A mega-metropolis with around 10 million inhabitants producing 11 tons of waste every single day – a large portion of which ends up in the sea – Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is fighting for a cleaner environment.
Restaurant owner Yen Linh has recreated the growing carpet of waste that is swimming around in the South China Sea, by throwing plastic waste into her aquarium with the fish. After all, this is what their natural habitat looks like, nowadays.
Yen Linh’s Royal Saigon restaurant serves food to locals and tourists alike as they sit next to her South China Sea metaphor.
Environmental activists have pushed for change in Ho Chi Minh City, for instance with campaigns to introduce bamboo straws, reusable cups and bottles. And along the way, they have created a new lifestyle that is attracting more and more interest.
Visitors can now stay in eco-friendly hotels, drink organic juices in rooftop bars and visit vegetarian food stands.
One place to visit on the eco-friendly trail through Ho Chi Minh City is a shop called Them, where you can see pomelos, ginger and tiny melons, covered in earth, sitting in wooden boxes.
They may not look pretty, but that’s exactly what organic fruit and vegetables should look like, say Phuc and Khanh, the store’s owners. Khanh also ensures that no pesticides were used in growing their produce.
The store is near to to everything you need: Next door there’s a vegetarian soup kitchen and hotels, hostels and trendy bars are all in walking distance.
The vegetarian lifestyle is also entwined with buddhism, as buddhists are not allowed to eat meat on certain days of the month. This is part of being one with the world – and vegetarian days are said to be cleansing.
This way of living is represented in the restaurant Hum, where you can have safran soup, banana leaf salad, fried palm hearts and tofu – a completely plant-based meal.
The eco-friendly way of life exists here at the same time as around eight million mopeds scream through the streets. Unlike many Western cities crowded with large diesel cars, anyone and everyone gets around on mopeds – sometimes you see entire families together on one. The system works – although the exhaust gases are hard to take.
Travel guide Do Truoc says he is glad to be worrying about the environment – he remembers a time when he had other concerns, when he was a soldier.
“How lucky we are, to be worrying about plastic waste nowadays, and not about everyday survival,” he says, as he throws his sweet wrapper in the next bin. – dpa/Gabriele Derouiche