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Thy Pham shares various highlights of Vietnam

First-year Feather reporter and AmeriStudent, Thy Pham-Nguyen is originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The senior international student plans on attending Fresno State in the fall.

City and Night-Life

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

A plate of broken rice with grilled pork, fried eggs with sweet and sour cucumber, carrots, scallions and a cup of chili fish sauce has become a famous breakfast dish of Saigon people.

The daily life of residents of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) gives me a very familiar and simple feeling.

The lifestyle and pace in Vietnam is always bustling. At only six in the morning, traffic is crowded, the voices of people’s laughter bounce between the tall buildings and bartering echoes in the streets.

Because of the humid, tropical climate and the smoke from the cars, walking down the streets will take anyone’s breath away within a few seconds. Moreover, during these hours, the streets are too crowded to move; it’s hard to go for even a short distance in the dangerously polluted air.

Large open-air markets sell almost everything we need such as clothes, shoes, bags, fresh seafood, vegetables piled on the ground and street food. Throughout the year, shoppers choose from fresh fish swimming in tanks, live chickens in cages, ham hanging on hooks, frogs attached to ropes to keep them from jumping away, live shrimp and snails in large baskets.

Even when indoors you can still hear the loud pitch of street vendors for hours; it gets annoying sometimes. The roads are filled with obstacles, especially motorbikes, high bridges, tall buildings and long canals. It’s pretty late at night when Saigon finally becomes quiet, but there are always people that linger after midnight.

During the evening, the streets are adorned by yellow lights and glass doors. All the colors shape the ambience, creating a bright, elegant and poetic picture. The lights illuminate the long roads full of busy people and transportation, even brighter than the night moonlight.

Many people say Saigon is a sleepless city. In America, Los Angeles and New York are the busy, fun, expensive and diverting cities. Ho Chi Minh is that city for Vietnam.

Landscape

Our beautiful country of Vietnam is famous for its long coastline. Traveling from North to South, it’s easy to encounter many beaches. If traveling by car, train or motorbike, it’d be a mistake to pass by Nha Trang – a coastal city famous for its long and gorgeous beaches.

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

When viewed from the 12th floor apartment of Thy Pham’s family, almost the whole view of Saigon is hazy in fog after heavy rains.

The stretches of white sand give a very smooth feeling when striding along the sea. The coconut trees grow along the coast and spread their arms wide to catch the wind. The sun shines down on the surface of the sea, making it shimmer over the water.

All the color of the sky, the sea, the birds and the trees create a scene of beautiful charm.

At the far end, a few fishing boats dock at the pier while their sails billowing and bobbing up and down. Nha Trang beach attracts many tourists, both domestic and foreign, all admiring the beauty of the magical creation.

The clear blue sea of Nha Trang Beach allowed me to see the fish swimming below. White, fluffy clouds float in the vast blue sky and seagulls squawking all distracted me.

In the northwest of the country, Sa Pa (the coldest place in Vietnam), is a highland district called the Lao Cai province, a land of humility and peace. Sa Pa’s natural landscape combines human creativity with the terrain of the mountains and the green color of the forest. It is like a picture in a harmonious arrangement, creating many scenic landscapes.

Courtesy of Thy Pham-Nguyen

Thy Pham’s cousin, Nguyen, is looking down at Thy Pham when she was two years old while they were at Nha Trang Beach in Vietnam in 2005.

Immersed in the floating clouds and fog, the town of Sa Pa is a city in the misty mist, painting a charming picture of water color. Located at an average altitude at the north of Vietnam of 5,000 – 6,000 ft., the climate of Sa Pa is more or less the nuance of a temperate country, with an average temperature of 50-60 °F.

Besides the scenery, restaurants, schools and apartments grow like mushrooms to serve people’s lives and needs. From the luxurious restaurants to the noisy and loud street eateries, all specialty foods of South Vietnam are sold deliciously and attractively.

Cuisine

Saigon cuisine is a convergence of typical culinary cultures of many different regions. The delicacies are not only served in restaurants, but also sold in sidewalk cafes. Many people have said sidewalk cuisine is like a “maze that is hard to resist and escape.” Even though the Saigon sidewalk snacks have an affordable price, the taste of each delicious food is not easy to forget.

