I don’t even know where to start. Let me start by saying I am Angelo from Chicago. I found my love for Vietnam first in Chicago. I own a consulting company there and have thousands of clients. One particular family, a Vietnamese family saved thousands of dollars using my company, they also got thousand of dollars in refunds from the government thanks to our efforts. They invited me to a birthday party that changed my life and added a whole bunch of people to my very small family. One of them came back and forth to the States and encouraged me to come visit and so I did back in November. I returned to the US just for a short visit and returned to Vietnam on a one way ticket, with no planned exit date. Vietnamese people there in Chicago were soooo nice that I had to come and see the real Vietnam. I have not been disappointed, they are definitely relatives and fruit from the same tree. THey have great family values and morals just like the rest of Asia. Some of the worlds most loving and caring people are here in Vietnam. They go out of their way to make foreigners feel at home and welcome. However, thanks to Corona Virus COVID19, sadly that is quickly beginning to change.
I first came to Vietnam in November. The city is super populated, super busy and while most are poor, most take work wherever they can find it. Let me give you an idea how many people are here. Chicago has a population of 2.7 Million. Ho Chi Minh / Saigon have a population of 8.9 million. This means almost 4 Chicago’s could fit inside this city! Chicago is a huge city itself.
On arrival I immediately learn motorbike (scooters) are the best way to get around and I would say its about 80% scooters to 20% cars. They move like herds of cattle through the city. I learned none of them have insurance. When I first arrived a close family friend, took me around for ten days of living like a rock star. He showed me all the night life hot spots and great restaurants. Here is a snap shot of Bui Vien Street. It is wall to wall bars for blocks then it hits and intersection and the bars even go right and left for another block.
Here is how Bui Vien Street looked before Corona Virus COVID19.
This is how Bui Vien Street looked on Saturday night March 14th. On this day the Vietnamese government ordered all bars, restaurants, massage parlors, flea markets, theaters and pretty much any other place where large crowds gather, especially foreigners, to close due to corona virus COVID19.
It is a ghost town, all most scary. I came on two different nights and on both nights I saw a couple people with a suitcase in tow. This use to be prime realty. You were in the hear of the nightlife action here. They were able to get crazy rents from foreigners to live above and around these bars. Then overnight, it is the place nobody wants to be. Landlords do not want to adjust rent yet.
While these businesses were forced to close, I have met others who are closing on their own to protect their employees. Many are just failing. Restaurants have barely anyone inside. When the tenant exits there will be plenty of retail space available and there will be plenty of competition, which will be good for the person looking to get a space nice and cheap. They will have no choice but to drop rents to re-attract tenants.
Here is Pasteur Street a peak inside Bar 5 Saigon. It’s another street know for being foreigner hot spot not to far from Bui Vien but also closed as it too is in District 1. It’s also popular because this is where foreigners can find their food. My favorite is Bar 5 Saigon, a great establishment owned by a foreigner for more than 15 years I believe. He comes through every night and shakes hands with almost everyone. Great customer service they also have an excellent #5 Burger with an egg on top, great steak and salads. Great staff too., all friendly. I hope our paths cross again.
Sadly this is Pasteur Street on the same Saturday, the first night of the District 1 enforced closure.
Another ghost town. Only two motorbikes can be seen. One is mine and one down by the Family Mart (they are like 7- Eleven’s). They were allowed to remain open but have absolutely no customers. The motorbike belongs to the employee. It’s so sad, because I made many friends down here. I only exchanged contact information with a few. The the second grey door is another favorite little place, it’s called Hyde bar, it too is just a memory now. I hope all the people that relied on this income can find the strength to turn the page and start a new chapter in their lives. Until then I will carry only happy memories of these two places and the people I met within the walls. I hope there will be a vaccine for COVID19 but I won’t hold my breath, neither should you.
My last favor, I ask of all locals here in Ho Chi Minh or anywhere in Asia. Please do NOT treat all foreigners like they carry COVID19. The other day I was at my favorite Pho place and they did not even want to get close enough to read my Google Translate on my cell phone. Being a foreigner here was great in the past. Everyone wants to be your friend, that has now changed overnight. Many foreigners have lived her for decades. You might want to start with where are you from, when did you arrive? Then decide if you want to run the other way. Ho Chi Minh is a sad and lonely place right now if you are a foreigner. They all treat me like I just got off an airplane, even thought I lived here before the corona virus.
Don’t be afraid to go outside, there is a cure. They are testing the very first vaccine in the States as I am typing this post. I would not expect instant changes in corona virus but I politely request you change you instantly change your mindset in regards to foreigners you may run into like me. We are not zombies, you wont die from being near us. I have traveled to the furthest corners of the world, more than once. So I know what its like to be the only white person for miles. This cold treatment is worse than racial profiling. People are literally scared, be safe but don’t go over board. I worked in healthcare for 8 years and I know how to keep myself safe. You can do the research and no how to keep yourself safe too. The precautions are the same for all people, it has nothing to do with the color of ones skin. I feel so sorry for Chinese or Korean people living here.
Here is an example. I got severely injured on a motorcycle taxi (Grab) weeks ago and my back still hurts. I go get massages on a frequent basis or at least I used to, down in Saigon square, another place that is now closed in District 1. I can tell the girl is nervous so I tell her how the Police and Doctors came door to door checking for foreigners and how I passed, I do NOT have corona or they would have taken me. Obviously. She relaxes but it occurs to me she has been wearing that mask all day with multiple foreigners in and out of here. So who should really be afraid?
The point is we are all in this together. Tensions are going to be high enough with all the job loss, let’s try to love each other in the meantime. If you have been chasing money all this time, rest assured there is more to life than money. This maybe your chance to figure out whats really important in life. This is also when you will find out who your friends really are…
Here is what it is like to be a foreigner in a public establishment in Ho Chi Minh right now, sadly this type of treatment is becoming more common. : https://photos.app.goo.gl/Hcj1XBdWMD1iWVut6
About five days ago the police went door to door on my street asking if there were foreigners in the building. When my landlord said, Yes, two Americans, we got a text saying we had to come down at 430 to be examined by a doctor.
Here are the VIDEOS and PHOTOS from the day the authorities came to check me for Corona Virus! https://photos.app.goo.gl/EA3tbaVJ4n8i8P7P8
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes “Life can only be UNDERSTOOD by looking BACK, but it can only be LIVED by going FORWARD…” and “Life without risk, is NOT life at all…”
For those of you who are asking, Yes. I am single and it looks like I am going to be that way for awhile now unless you are more open minded and realize not all foreigners will give you COVID19. If you are open minded and want to know who I am as a man, feel free to read the ABOUT ME page. Then if you are interested in getting to know me further, feel free to use the CONTACT page. I always have room for new friends.
I want you to know that going forward is often a struggle. Quitting is easy, don’t be a quitter. Keep pushing,, it will eventually pay off. Things will get better, they always do. Time heals all. Love heals all. Keep being the beautiful Vietnamese people I have always known you to be.
Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Call your mother, tell her you love her…