Things that make you chuckle and squirm

22 Oct

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU CHUCKLE AND SQUIRM  I’ve reached the point of time where this once quirky environment now seems normal to me. Things that used to make me chuckle or squirm now receive little or no reaction. I’m comfortable living in HCMC. But my recent visitor – my partner, Shea – helped me to remember just how unusual some things are for visiting strangers to this land. These are some of the things we discussed:

  • Security personnel guard all shops and offices. It gives the impression that HCMC is unsafe but security guards are really only hired to watch over motorbikes and bicycles parked out the front of buildings and, because they’re often bored, they offer great conversations.
  • Disappointment is inevitable without copyright laws. There’s nothing worse than buying a packet of Tim Tams which taste like thin wafers that have been dipped in 100 per cent cocoa. They’re not real! The quality of copycat logos are very high so it’s often impossible to distinguish the real deal from a fake version. The most disappointing rip-offs, though, are alcohol.
  • Movie cinemas are more entertaining than expected. The lights dim, people continue talking and then (the highlight) the words “DVD loading” appear on the screen. If you’re unlucky, the disc might skip over part of the movie.
  • An electrical worker sifts through dozens of live wires. Shea took this photo during his recent visit.

    Poor safety practices are everywhere. I recently saw a street that had collapsed and, rather than surrounding the hole with witches hats and signs for attention, someone just placed a tree branch in the middle. Electrical workers are constantly sifting through dozens of live wires as they dangle from a ladder or rope. Hard hats and helmets are commonly worn on construction sites but rarely other protective equipment.

  • Every foreigner who rides a motorbike in HCMC has had or will have an accident. Injuries are as minor as burns from hot mufflers to serious brain injuries. Despite overwhelming road injury statistics, almost all expats ride motorbikes, bicycles or catch xe oms (motorbike taxis) without adequate protection and they exchange stories like old war veterans recalling the frontline.
  • Locals are very intrigued by foreigners. You wouldn’t expect foreigners to receive much attention in a city as large as HCMC. But tourists don’t often venture further than district one. Step across the border to district Binh Thanh, Phu Nuan or even district three and local people will point, smile and yell “hello” as they whisk past on motorbikes.

By Marissa Toohey

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2 Responses to “Things that make you chuckle and squirm”

  1. Rikki Toohey October 22, 2010 at 9:50 AM #

    Can’t wait!!!!

  2. Nancie October 24, 2010 at 12:53 AM #

    HCMC is pretty chaotic. I remember trying to get across the street. That was an adventure. I think the only city that I have encountered that is worse is Cairo.

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