Sensational Saigon

Sensory Overload

I can starkly remember the moment I walked out of the airport. It was a sensory overload. 

The heat of Vietnam hit me like a concrete wall. I felt like a rotisserie chicken under the heat lamp, and sweat poured from my body like never before.


“Water, Madam” 


“Sim card” 


“Taxi, Madam”  

The sounds blurred into a symphony around my head. The orchestra of Saigon streets buzzed through my ears. 

The smells induced hunger and suffocation. Pho mixed with cigarette and car exhausts. My brain buzzed with the sensations around me. It felt like all my senses were working in hyperdrive. I shook with excitement and fear. The culture shock was stark, and I felt like home was far away. However, I needed to decipher these senses and get used to them. I needed to become one with them. This was home for a while.


We managed to settle into our accommodation quickly. It became home the moment that I saw it. My roommates and I became close quickly, and then the exploring came. 

I could list everything I saw, from the buzzing tourist-populated Ben Thanh markets to the immaculate food. However, I want to discuss the highlights—the moments engraved in my memory. 

The Box Market

This Box market was a temporary market near our accommodation for the Tet holiday. It took me in awe. Yellow blossom trees decorated the market giving it vibrance like a movie. Red envelopes hung from corners, symbolising good luck—the corn hanging from rooftops. Stalls were decorated with clothing and souvenirs. It felt like I was in a movie. 

It was interesting seeing people taking pictures with professional setups. Vietnamese women in their Ao Dais stood in corners taking pictures left and right. In NZ, it is rare to see people taking photographs so openly, but it is normal and embraced over here. A surprising culture shock moment that I was not expecting. Caught up in the buzz, I even took photographs of myself; my camera roll is usually exclusive of my dog. 

The city 

We continued to explore the city where the architecture of the city spells its history. Initially, the thing which shined out the most to me was the huge skyscraper buildings, colossal compared to the street stalls—a symbol of the new growth that the city is going through. Yet, there were remnants of the city’s colonial past. Marvellous architectural sites to look at but complicated to come to terms with. It represented an oppressive past that was decorated with beautiful buildings. Amongst all this were the older buildings and the ancient Vietnamese culture, which survived the test of time. 


The first week was a flash. It was a sensational overload. The adrenaline of a new city drove me. I wanted to explore more, and I was ready for the challenges ahead of me. 

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