When you travel, you are inclined to meet some people that would highlight your trip. Local residents always bring a real insight of the local life. They are the mirror of the country’s lifestyle, its traditions and customs. A good way to immerse yourself in the local language and culture in order to “blend in with the crowd” a little more.
As we were moving from Adelaide to Melbourne, we decided to relocate to Vietnam for a little while. A stay that turned into an extended mini-expat life. We now spent 7 months between Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. An experience of the “digital nomad” life, aka travellers/workers. Steve used to work on his websites and digital marketing projects from a coworking space. On my side, I made the most of this free time to focus on Expat bug to turn it into a real source of information. I also create a line of T-shirts with French text designs on them which I’ll sell in Australia later on.
After having stayed in Nam for an extended period, we got used to and immersed ourselves in the local culture. I think that we wouldn’t have had experienced Vietnamese life without 3 Vietnamese women. They all have different personalities. However, they all brought some insight on the local life in their own way. They truly touched me and I’ll always remember them.
Apple, the sexy hard worker
She was our roomie for 4 months when we stayed in Saigon. A young Vietnamese woman who has more than one string to her bow. She is a hard worker who not only travels all around the globe staying at the most luxurious hotels thanks to her work. But she also invests in other businesses such as her little sister’s Korean BBQ restaurant in HCMC. She never has enough!
Apple was our cultural assistant to Saigon’s lifestyle. She was also a true friend with whom I could talk about love relationships and other girly conversations. She was a real inspiration to professional success. A pretty and sexy Vietnamese who knows what she wants in life.
She often took us to places we would have never had the cheek to go to without her. A little shanty which doesn’t look much often ended up offering delicious dishes. She didn’t hesitate over inviting us to her best friend’s place, a Vietnamese billionaire investor. Apple also taught us how to order food, how to understand Vietnamese behavior, and explained the how and the why of Vietnamese culture.
Fun fact about Apple – On the night of a language exchange event, she joined me at the French bar Piu Piu. Soon we met one of the bartenders who offered us cocktails and shots. A fun night in perspective. However, we both got there by motorbike. Therefore, we had to ride them back home slightly tipsy. It was quite a different ride in busy HCMC. I highly advise against doing this. We had heaps of fun, though!
Thu, my lunch and coffee buddy
This Vietnamese woman is originally from Vung Tau – a coastal city located an hour away fro HCMC. She was a real Mother to me during our stay in Saigon. Even though she was cleaned the house we used to live in, she soon became a friend. She loves to joke around, to laugh and smile at all times. Although she didn’t have a happy life after a divorce and a husband who isn’t really emotional. She likes to think positive and take the good side of life. She couldn’t stop making fun of me and Steve, teasing me with a real sarcastic attitude.
We spent many hours chatting, having lunch and coffee together. She helped me discover local food, find out where the good spots for coffee are and where I could shop at a cheap price. Even if we moved to Da Nang, we stayed in touch. She regularly sent me messages asking for news or sending me pics of cats haha.
Thu taught us a few new expressions in Vietnamese such as “xin chào đồng chí” which means “hello comrade!”. We learned quite a lot thanks to her. She is a person who inspires me to exude joie de vivre and to see life on the bright side.
Fun fact about Thu – One day, she decided to swap her usual rice and chicken lunch to a weird drink. A liquid blend of a green fruit called “su su”. It is full of vitamins C. However, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth that would almost make you puke. Il is often drunk by women to stay slim and look healthy. I tried the mix and Thu couldn’t stop laughing at my disgusted face.
Hanh, the kind and generous masseuse
I met Hanh when we went to Bach Ma national park with a bunch of other expats. She truly touched me by her thoughtful and generous mindset. She is Vietnamese Mum who teaches sports. Even if she can barely speak any English, she manages to express herself with smiles.
After our trek in Bach Ma jungle, then our rafting adventure at Hoa Phu Thanh, she saved me from a slight cold. When she discovered that I was a little sick, she didn’t hesitate to contact me to help me feel better. She came to our house in Da Nang to give me a really special massage.
She was making round circles on my back, arms and belly for about an hour. The ingredients of her magic remedy were 4 boiled ripe eggs, 1 tea towel, and 1 old coin from the time of Indochina. She placed in the towel 1 egg at a time with the coin in the middle of the egg. Once she finished a massage round, she would remove the destructured egg. Then, she would clean the coin which turned black with toothpaste. Same process for each egg. A unique experience of traditional Vietnamese medicine that I would never have tried out by staying at a hotel or a resort.
Later on, she invited me to explore Da Nang’s local market on a Friday afternoon at 5pm – their dinner time? From stall to stall, we tested out a few different Vietnamese snacks. From noodles with snails to egg pancakes, and drinking a freshly squeezed mango juice, it was an unforgettable experience! Not only she invited me to spend a very special moment with her. But she also paid for most of the food and took me back home on her motorbike. She deeply moved me by her endless generosity.
Fun fact about Hanh – During her egg massage, she wasn’t shy to tell me to get undressed so that she could apply the magic remedy. She was probably thinking: “Stop being so modest Domi. We were all made the same way.” She didn’t beat about the bush, and I loved it!
Three Vietnamese women who made a positive impact on my stay in the country of the cone-shaped hat. Some strong, with character, generous and smiling. And you, have you ever met local people who deeply moved you? If so, feel free to share your experience and story in a comment below. 🙂