I know that it is wrong but for some reason I have always associated Vietnam with endless green rice fields and the famous rice hats worn by the laborers. This misguided view was shattered the moment we reached the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the Vietnamese call it. The scale, sprawl and constant buzz had me in shell shock. I loved the game “Frogger” as a kiddo and crossing the streets in Saigon can only be described as Frogger on the most intense level. If you show any hesitation when crossing an intersection a chorus of horns will rain down on you. The best course of action is a slow, steady stroll and the motorbikes will part for you like a school of fish around a swimmer. By the 3rd day we were laughing at the terror of tourists who we resembled only 72 hours prior. A tiny, filthy juice stand “5 Boy Number One” was located several blocks from our homestay and offered massive, beautiful fresh fruit smoothies for 85 cents. We become addicts and would frequent the stall 2 or 3 times per day. We would bookend our days with the delicacy. There was always a queue.
A huge rat stalked the stall waiting for dropped morsels. He would dart around customers in a disconcerting manner. On our depressing last visit to 5 Boy Number One we saw the rat yet again and pointed it out to the proprietor. She gave a hearty head shake and flashed a toothless grin at us while chuckling, “Haha…yes, pet!”