Living and working in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, has so far been a dream come true for me. I left England behind 7 years ago and have resided in Southeast Asia ever since. I didn’t really have a strong plan, I just wanted to make it work. I lived in Bangkok for over 4 years and then Cambodia for a spell before arriving in what was formally called Saigon, on a beautiful warm night early in 2013. To be honest it will always be Saigon to me, the name conjures up so much romance and mystery, it seems a shame to have lost it.
The city is greener and more modern than I had expected. It seems incredible that a city that was so ravaged by war within my lifetime has recovered so well and is doing better than so many of its neighbours. The restaurant and shopping scene here is amazing to be honest. As good as anyone needs.
It is though the people that make this wonderful city so good for me. Every day something happens to make me smile. A lady encouraging her small child to stroke my arm, Asian people are fascinated by body hair, is so nice when coming from a country where everyone is teaching children to be terrified of strangers. I drive through the city on my motorbike and all the time young girls smile and shout hello, it is quite disarming at first but thoroughly pleasant when you get used to it. People shout their hellos all the time, in my neighbourhood I am now recognised as the local foreigner and everyone says hi, it really is lovely.
There is an awful lot about the Vietnam way of life that is impressive. They care for their elders in a much better way than we do in the west. Not for them, the old folks home, they live with their families and as a result the family unit is far stronger here. This is one of the first things that impressed me when I arrived here. They are also incredibly honest people. Give the wrong money in a shop and there is a very good chance that your mistake will be pointed out. I find this even more impressive when you consider that they are earning small salaries and you might of overpaid by several days wages for them. On one occasion, when I first came here, I was literally chased down the street by a girl from a bakery when I had inadvertently handed over 300,000VND instead of 30,000VND. It is extremely heart warming when it happens.
Living here has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. I look forward to every day. I jump on my motorbike, ride into town, find a coffee shop and sit working for a couple of hours. Then I’ll drive to a different part of town and do it again. The city is wonderful especially in the evenings. The whole place has a buzz about it that I have not found anywhere else in the world. Vietnamese people take pleasure in the smallest and simplest of things, it is really sweet to see it at times. A young courting couple will sit on a motorbike, flying a kite in the early evenings. Hundreds of them appear on the highway between Districts 1 and 2 doing this. One the Thu Thiem Bridge at night, hundreds of couples come to sit and simply enjoy the view of the city’s night skyline.
This article was written and provided by Keith Hancock the owner and writer for InSeAsia.com
Following a highly successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Keith left the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. He lived in Thailand, Cambodia and now Saigon. He started the Saigon Districts website, turning it into the fastest growing site in Vietnam. After careful consideration, he decided to cover not just Vietnam but the whole region that he loves so dearly.
Keith has had work published in magazines and websites in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. He has written for the BBC and has appeared on TV and radio in many different countries. His great loves are music and travel, but he writes on a whole range of subjects.
InSeAsia.com is a labour of love as Keith’s travels round the region garnering subject matter.