a seeker in search of Easter Eggs
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Fascinating Peoplescape of Ho Chi Minh City Apr 23-30, 2019

The Fascinating Peoplescape of Ho Chi Minh City

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

HCMC's Gems
Far more lingering than the war tunnels or the monuments of Ho Chi Minh City, it's fascinating peoplescape holds me captive. They are the constants for me every single time I visit this lovely city.

Van Cong VienVien Vietnam
Catching-up with film director Vien gave me a look at his latest project - his very own studio. Work was still ongoing and scheduled to complete in 2 months. Going around the place reminded me of my tour at Universal Studios. Production sets for period era were there. I met with his designers who design and fabricate the set. It's an ambitious project. Additionally, he will be opening up an outdoor studio in An Giang province where he can shoot historical narratives of Vietnam. For that, he will require hundreds to work with him. Envisioning his staffing requirements, he is now developing a film-making college in one of HCMC's universities to pioneer education and training to intermediate-level jobs like lighting, script-writing, etc. None of these are currently offered in formal education centers even though there have always been courses offered for directors and other high-level positions in film making. He is also working on developing content for Virtual Reality games and there's an ongoing Netflix project as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Vien becomes a household word in Vietnam.

No matter how big he gets, I will always remember him as the guy who bought an entire lottery booklet from an ecstatic old man who then gave him a hug. He then gave us all the tickets. He didn't really care about winning. He just wanted to help the old man who reminded him of his Dad.

    Vien blogs:

  1. The Fascinating Peoplescape Of Ho Chi Minh City Apr 23-30, 2019
  2. Peoplescape Of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  3. 20 Days In Saigon Mar 22 - Apr 12, 2015
  4. Exploring Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Nov 9, 2014

Sandrine LegrandSandrine France
After 10 long years since I met her in the mountains of Sagada, Philippines, we met again, this time in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. How cool is that? Sandrine is just as beautiful and graceful as the day we met. So much has happened since - I left my mountain hamlet to live a life of nomadic mobility while she left for New York, then France and now, she's a mom! We met up at the picturesque Quan Bui Garden and if the resto wouldn't be closing already, we could have stayed the whole night talking. I hope it won't take another 10 years until I see her again.

Pham Thanh HuongHuong Vietnam
Somehow, because she is pursuing her Masters as an ENT (ears, nose and throat) specialist, I keep forgetting she's a doctor. With her around, I can't wait to get sick...LOL! But she also makes moon cakes in the centuries-old Xuan Dinh tradition! Indeed, she wears many hats. With her invite to visit her hometown in Hanoi during the Tet holiday, I could just imagine a deeper immersion into Vietnam's culture and tradition.

Mark RatcliffMark USA
Mark Ratcliff Photography
Conversation with Mark is always engaging - from geo-politics to spirituality to David Icke! I also default to him for local knowledge that could be useful to a traveler. Mark is an English teacher pursuing higher education about sustainable urban development. He is also a travel guide who has exhaustively traveled Vietnam. If you are looking for that hand-holding journey while roughing it, he's the guy.

Nadine TaegerNadine Germany
It was one of those quintessential, "I met her in a bar" quips. I was on the party scene in Bui Vien and shared a table with her. Nadine is vibrant and fun. I was curious about all her body ink...of course that started a conversation that dealt with her being a punk rocker and political activist. I like what she said about the evolution of punk - from personal angst to social involvement. This includes squating on unused land while others remain homeless.

As a YOGI meeting a PUNK ROCKER over cheap beer at Bui Vien, we were more similar than different after a little scratching on the surface. We found common ground in our love for humanity and self-expression. Too bad she was leaving HCMC when we met. The world is a small place. If our paths don't cross, I'm sure to meet the Nadines of the earth.

Quyen DoQuyen Vietnam
I met Quyen during my last visit. I remember her as the coffee queen. She seems to know the hidden and obscure cafes in the city - usually the ones with a nostalgic touch. With her friend Ngan, they took me to Retro Saigon Cafe which resembled my grandfather's living room back in the 60s. The conversation stayed mostly on living life alone or sharing it with someone. Lots of pros and cons to it and every argument was compelling.

Thy NguyenThy Vietnam
Like most of the people I do business with, Thy and I talked business which touched-off on professional challenges and personal values. From a position of strength and empowerment, she shifts many exercisable options to launch new careers with or level-up on a current one - travel, resto biz, writing a book (Hotel Confidential) or a school about running a hotel. Our talk extended all the way to dinner. She's a complete package - brains, beauty and strength. It was a good and promising connection that begs continuity.

Ending Thoughts
I usually stay in a place for 30 days, but I couldn't stay longer than a week this time. There were a few more friends I would have liked to see again - next time perhaps. Just like a revolving door, new faces appear, some fade away and others consistently stay. Collectively, peoplescape is a living organism that takes shape and form. It's an experience that lingers long after I leave the place.

--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit Yoga by Gigit | Learn English Learn English | Travel like a Nomad Nomad Travel Buddy | Donation Bank Donation Bank for TheLoneRider

Reader Comments:

Pham Thanh HuongHuong Vietnam
(Apr 30, 2019) I am so happy to meet you again. Hope that we can meet each other at Tet holiday in Hanoi.

