We have been in Ho Chi Minh City for 14 days. This is long in backpacker time, yet short for the standards of what qualifies for most as a home. When choosing the nomadic life 3 months ago, I was fairly ill-informed. But now, as we continue this journey I'm starting to determine parameters that need to be in place for the perfect blend of transience and consistency - the most important being great wifi, with a close second of having interesting, fresh and varied food options (shockingly sparse in the Philippines). Coming in third, (surprising even my introverted self) I miss my girlfriends and girly-giggle-time. The lack of this leads to an acute sense of loneliness at times. To combat this, I've started to make plans with other digital nomads I've found online, try to stay in touch with other travelers we've met + now (thanks to good wifi) can call the States pretty regularly. But still, ouch.
HCMC is an amazing destination for both wifi and delightful dining options, sometimes under the same roof. Fresh herbs and vegetables are bountiful as you motorbike through the city - from the inexpensive food stands to the many small markets with fairly priced options. The culinary journey gets confusing though. I've downloaded an app to assist (Vietnamese to English food item translations), but it has about 100 items, whereas the Vietnamese food options seem to range somewhere in the thousands with variations in name based on which part of the country the specific recipe originated. Based on the food nomenclature we're always one Pha Lau away from a savory coconut stew - of offal (which by the way, is delicious, and weird). Offal = Internal organs + entrails of a butchered animal, FYI.
Trying out new food every day is one of my favorite parts of HCMC. These endless options create an adventure that is at times frightening but with a potential reward of total yum! This list includes Vietnamese foods I've tried and what they most simply mean in English IMO. Most definitely not comprehensive and probably not always 100% accurate based on my specific vendor experiences, so let me know if you see any errors!
- Banh bao: fluffy bun stuffed with meat, potatoes, etc. inside
- Banh beo: custard-like rice in little dishes, topped w dried fish or crumbled peanuts, use a chili oil on top
- Banh mi: delicious sandwiches on french bread with sliced meat (cured or fried) + fresh herbs
- Bun ba hue: rice vermicelli (thin) noodle soup with beef
- Ca phe sua da: iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk (yum)
- Com tam: rice dish, usually served with grilled pork
- De vu nuong: this is the breast of the goat, we went to a goat bbq place with friends, so YUM
- Luc lac: delicious cubed beef, always a safe bet
- Pho: obviously the most well-known Vietnamese dish - linguine-type noodle soup, delicious meat + tasty herbs