The most remarkable thing about the Vietnamese are their unwavering smiles. In all of my travels, I have never known people to be so happy, so often. Despite any hardships, circumstances, how or where they live, they smile. Is this a sweeping generalization? Absolutely. But in my experience, the people of Vietnam are extremely pleasant and helpful, two absolute musts for travelers who are new to the region.
Upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), you will be overwhelmed by the 6.6 million people who populate the economic capital of this Southeast Asian jewel. People are literally everywhere. Food shops are set up along small and large streets, women in conical hats walk along the sidewalks and 3,000 motorbikes vie to assume their own route on already teeming roads. I can equate it most to New York City, where the international feel and density of the population are vastly similar. The expat community in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is expansive. This is something an inexperienced traveler can take much comfort in. It is not rare to run into English speaking foreigners in HCMC because it is tourist hub for Europeans and Americans who are trying to reach neighboring Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand.
I spent two days in the Mekong Delta region of Southern Vietnam where some friends and I traveled by boat through some of the most beautiful waters in Southeast Asia. Stopping frequently to meet local business owners, we explored the sprawling rice paddies.
There are a handful of things one must do while in Vietnam: try the Pho, get a suit made, eat street food, and ride a xe om (motorbike). Most itineraries won’t suggest making friends and talking with the locals—this is at the heart of any traveler’s experience.
For those who have trekked through Vietnam, being here creates lurid memories. Whether you’ve explored the thick jungles of the countryside, tasted fresh jackfruit cut from the edges of Mekong Delta, experienced the vibrancy of Saigon or Hanoi—smelling the intermingling of fish sauce and motorbike exhaust in the air—Vietnam is a country rich to the senses with people who are open-minded and kind.