Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and has a more Western feel than the other cities I visited. It’s a booming, busy place, with scooters zipping around, and an abundance of hip coffee places, bars and also parks. I quite enjoyed simply wandering around and lapping up the atmosphere in the city.
We did find that there isn’t a whole lot to do (tourist-wise) in the city centre. We checked out the brightly yellow painted Post Office and also the Notre Dame Cathedral – both clearly have some French influence.
Our afternoon was spent visiting the War Remnants Museum, which is an incredibly informative but also biased museum displaying photos, artefacts and descriptions of the American War in Vietnam. Outside the museum there a number of aeroplanes, helicopters, tanks and guns that belonged to the American troops during the war – these also give you an idea of the scale of the invasion. It’s well worth a visit, but be prepared for the harrowing portrayal of the events that occurred during and as a result of the war.
Our hostel in HCMC – Vietnam Inn Saigon – was a really cool place to stay. At nine stories high its on a par with other hotels in the area, and the roof-top bar provides stunning views of the city – especially sunset and at night. The hostel is also right next to the main park, where locals do their exercise (especially badly played badminton), walk their dogs and take an evening stroll. This is a great place to take a seat and watch the world go by. It’s rather amusing watching people running or working out (on the free machines provided) in their normal clothes – sometimes it seems they’ve just come from work or fancied a quick session whilst out and about. On our first evening in the city Maddy and I were enjoying the surroundings when a young girl with 3 dogs approached us – we chatted to her for over half an hour, sharing stories and laughing about her dog’s antics. Another young family also came over to join in with the conversation – it was so amazing to chat to some local Vietnamese folk and to enjoy their company, plus I think they wanted to practice their English! This kind of hospitality hasn’t happened that often throughout Vietnam, it immediately felt like the people in HCMC were much more friendly.
This photo (although terrible) shows the sunset view from one side of the hostel’s rooftop bar – what an amazing way to end a day in the city!
Here’s a picture of Maddy with a guy who was selling coconuts. He was really eager to have his photo taken, despite the fact that we’d said no to buying something from him.
Saigon isn’t for everyone – it’s fast-paced, congested and somewhat smelly – however there’s no city quite like it – and I surprisingly enjoyed my short stay here.