This month marks the fifth anniversary of my arrival in Ho Chi Minh City after five years in Thailand and Cambodia. I came here almost by accident.
I was offered a couple of months work writing for a travel company and intended Vietnam to be simply a two-month working holiday.
I loved it as soon as I arrived and pretty quickly decided to make it home. I like Vietnam, a lot. I really like Saigon although it has seen incredible change since the day I arrived here.
At first I lived in Phu Nhuan and then District 1 before settling in District 2. Thao Dien has seen remarkable change since those early days.
Xuan Thuy has gone from being a simple cut through road to a very busy street, with new eateries seemingly opening up every few days. There is barely an unoccupied unit today.
The biggest difference, though, is the traffic. It has gone from being a motorbike paradise to an extremely gridlocked city at peak times.
Two new International school campuses opening last month have not helped. Whilst they are trying to encourage the children to walk or cycle to school there seems to be a huge reluctance to prise themselves out of their Chelsea tractors.
Ho Chi Minh City is though still a very green looking place. There are more parks and certainly more trees than in Bangkok. Although some are being cut to make way for new roads or simply for safety reasons, plenty are being planted.
The highway into town, towards the tunnel, being a case in point.
Most of the new business that are opening in Thao Dien seem to be more Western than local, I do hope that enough of the old stuff sticks around.
I like the advantage of having Western diners and cafes but I do like the local shops and cafes as well. It’s a pretty good balance and I hope it remains like this.
The time has gone incredibly quickly, five years in the blink of an eye. I suppose that speaks volumes for my enjoyment of the place.
Owning a motorbike is a blessing and something that I never would have dreamed of doing in Thailand.
For all the chaos out here, traffic moves at a generally slow pace and it is nowhere near as scary as it first appears.
Family members back in England think I’ve lost the plot.
The smog is a bit of a drag to be honest, I have had a cough for about six months and I just cannot seem to shake it. However the advantage of living here is that golden beaches and gorgeous countryside are never far away.
I’m off to Thailand for a short break soon. I’ll be swapping my daily cafe/offices for the beach. Ho Chi Minh City is a terrific hub from which to explore all that Southeast Asia has got to offer.
I’m still enjoying my time here, here’s to the next five years.
Following a successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter/musician, Keith pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, then Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City since 2013.