Mixed rice paper has simple, but delicious snack ingredients. It is made with only easy materials such as rice paper mixed with dried shrimp and jerky. The remaining ingredients change according to the seller, usually cooked beef lungs, laksa leaves, sour papaya, soy sauce or peanuts.

When mixed with sweet tamarind sauce and laksa leaves (spicy leaves), the dish brings a burst of flavor. From the small alley to the big road, it is not difficult to find snail shops selling these meals.

Courtesy of Thy Pham-Nguyen

On a 2008 trip to Vietnam’s central highlands, Thy Pham and her family dressed in costumes for ethnic minorities.

“Snail shop” is a common word for those restaurants, but they also sell other seafood. There are many ways to make snails attractive, from steaming, boiling, stir-frying, roasting or baking, all mixed with spices such as garlic, onion, pepper, chilies and laksa leaves.

A plate of broken rice with grilled pork and fried eggs accompanied by sweet-and-sour cucumber, carrots, and a cup of chili fish scallions along with a glass of iced coffee has become a famous breakfast dish of Saigon people. Pho has also become the trademark dish of Vietnamese cuisine because of its reputation to be known and loved by the local and foreign people. 

However, my favorite dish is Hu Tieu Nam Vang, one of the top five best Saigon street foods. The dish is made by a noodle seller on a bamboo stick. The vendor taps a metal spoon on the side of a cup throughout the street and alley. When the crowd hears the sound, those who love Hu Tieu Nam Vang hurry to buy it before the seller rides away on his bicycle.

Ho Chi Minh City

Life in Ho Chi Minh City is full of activity. What makes this city so amazing is the delicious and cheap street foods and a variety of music from around the world. Moreover, Ho Chi Minh City is known as a “young city,” not because it’s new, but because many young people go here to study and work. Ho Chi Minh is adorned with many beautiful parks and scenes, and is also considered the cradle of the consumer goods industry throughout the entirety of Southeastern Asia.

As it’s the largest tourist center and tourist gateway in the country, Ho Chi Minh City has quite a developed system of facilities and tourism services. It has many beautiful, historical buildings and majestic landmarks.The city seems to embrace the hearts of those who have visited it and cling to them, making it hard to leave.

Courtesy of Thy Pham-Nguyen

Thy Pham-Nguyen | The Feather Online

Saigon people often hear the cry “Saigon bread, delicious special intestine, a thousand Vietnam dong for a loaf” in small alleys. Bread has become a simple, fast and popular dish for many people, from rural to urban.

On a trip to the tunnels of Cu Chi in 2010, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Vietnam during the war, my family and I were taught how to catch fish under a ditch. Saigon is famous for the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was built of wood within three years. In 1960, after occupying Saigon, France repaired an abandoned Vietnamese pagoda on the fifth street into a church to celebrate mass for Catholics and it was completed in 1865, originally called Saigon Cathedral. The monument is now one of the typical symbols of Saigon.

In front of the cathedral is a park (Paris Public Square) with four intersecting roads forming a cross, nearby Saigon Post. In the center of the park is a statue of Our Lady of Peace. The statue can stand upright, holding the Fruit of the Earth with a cross attached, the eyes of Mary staring at the blue sky as if praying.

What makes this church famous is that once, a statue of Mary was in tears in the middle of the day in the heart of the bustling city. There are many people who have seen the white drops of tears flowing from the eyes of the Blessed Mother, which has touched the hearts of hundreds of people there. There are some sources claiming that both eyes are watery.

Saigon is also famous by Ben Thanh Market because it sells all the delicious dishes, utensils of the Vietnamese country and also folk and traditional games.

With special design, the market area is considered one of the most beautiful places in Ho Chi Minh City. It is located in the middle of the square, without obstruction, with beautiful views from all sides. The market is a point of pride, as a prominent highlight in the urban space.

This is a familiar destination for young people in Saigon, is a place on the first visit list of domestic and foreign tourists when first coming to Ho Chi Minh.

As the years went on, Ben Thanh Market persevered in the heart of the city, becoming a symbol of the bustling Saigon, and also becoming the pride of the people here.

For another column, read COLUMN: Dedication, discipline, passion provide key to success. For another article, read Jonas Brothers take the stage after six year hiatus with Happiness Begins Tour

Thy Pham can be reached via email.

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