This time I had a chance to go back to my country, Vietnam as my university asked me to represent the school at education fair of Study in Europe. I spent 4 days in total visiting 2 cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The schedule was really tight but it was productive. In this post I will mainly write about how I felt during this trip to my home.
As you probably know I am originally from Vietnam but I was born in Hungary and I have lived most of life here. Since the airplane ticket to Asia is quite expensive we couldn’t afford to go home every year, therefore in 23 years I could only visit my Vietnam four times, including this one. The last time I visited was 7 years ago, back in 2011. So there were so many changes that even I couldn’t imagine.
Ho Chi Minh City
I arrived to Ho Chi Minh City on 21st of September at night and the Consulate came for me to the airport. They took me back to the hotel which was around 10 minutes from the airport. Coming out of the airport we were already in the city. I was so surprised that buildings, houses were so near to the airport. It turned out that few years ago they started to build buildings near there since people needed more places to live. That proves how much the population grows. As I heard beside Tan Son Nhat airport they are planning to build another which is bigger, since a single one cannot keep up with the number of people.
It was at night so the traffic wasn’t terrible. But from what I heard and saw in the morning, the traffic seemed to get better than 7 years ago. That night I could only sleep for 1 hour due to the jet-lag. I stayed up until 6am and then went to have breakfast. I really liked the food, since it suited my taste. They even served pho, rice noodle soup.
Then I got change, put on light make up and then went down where the car waited for me. The education fair was held from 8:30am to 2pm. In the beginning we organized our table and then waited for the students to come by to ask for informations. I worked with people from consulate who promoted the Hungarian government scholarship, Stipendium Hungaricum. At around 11am more and more people came and we were really busy. However, we managed to leave at 2pm. My friend, who I met in Korea, came to visit me and then we went to eat out, hu tieu, che and bubble tea. She sent me to the airport as well. I waited at the airport for 2 hours with the hope that my flight wouldn’t be cancelled. And it wasn’t.
I arrived to Hanoi at 10:30pm and people from the embassy came for me. He took me to the hotel which was another luxurious one. I took a shower and then went straight to sleep. However, I couldn’t sleep until 3am. Then I fell asleep and when I woke up, looked at my phone it showed 7:55am. The event started at 8:30am. I had to prepare as fast as possible, didn’t have time to eat and then ran down to our table. I met people from the embassy and worked with them. The scheme was the same. However, here in Hanoi, there were much more people and they came all the time steadily. So I was busy for straight 6 hours, which was good, since I could accomplish my work.
My 2 other friends, that I met in Korea as well, came to see me and we hung out in my room, until my cousin came for me. Then we and my cousin and aunt went out to eat mien, which is a glass noodle soup. Then I went home to see my grandmother. It was really nice to see the house where I also lived last time when I came to visit. We visited my another aunt before going to the restaurant where all the family from my mum’s side gathered for dinner. I was happy but tired as well. We ate fish and had hot pot. After dinner my cousin took me for sightseeing. It was Full Moon Festival, which is Children’s Festival. There is a lot of star shape lantern during this festival. It had its ambiance. People gathered to play traditional games, some sang and danced or did street performance. There were so many people out on the street as well. The view of Hoan Kiem lake in its light was so amazing.
I never had this feeling about Hanoi, but this time I felt its own cultural atmosphere. As if Vietnamese culture lies there. It would be really interesting to do a research and figure out the background of the places here. Comparing to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi is more traditional, even though Hanoi also has skyscrapers and modern area. Ho Chi Minh City is really developed and multicultural that it became the center of commerce. All the big companies’ center are there. People from different country gather there more than in Hanoi. Meanwhile the most important political institutes are in Hanoi. So when you come to Vietnam it is advisable to visit these two big cities to experience the modern and traditional ones.
In overall, I can say I really enjoyed being at home especially the food. However, the paradox of life is that I got more cultural shock in my homeland than wherever in the world. Probably it was due to the big change and the growth in population. By talking to my cousins, I realized how much they all have grown and changed and I have so many things to learn from them. Therefore the more I travel and the more people I talk to, I realize I still have a long way to go as there are always new things to learn.
As for the people I have always been surprised how close they can be. I mean even if they don’t know you they still offer you a piece of biscuit at the airport while waiting. Also at the airport if they see you are puzzled they help you and talk to you as if you knew each other before.
Food in the South is sweeter than in the North. My supposed-to-be salty noodle was sweeter than usual. Then I realized this is the typical taste in the South.
Transportation is not a joke. Though it got better than 7 years ago, people still don’t really obey the traffic rules. Cars do stop when the traffic light is red, but the motorcycles not really. When you cross the zebra, just go and try to avoid the cars as they won’t stop but avoid you. I can’t tell how it works in case of public transportation however, there are more buses now than before.
Vietnam is relatively cheap. A bowl of noodle soup costs around 3 or 4 USD. So when you travel to Vietnam, enjoy the authentic Vietnamese food with dessert of che and all the snacks like traditional food.