We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City late Thursday night and groggily met the Vietnamese buddies the next morning at 10 AM for a walking tour of the part of District 1 that we were staying in. The buddies Vy Y., Vy I., Son, Ashley, and Chi all greeted us with smiles and proactively talked to us as we set off on our hour-long walking tour. Vy Y. started off walking near me and she taught me how to count in Vietnamese from 1 through 5. She patiently pronounced each word for me and waited for me to get each mouth twisting sound out correctly after the ninth or tenth try. At the end of the walking tour, we had a welcome lunch with the buddies, a meal that I had thought would be one of only a couple with the Vietnamese buddies.
Fortunately, we ended up eating a lot more meals with the buddies! As the week passed, we grew closer with all of them and we actually only spent one day not hanging out with them. Another meal we had with the buddies was when Son took us to the Lunch Lady’s restaurant! It’s not so much a restaurant as a tent with small plastic tables and chairs under it, but the noodles were delicious and the Lunch Lady is actually a celebrity who has her own cookbook! It was an immersive experience overall because the place was tucked into the neighborhood alleys of Ho Chi Minh and gave off a very rural feel even though it is buried in the heart of one of Vietnam’s largest cities.
The most memorable meal we had with the Vietnamese buddies has to be at Vy Y.’s parents’ restaurant. Her parents’ restaurant is a less than 10 minute walk from our guest house and there I discovered my favorite dish since coming to Vietnam. All of the food we have had here has been absolutely scrumptious, but Vy’s mom’s noodles were on a different level.
From the first bite I was surprised by the smoky flavor of the noodles that resulted from the grilled pork. Mixed with the sweet and slightly tangy flavor of the fish sauce and the crunchy fried, meat filled spring rolls and freshly chopped cucumber and lettuce, the noodle dish was dynamic, dimensional, and delicious. It was so good, in fact, that we went to Vy’s restaurant again for the very next meal!
Besides eating, we also hung out with the Vietnamese buddies playing games, exploring Saigon’s Walking street, singing karaoke, watching an underground dance competition and so much more! All in all, our time in Ho Chi Minh city was short, but so incredibly sweet because of our amazing Vietnamese buddies! We miss them a lot now that we are in Quang Tri but we look forward to seeing them again before we go home to the States!