Next stop: Banh Canh Cua Obsession


  1. Hotel Review: Queen Ann Hotel Apr 24-30, 2019
  2. Banh Canh Cua Obsession Apr 23-30, 2019
  3. The Fascinating Peoplescape of Ho Chi Minh City Apr 23-30, 2019
  4. Ho Chi Minh City on a Visa Run Apr 23-30, 2019
  5. Nomad Travel Buddy Aug 27, 2018
  6. 20 Days in Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  7. Exploring Binh Tay Market, Ho Chi Minh City Aug 26, 2018
  8. Pho Beef Soup Exploration of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  9. Rediscovering the Cafe Tradition of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  10. Where is the Best Banh Canh Cua in HCMC? Aug 7-27, 2018
  11. In Search of the best Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  12. Peoplescape of Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7-27, 2018
  13. Rediscovering Ho Chi Minh City Aug 7, 2018
  14. AO Show, Ho Chi Minh City Apr 10, 2015
  15. Free English Apr 1, 2015
  16. Teaching English to Vietnamese Apr 1, 2015
  17. 20 Days in Ho Chi Minh City Mar 22 - Apr 12, 2015
  18. Discovering Ho Chi Minh City's Cafe Culture Nov 9 - Dec 17, 2014
  19. Ho Chi Minh City's Fascinating Motorbike Culture Nov 18, 2014
  20. How Long was the Vietnam War? Nov 10, 2014
  21. Exploring Ho Chi Minh City (Ho Chi Minh City) Nov 9, 2014

Google Map

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

important places in Ho Chi Minh City IMPORTANT PLACES
Ho Chi Minh City Bus Station Ben Xe Mien Dong
Ho Chi Minh City Bus Station Mien Tay Bus Station
Ho Chi Minh City Train Station Saigon Railway Station
Ho Chi Minh City airport Tan Son Nhat International Airport

hotels in Ho Chi Minh City HOTEL
Queen Ann Hotel, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City Queen Ann Hotel - luxurious and modern, District 1 location, 10-minute walk to Ben Thanh Market
Sakura Hostel Cholon, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City Sakura Hostel Cholon - 9.0 Stars (out of 10) from 24 reviews on based on cleanliness, comfort, facilities, staff, value for money, free wifi and location!


How to Get to District 1 (HCMC) from the Airport (Tan Son Nhat International Airport)
  1. take the #109 Airport Bus (5:30am to 1:00am, departs every 15-20 minutes, 45 mins, 20k Dong or $1.00) Route: International Terminal - Domestic Terminal (Tan Son Nhat International Airport) - Truong Son - Tran Quoc Hoan - Hoang Van Thu - Nguyen Van Troi - Nam Ky Khoi Nghia - Ham Nghi - Le Lai - Ben Thanh Bus Station - Pham Ngu Lao - 23/9 Park
  2. get off at 23/9 Park to get to the cluster of backpacker hostels
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips
  1. best money changer rates in District 1 is Ha Tam Jewelry near Ben Thanh (refer to map for location)
  2. unlike most destinations in Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is too big for the major bus companies to provide a drop-off service with their shuttle minivans. If you are coming by bus, you get off either at the Western Bus Station or Eastern Bus Station depending on where you are coming from. From there, you can take the cheap local bus, the Xe Buyt to get you closer to your destination.
  3. you can get around the city by moto-taxi or rent a motorbike - but be warned that motorbike riding in Ho Chi Minh City is unlike riding anywhere else in Asia!
Ho Chi Minh City Cost Index

Budget price in budget places (US$1 = Vietnam Dong VND 23,255 = Php 53.20 as of Aug 1, 2016)

  • VND 10-15,000 baguette sandwich (banh mi)
  • VND 25-30,000 noodle soup (pho)
  • VND 10-15,000 black filtered coffee
  • VND 5,000 sugar cane juice (nuoc mia)
  • VND 8-10,000 fresh coconut
  • VND 10,000 one beer bottle
  • VND 10,000 1.5 liter drinking water
  • VND 80,000 bicycle rental, 24 hours
  • VND 80,000 cheap lodging
  • VND 10,000/kg laundry
  • VND 8-10,000/km but flag-down starts at 20,000 motorcycle ride
  • VND 20-35,000 rice meals (com tam)
  • VND 100-140,000/day motorbike rental
Vietnam FYI / Tips / Dos and Don'ts
  1. Hanoi Grapevine HCMC Update - for the latest events in Vietnam
  2. Vietnam establishments will not accept US dollars, unlike Cambodia. You have to use Vietnam Dong (US$1 = Vietnam Dong VND 23,255 = Php 53.20 as of Aug 1, 2016)
  3. Vietnamese smokers will smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. They also smoke inside hospitals with no smoking signs.
  4. Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
  5. internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
  6. Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
  7. best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
  8. remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
  9. ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
  10. best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
  11. leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
  12. when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
  13. carry only enough cash for your needs that day
  14. don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
  15. don't take pictures of military installations - you can go to jail
  16. refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
Lesser-Known Vietnam Destinations
  1. Phu Yen Province - by the beach
  2. Hoa Binh Lake - locals' alternative to Halong Bay
  3. Ninh Binh - Trang An Grottoes, Tam Coc, Mua Caves, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Van Long Nature Reserve
General Travel Tips
  1. arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
  2. put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
  3. avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
  4. power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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