What did I do in my whirlwind time in Ho Chi Minh City?
I ate. Shopped at a shopping centre. Bartered at the markets. Avoided being hit by motorbikes and cars (which is actually somewhat of a feat). Had drinks at the Majestic Hotel (where if walls could talk, this place would tell quite the story). Visited the same-same, but completely different Notre Dame Cathedral (coincidentally on the 1 year anniversary of my visiting and climbing the real Notre Dame in Paris). And then ate some more (Bud’s Ice Cream – San Francisco at the Vincom, pastries at the Caravelle… incredible).
Whilst bartering in Hoi An was fun, bartering in the Ho Chi Minh City is on a whole other level. It’s hot, loud, chaotic and claustrophobic. The bags are fake but the overpricing is real. I managed to barter a bag down from 1,200,000VND to 400,000VND within minutes. I love the psychology behind bartering. Mixing psychology and getting a bargain is like creating the ultimate game.
When I was studying, I learned the principle of completely underquoting to lower than you are prepared to pay when wanting to drop the price, because it creates a relative point. When you move upwards from that to a more reasonable price, it seems much more desirable, and you are more likely to get the price you want. On the other hand, the seller over quotes to get a better price, because everything lower than the original price they quotes seems like a bargain. You can see how this would relate to bartering as the seller and the buyer work towards a mid point which suits them both (except when, like me, the buyer is unwilling to really compromise enough to meet them half way). Welcome to the psychology of all sales 101 at the most basic level.
I have embraced every moment of Vietnam. Its people, the food, the rich history (learning about the Vietnam war and seeing it’s impacts even today) and the culture in general. I have loved seeing the contrast between the cities – from the almost sheltered, small town feel of Hoi An to the ever-moving, fast developing Ho Chi Minh city.
I have enjoyed the little indulgences and the manners and service of the people. Men back home could learn a thing of two from the men of Vietnam – I didn’t have to open a door to a car or lift my bag almost the entire time. It gave me hope that chivalry’s not dead.
Our last day in Vietnam really was a typical day of showcasing the generosity and flavours of the Vietnamese food. I’m going to miss paying around $30 for 4 people to have the most abundant, delicious feast finished with drinks included (the photo below does not even show all of the food on our table – or the beers and cocktails).
It showed us the culture. And gave us an insight into what is ahead for this amazing culture. Watching how fast it is developing, I feel that Vietnam will be a completely different world from this whole new world I have grown to know and love over the past few weeks the next time I visit.
I’m going to miss Saigon. I’m going to miss Hoi An. I’m going to miss what is now my Vietnam.