Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"It's strange to think that you have to come to a communist country in order to feel free." - expat living in Vietnam

It was on the long bus ride to Saigon, where we reclined in seats that lay like incredibly narrow bunk beds - two high and three rows across, the entire length of the bus (except for the back which is a large platform bunk bed that holds 5 people crammed together on each the bottom and the top )- that I met Anthony, a British expat returning home early from a trip away.

And if there was one thing I've learned from my travels, it is this: a locale is best explored with a local. Anthony, luckily, was well enough versed with Ho Chi Minh City to be one.

Due to his early return, and continued time off work, he offered to take me out of the tourist district for a few hours each day and show me the local hot-spots.

Hopping on the back of his motorbike, we traversed the city, weaving in and around the thousands of other motorbike drivers congesting the roads. Some bikes holding entire families. Mom's with babies in their arms. The adults wearing helmets, children only wearing mesh nets to prevent them from swallowing bugs. While others taking more preventative measures by creating make-shift bike seats.

Amidst all the great eateries, and enjoying the sites of local neighborhoods, what left the most lasting impression was Acoustic.

A bar who's name explains itself, Acoustic is an evening affair of local bands and individuals who play each night according to the theme of the day. The venue is large enough to hold about 100 people, but small enough to provide a cozy yet energetic environment. And aside from the small handful of Westerners, the entire audience is Vietnamese.