietnamese version of a trishaw) back.

One of the riders approached us and asked 30,000 dong (RM 6) for the trip. Seems reasonable.
After they dropped us off, suddenly they asked for 300,000 dong (RM 60)! How can a freaking 5 minute journey on a bicycle cost RM60?!
For that price, I would’ve expect the cyclo to be made from Louis Vuitton or something.

Obviously we refused to pay lah. Some more kena blamed for hearing him wrongly. In the end, I got so pissed off that I just gave them 100,000 (RM 20) and scurried away.
I wasn’t happy, but I told myself that I can’t blame them for trying to scam us.
Many of these cyclo riders were in fact educated doctors and lawyers before the Vietnam War. Because they were anti-communists, their homes and possessions were all taken away when the communist government took over. They were outcasted and not given work permit, effectively forcing them to work illegally as cyclo riders who run around overcharging tourists.

We couldn’t stand HCMC any longer, so Nadia and I booked a day trip for a visit down the Mekong River on our second day.

It was a pleasant getaway from the noise and chaos of the city, but we still couldn’t escape from the mechanical tourist traps they set up for us over there. We went to one village, they showed us how to make spring rolls.

We went to the next village, they sell us coconut candy.
We went to the next village, they tried to sell us honey tea.

Then finally they made us all sit down to listen to our waitress sing some ridiculous Vietnamese opera songs while they asked for more tips!

By the time we return to HCMC, it was 8pm and we were pretty hungry. So Nadia and I walked over to this French restaurant recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook.
It was the most interesting French restaurant experience I’ve ever had. And I don’t mean in a good way!

The food wasn’t bad – it was okay.
The experience was interesting because while we’re at the restaurant, the ASEAN Cup grand final between Vietnam and Thailand was going on and all the waitstaff were literally glued to the TV. That’s fine. Nadia and I can entertain ourselves with miniature Vietnamese flags while we’re being ignored.

But then something unexpected happened.
During the game, Vietnam scored a late goal and became ASEAN Cup football champions for the first time in history.
Within minutes, thousands of revelers in motorbikes clad in patriotic red screamed, danced, raced through the streets to celebrate their victory.

It was all fun and games at first, but the excitement quickly degenerated into something scary. We finished our dinner and wanted to go back to our guesthouse, but then it suddenly dawned on us that there’s no chance in hell that we could get a taxi in this kinda situation.

With the crowd showing no signs of subsiding, we took refuge in a nearby rooftop bar.

You will NEVER see Malaysians celebrating on the streets so crazily like that. Not because we are disciplined people, but because our football team is totally hopeless!

Two hours had gone by and still people were clogging up the streets!
We were tired, sweaty and smelly. Eventually we decided to put our lives at risk and walk some 40 minutes back to our guesthouse, narrowly avoiding becoming motorcycle roadkills along the way.
Till today, I wondered what a miracle it was that we even made in back in one piece.

Apart from those annoyances though, I still think Ho Chi Minh City is a beautiful place. I especially enjoy admiring the architecture of their buildings.

The buildings in Ho Chi Minh City are very unique for a city in South-East Asia. Decades of French colonization resulted in many of their buildings having a chic Parisian flavour to it. In fact, it’s almost as if some of their buildings were directly imported from Europe.
They got their own Notre Dame Cathedral.

Even their own Toni&Guy hair salon.

Wait a minute, that is not Toni&Guy.

Quote of the Day: “Women show off their cleavage so that good-looking men can look at it, and so that average-looking men can glance at it discreetly, and as for less-than-average-looking men, please try and keep a low profile – it only takes one misstep to earn you a reputation as That Creep From The Party.” — Elaine of
Damn sad, but damn true.
This rule applies to all girls, except Zhang Ziyi, in which case you are allowed to implant your face firmly in between her buttcheeks if you are a rich middle-age Israeli tycoon.

74 Replies to “Cultural Learnings Of Ho Chi Minh City For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Malaysia”

  1. At first I wanted to visit Vietnam after reading your previous posts, your post today made me think twice.
    The scams were similar to those that I had when I went to Cambodia. The trip was fun but have to get prepared for all these annoying trivial.

  2. Well, I’d prefer Malaysia compared to HCMC or any other ASEAN countries. At least our footballers are HOPELESS, then less commotion esp from the mat rempits. That is a total relief!! 😛

  3. yo.. i’ve been to HCMC before.. tell you what.. we all know that the probability of getting robbed in Malaysia is considered ok ok and quite high compared to other country already.. 50% of my friends aledi kena robbed around KL/JB..
    my first ever kena rob experience.. thanks to HCMC .. happened on a street beside a 4-star hotel.. it’s just a short 10 minutes walk away from my place..
    walao.. i’ve been staying there for 2 weeks and all the while i was walking together with my vietnamese friends, just that one time i needed to get a pair of shoes and so i asked them to go back first then I KENA ADI !!!
    when i was walking alone on the street, suddenly a 30+yo LADY HUGGED FROM BEHIND AND STARTED RUBBING MY BODY and talking nonsense like giving my a massage and etc.. after the “shock” i realised her whole hand was inside my pocket trying to get my handphone, thanks to my DEEP pocket she couldn’t reach it fast enough and I YELLED AT HERE…
    the TULAN thing was she managed to yell back at me and said all she wanted was just to give me a massage and then jumped on a motorbike waiting beside leaving me there SHOCKED and SCARED.. >.

