Challenges Faced in Ho Chi Minh City during 2020-2021

Ho Chi Minh City, similar to many other places globally, experienced a tough period from 2020 to 2021. Due to the prevailing circumstances, the majority of the population had to endure prolonged lockdowns within their residences for approximately six months. This unprecedented situation presented numerous challenges and obstacles, making life immensely difficult for all individuals.

The impact of COVID-19 was significant, leading to a complete halt in Ho Chi Minh City and throughout Vietnam. The profound effects of this unprecedented time will forever remain ingrained in our collective recollections.

In 2022, the Year of the Tiger made a powerful entrance into our lives. With the successful containment of the pandemic, there was a significant decline in cases and fatalities.

At this juncture, a significant portion of the population in Ho Chi Minh City commenced receiving subsequent vaccinations against COVID-19 while resuming academic and professional activities.

Ironically, my year began in the hospital. COVID-19 and social distancing had caused both physical and mental injuries that required my full attention for recovery.

After experiencing a period of reduced physical activity, my weight had increased. Additionally, I had recently recovered from a severe nose infection caused by a COVID-19 test gone wrong a few months prior. Although the year began with some challenges, I remained optimistic, knowing that great things were yet to come.

I am delighted to report that after undergoing a successful nose surgery, I have been able to resume my exercise routine. By February, I had fully recovered and was back to my regular running and biking activities.

With the arrival of Tet, I eagerly turned my attention to the promising year ahead. This festive occasion brought about a unique celebration like no other. Gathering with my loved ones, we cherished the simplicity of being together. I had the pleasure of spending quality time in District 12 and Binh Duong Province, and I also had the joyous opportunity to meet my newborn nephew, who entered the world during the lockdown, for the very first time.

White apricot blossoms are blooming in this illustration photo. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
White apricot blossoms are blooming in this illustration photo. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

“The most lasting memory I have as an expat living in Vietnam is witnessing the sheer happiness in the eyes of local families who were able to gather and celebrate the festive season together. It truly encapsulated the essence of joy and togetherness.”

Upon my return to work following Tet, I had the pleasure of participating in my company’s long-awaited trip to Da Lat in April 2022. The experience was truly awe-inspiring as I was able to once again immerse myself in the breathtaking mountainous landscapes and rejuvenating countryside.

At my tenure at a prominent IT organization, we seized the opportunity to support the underprivileged through a fundraising event. Our collective efforts resulted in a remarkable sum, allowing us to extend financial aid to two orphanages situated in Da Lat. In a bid to stimulate further contributions, I undertook a daring challenge – traversing the distance between Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City on a bicycle within a single day, covering a total of 282km.

As I was still on the path to recovery from the effects of the lockdown and not yet fully restored in terms of my health, embarking on the bicycle journey from Da Lat to Ho Chi Minh seemed like a formidable undertaking.

I set out from Da Lat at 3:00 am on a chilly Sunday morning, embarking on an all-day journey. After several hours of riding, I arrived in Bao Loc at 8:00 am and returned to Dong Nai by 11:00 am. Despite the heat of the noon sun slowing my progress, I persevered and by sunset, I found myself a mere 80km away from my company office in Binh Thanh.

After a long and challenging journey, I arrived at my company office at 11:00 pm on Sunday night. Exhausted, I found solace by collapsing on the front stairs. This moment marked a significant achievement for me, as I proudly whispered to myself, “I did it.” The year 2022 has been filled with numerous awe-inspiring moments, and this was certainly one of them.

Cherry blossoms signal Tet in norther Vietnam. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
Cherry blossoms signal Tet in northern Vietnam. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

However, the Year of the Tiger brought me much more than I anticipated. I was not only able to resume my favorite pastime of watching rugby at the bar with friends on Saturday afternoons, but I also had the incredible opportunity to travel to Angkor Wat and participate in my very first half-marathon outside of Vietnam.

The experience of witnessing the sun rise over Angkor Wat on a tranquil August morning was truly awe-inspiring. Running a half marathon amidst the ancient temples served as a stark juxtaposition to the lonely period of isolation I had endured just a year prior.

