I began feeling nervous as soon as we touched down in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Rob and I have been in Malaysia since the beginning of June. I was beginning to feel very comfortable there, where many people speak English and the language, Bahasa, is more accessible to my western ears than the more tonal Thai or Vietnamese. Every where we went in Malaysia, people were so kind to us. I loved the majestic country side, the rolling hills of steaming jungle. Malaysia has won a very special place in my heart, and I will miss it.
Vietnam is a whole new ballgame. For one, on arriving here I knew absolutely nothing about Vietnam except that there had been some horrible war with my country (the good old USA) that had traumatized most ‘Nam veterans into being lunatics or alcoholics. Vietnam was a complete mystery, a place I’d heard about my entire life without actually learning anything about it. I’ve never seen even seen a Hollywood rendition of the war like Good Morning Vietnam or Apocalypse Now. I really had no idea what to expect.
Ho Chi Minh city is a whirlwind of motorcycles. With a population of 10 million people and 5 million motorbikes, Ho Chi Minh beats even Jakarta in terms of number of bikes on the road (see my article on air pollution from when we visited Java). Intimidated by the huge city and the unknown language, we stayed in the major tourist district. It was hilarious watching the other tourists attempting to cross the street as the never ending flow of motorbikes whipped by. At this point in our trip, Rob and I are experienced enough to dive into the traffic without a second thought.
Of course, Rob and I are here to find the durian story. I’ve found some intriguing articles about Vietnam’s durian, including hints that it was used during the Vietnam war as a weapon, and that Vietnam is exporting its very own special varieties to the USA. I thought it was strange that, although it is far more famous than Vietnamese durian, Malaysian durian is currently not available stateside. I bet most people don’t even know that Vietnam grows durian.
|Me opening our first Vietnamese durian|
On Friday we have an interview with Dr. Nguyen Minh Chau of the Southern Fruits Research Institute. Until then, we’re hanging out and enjoying learning about this mysterious country. I’m working on also some posts about our weekend in Singapore. We swung by the infamous Geylang, and had a great time visiting with 717 Trading, one of the most esteemed durian stalls, as well as catching up with a friend at Sembarawa durian stall. Check back in the next few days to find out more about Singapore’s durian scene.