  4. Hahaha now this is more like it!
    This is the Kenny Sia that we have all come to know and.. READ 😛
    P.S. – Lovin’ the Louis Vuitton scooter!

  5. Well, is HCMC is an great city? It all depends on what we experiences there.
    If you exp it bad, then mah bad city oh.
    Politics again… It would ruin a country if the country politics sucks…

  6. Kinda sad to see u guys dont enjoy HCMC. . . .I was there for 3 1/2 years and u gotta have locals to bring u around to really enjoy HCMC. Being a tourist unless u r going back pack . .is not really fun.
    Try going back there with someone you know – ask KY . . .then u will really enjoy HCMC especially the local cuisine.

  7. Hey dude, that is why I don’t visit places that is war torn or places where tourist take advantage of the local economy. Lots of sad stories.
    I have a few Vietnamese friends as the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam is here in So.Cal. A friend told me when he was in a refugee camp in Malaysia after fleeing . One day his group asked for water and a bucket of drinking water was brought to them. But, before the water was given, my friend was asked to dig a hold in the ground. He was puzzled, but did it anyway.
    Guess what, the drinking water was pour in the hole and my friend has to drink from the hole he dug like a dog.

  8. the time we can see Malaysian celebrate on the street like that is the time where Chinese can be the ahgung oh malaysia.

  9. Just like our formal national coach said recently, “M-League isn’t football”, and we all know how true that statement is.
    Anyway, an eye-opener post =)

  10. I remember there is somewhere Mekong River play an important role.I think is Funan or Angkor. They use it to irrigate their farming. (I think so… :C)
    “Our football team is hopless”
    Ya, I agree. But our badminton team is better. Its better to put all our expectancy to badminton sport, than football team…

  11. hey, it considered as unforgettable experience. btw, i will be going to ho chi minh coming april, thk i will have to be extra careful then.
    i really enjoy reading your post. cheer up my lonely sat..

  12. Ya man, HCMC is quite boring~
    i went there in last Dec with my company.
    Shopping was boring with all the vendor get touchy with u to buy things from there. Sight-seeing (so much of black tourism) is depressing.
    I saw a beggar who was probably affected by the war. His face was so badly disfigured that can see the facial bones.
    What’s excite me and my colleagues are the food and of coz, the authentic vietnamese iced kopi~
    We love the coffee so much that we each had like at least 2 to 3 cups a day.

  13. Hmmm,…. sounds like I’m not the only guys having bad experience in HCMC.
    I have a factory in HCMC so I’ve being to HCMC several times. My 1st trip there was 2006. I stayed at a 5 Star Hotel (New World Renaissance). I normally have company personnel escorting me for my meals, and sight seeing.
    One afternoon, I have few hours of free time so I walked out of my hotel and wanna explore the city on foot. About 100m away from my hotel, a trishaw ah pek said he’ll showed me around for USD $5. He seems to be honest, telling me which place has good food and show me their local market selling dog meat, war sourvenior.
    Then he bike to a quiet street and less traffic. He was looking back once in a while and that made me suspicious. I started to grab onto my backbag firmly.
    Then out of no where, a motorbike zoomed pass me and the motorcyclist was trying to snatch my bag. I guess I was strong enough to hold onto it and he sped away.
    The trishaw cyclist then “pretend” to tell me to hold on tight to my belongings.
    I told him i wanna go back to my hotel. He didn’t send me straight to my hotel, just a few blocks away and asked me to walk back. I guess he was scare that I would report to the hotel and the hotel would recognized him.
    I considered myself lucky as they could easily harm me to get my bag.
    If you stayed at 5 Stars hotel, be cautious. I fly first class and 1st thing I do when i got my luggage, remove the 1st class tag before exiting the airport.
    But not everyone in HCMC is sinister. I was back in 2008. From my experience in 2006, I always go out with local or company personnel. I visited a small sea village, Muine. People were friend and nice.
    Anyway, when visiting a new place, be it 3rd world or developed countries, be alert and avoid wearing too much bling bling stuff,…

  14. their buildings (from your pictures) are really pretty… but it made me compare vietnam to china where they try to con people out of their money and force people to fork their money out of no where services…
    maybe vietnam ain’t that bad except for a little rift rafts.. and their spring roll looks interesting o_O

  15. ‘You can obviously tell that the trip was from a long time ago because that was from when I still had hair.’