In the auspicious Year of the Tiger, a promising chapter awaited me. Following a prolonged period of seclusion, I embarked on a heartfelt journey back to my homeland, Australia, in October to reunite with my beloved family, whom I had not had the pleasure of seeing since 2019. Undoubtedly, this reunion proved to be one of life’s most profound and cherished moments, filling my heart with an indescribable joy. Touching down on Australian soil and embracing my dear son, I experienced yet another awe-inspiring “WOW” moment, further deepening the significance of this long-awaited homecoming.

During my time in Australia, I sought to make the Year of the Tiger truly unforgettable by participating in my most challenging running event to date. Deep within the majestic mountains of New South Wales, I undertook a formidable 50km Ultra-Marathon, which involved traversing approximately 2km of arduous terrain, ascending the endless valleys and peaks of the area. The experience was simultaneously grueling and awe-inspiring. The Year of the Tiger yielded achievements that exceeded my wildest expectations.

White apricot blossoms are blooming in this illustration photo. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
White apricot blossoms are blooming in this illustration photo. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

I encountered remarkable stories of recovery from my friends as well. Wayne Jorden, hailing from England, had served as an English teacher in Vietnam for approximately six years. A devoted family man, he resided in a modest apartment in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City throughout the year 2021.

Wayne took advantage of the global reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic to return to his home country of England. This decision allowed him to spend quality time with his family and also continue his work remotely.

Wayne reflected on the Year of the Tiger and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to reunite with his family in England. He chose to extend his stay there in order to secure contracts and regain momentum, after experiencing considerable challenges throughout 2021.

During the past two years, business owners have endured the burdensome effects of repeated lockdowns and restrictive measures, ultimately leading many to their breaking point.

Jamie Tuckwell, an established bar owner in Ho Chi Minh City, has persevered through the challenging closures of entertainment businesses in 2020 and 2021. Despite the widespread closures that forced many establishments to shut down permanently, Jamie tenaciously fought on, and successfully reopened his bar following a four-to-five-month lockdown in 2021.

In 2022, Jamie’s bars experienced a gradual recovery as many individuals were hesitant to venture out into public spaces. The initial months were challenging, with his establishments taking a considerable amount of time to regain their pre-pandemic popularity. However, with the gradual return of foreign tourists, a sense of normalcy slowly began to emerge.

Jaimie reflects on the challenges faced by businesses at the beginning of the year, but notes a gradual return of tourists to Ho Chi Minh City and the reuniting of old friends and regular travelers from the pre-COVID-19 era. The bar experienced moderate successes with the rugby league during the summer, but the real triumph came with the World Cup. Both locals and expats flocked to the bar, immersing themselves in the games and reveling in the joyous atmosphere. Witnessing the genuine camaraderie and enjoyment among so many people was truly gratifying.

Apricot blossom bud are ready to bloom for Tet. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
Apricot blossom bud are ready to bloom for Tet. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

During the Year of the Tiger, numerous individuals experienced the impact of illness, including contracting COVID-19. Fortunately, many of us swiftly recovered. This recovery brought about a fresh perspective on life, leading to an increased appreciation for the little things. Personally, I found joy in returning to work, as the thought of continuing to work from home was uncomfortable after being confined for an extended period.

This past year has been an incredible journey, packed with new experiences and exciting adventures. From thrilling bicycle expeditions to participating in marathons in Cambodia and Australia, I have had the privilege of exploring various parts of Vietnam.

Reflecting upon the past year, I can’t help but feel amazed at the multitude of unforgettable memories I have created. The combination of these experiences has truly left me in awe, and saying goodbye to this year feels bittersweet.

As the Tiger returns to the mountain for a respite, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Year of the Cat, promising an abundance of enjoyment, thrills, and exploration. Vietnam finds itself in a prime position to welcome an unprecedented influx of tourists. The economy is flourishing and the future appears exceptionally promising. I am determined to make the Year of the Cat another remarkable year filled with captivating journeys throughout the nation.

Wishing a prosperous New Year to all expatriates and locals in Vietnam! May the year ahead be filled with robust health, boundless happiness, and captivating adventures.