Saigon – Talking with the tourist


It all started with a: “Are you English? Do you have some time to speak with us?”.
This afternoon I was strolling down Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker area in Saigon, on my way to Ben Thanh market when I got suddenly surrounded by a group of Vietnamese students, like I was some sort of movie star.
“Why not?” I thought. After my catch up with some Vietnamese friends in the morning I had no real plans for the rest of the day. So I sat on the pavement with the students and for almost an hour I was bombarded with questions about my job, my home country, my opinions of Vietnam. My not-married status, together with my age, (yes, these were some of the questions too) shocked some of the girls but I will survive….

With some of the students who interviewed me
With some of the students I spoke to

Although only a handful of the students around me actually asked me questions, there were at least fifteen of them eagerly listening to everything I had to say. They also showed me photos of Vietnam, told me about their studies and their hometowns.

“Talking with the tourist” – as these University students explained to me – is an initiative that gives students in Vietnam the opportunity to practice their English with tourists.  They even have a website (click here) and a Facebook group!

The Saigon group uses the Pham Ngu Lao park as its area of action. As I looked around while sitting with them I realised that there were at least another 5-6 backpackers in the same situation as me.

These students also hand out a self-made booklet with some Saigon travel tips, from price lists to how to find toilets, how to cross the road, some useful sentences in Vietnamese (which I was unable to pronounce properly…), and a small map of the city centre. And at the end of my ‘interview’ they even gave me a small gift – a handmade bracelet – to thank me for my time.

What a great idea from these kids, and what a nice experience for us foreigners too :-).

So if you are in Saigon and keen on spending some time speaking English with local students, head to Pham Ngu Lao!

3 thoughts on “Saigon – Talking with the tourist”

  1. Hi Chiara

    A most enjoyable first visit. I particularly enjoyed the Saigon student entry. Your words bought your images to life and gave me a deeper insight into why you photograph your travel experiences.

    The pictures of Lao were full of colour and energy, I think if I went there the place would feel familiar because you took care to capture it’s flavour so well.

    Thank you.
    Belinda

  2. Hi Chiara, very interesting blog you got going here! Looks like you are having a great time, I am well jealous!!

    Shah

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