  16. Wow, kenny, after the other vietnam story, you actually remember this one? (^^)
    Hmm, yes, our football team is sucks!!!
    That place seems to be nice for photography trips, wanna tryout the ‘stupid’ ride myself…
    And i see some people also having some experience with vietnam trishaw ah pek though…
    Anyway, it is fun to read…

  17. I visited HCMC a very long time ago. It was not that bad then.
    I suppose now with the so called economic boom, the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened and some can only hope to make money this way.
    It was a former French colony, so we can see the differences between us and them….from a British and French perspective.

  18. Vietnam is still an awesome country and Hanoi is still one of my favourite SE Asia destinations. If you’re like me, then you’ll love the Sapa countryside. People there are genuinely friendly even though they live in poverty.

  19. Hi Kenny,
    I am a shopaholic. Been to Hanoi and love their crafts and scarves. Never been to HCMC. Wondering whether they also have scarves and crafts in HCMC?

  20. OMG!!!!
    Your entry reminds me of the vietnam trip i had last year!
    I’ve to most of the places that u have gone.
    eg, the war museum, coconut candy place, honey tea thingy, mekong river, etc.
    Sad to hear that your trip wasn’t enjoyable cause mine was. =P

  21. Having lots of people around a crime scene doesn’t help because of social proof. This was talked about by robert cialdini, a psychologist.
    Everyone will think that other people can help, so they don’t even bother.
    And since noone went to help, they thought it might be weird and embarassing for them to go help.
    That’s why if you want to prevent robbery, walk somewhere that has less people. Sounds counter-intuitive, but if you were the only one around when someone was robbed, of course you’re going to help that person.
    But if you’re in a place where there’s tons of people, you’ll just ignore and think that other people will help.
    I seem to be repeating myself. Just to get my point through.

  22. For HCMC, it is probably alot more enjoyable than Hanoi. As with all places avoid touts like the plague. Always agree on prices before taking motorcycle taxis, beware of snatch thefts etc.
    It is probably one of the most rocking places in SEA but you must know where the in-spots are, they change from month to month. It is getting expensive now as rents and taxes but I still find lots to do.

  23. E, they say don’t touch the object how come u touch??
    I too didn’t like HCMC, their scams r worse than those experienced in BKK. I think Viets are dodgy everywhere. U wouldn’t wanna piss off a Viet guy here in Melbourne.

  24. Hi Kenny,
    Your mention about the rickshaw scam, I had the same bloody scam too. In fact its that same damned old guy! He asked me for a ride at 35000 dong, ended up paying 300,000 dong!! WTF!! I bet he was showing you some western couples he took around for 500,000 dongs… all major BS!
    So, those going, be wary of this….

  25. Was in HCM last August and it was nice, but I just can’t tolerate those motor taxis. They are a bunch of idiots following you everywhere

  26. i went to those same places you did sometime last year, and yeah i experienced similiar things too. you’ll be in for a treat if you’re interested in the culture and history. other than that, neh nothing much.
    and the roads are filled with riders! more motorcycles than any other vehicle for sure.

  27. rm6 can become rm60, that’s insane. why not tell them the initial offer was only 60dongs. hahahaha. I like the LV motorbike. If it’s a real motorbike manufactured by LV, I think it would cost 10 times more than a normal proton. Haha, I’m just BSing.

  28. why are all your posts so melodramatic. it makes them sound like a drivel. oh wait, i forgot. i’m reading kennysia.

  29. Kenny, please refrain from trying to discuss history and stick to what you know best – quirky anecdotes. I know you only included a short discussion of what you considered the facts but your discussion was full of egregious errors (one of which was the statement that half a million Americans perished, when the number was ten times fewer than that amount). I mean some of those embarrassing mistakes of fact could easily have been fixed by merely doing an Internet search, Wikipedia comes to mind. Moreover, your discussion was also incredibly one-sided. So next time you want to pontificate politically, maybe you should check your facts first? Thanks.

  30. Hey Kenny, You plagarized the title from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Bet I was the first one to notice it, Hahahaha….. it was a crappy movie, though

  31. they could’ve seen ur face from your blog maybe … hence the incessant traps laid. LOL.
    NOW you’re making me think twice about placing HCM in my To-Visit List.

  32. Sorry that you didn’t have a good trip in VN. Your trip is just 4months ago – X’mas08 as i was in Ho Chi Minh City at that time too. Me and my friends enyoyed it. It was really fun when you were surrounded by people with anything in your hands clapping, yelling to celebrate. That was really impressed me. Even the other foreingers, they hold plastic bottles in their hands, clapping them to cheer. I really wonder that you said
    “Many of these cyclo riders were in fact educated doctors and lawyers before the Vietnam War. Because they were anti-communists, their homes and possessions were all taken away when the communist government took over. They were outcasted and not given work permit, effectively forcing them to work illegally as cyclo riders who run around overcharging tourists.”. Where did you get this information? How can i trust this? And why did you still touch the phone while there is a warning sign that you can’t touch it?

  33. Interesting to note about the tourist traps… and I thought only China had them.
    Nice Borat reference, lol.

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