From the minute we touched down in Ho Chi Minh I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The air is thick, the roads are insanely busy and the sun beats down. It’s a fast paced, forever moving city, and definitely a culture shock for this lazy day woman. Perth is nothing compared to the insanity of Ho Chi Minh, in fact I couldn’t even compare Sydney or Melbourne to this cray! Don’t get me wrong, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) is full of culture and colour and noise, but this small town girl probably couldn’t handle the 24/7 noise and beep beep-ing for an extended period! But it was an amazing start to our Vietnam adventure.
Our hotel was nestled down an alley just off the main road in District 1. Nothing like the picture we saw on the internet (LOL), but it did have charm (plus the air conditioning and wifi)! After basically an entire day of travel E and I were completely exhausted, but couldn’t not go for a wander through the streets around the hotel. One thing we did notice was that Vietnamese people are fitness freaks! The huge, lush park across from our hotel was filled with people of all ages playing badminton, doing yoga and aerobics. Late at night. In the dark! How bizarre! Packs of kids were running laps and I kinda maybe almost felt like joining the over 50s dancing to Gangdam Style. But I didn’t.
Although it is supposed to be monsoon weather it didn’t rain. The heat is intense, but it was all forgotten when we decided to (or were “convinced” to) take a cycle tour through the city. No, I wasn’t cycling. My “driver” was cycling and I sat in a queen like seat as he peddled me around the city! That poor guy, I weigh a tonne. Seeing the streets of Ho Chi Minh by bicycle was so amazingly beautiful, and although weaving through the traffic was scary (motorbikes and scooters everywhere, triple the amount in Bali), and we drove into incoming traffic more than once (sorry Mum), we survived, and it was so cool and the best way to see the city sights. Here’s a little run down of my highlights of Ho Chi Minh.
The Reunification Palace: old school architecture, beautiful winding stair cases, immaculate gardens, tanks and planes (!), war related memorabilia. For only $3AUD it was an interesting sneaky peek and worth it just to step into a place of such history.
China Town Markets: so damn busy, anything and everything for sale, the strangest food stalls including dried fish (ugh) with the head still attached, your typical market but if you’re a claustrophobic soul AVOID, it was so jam packed!
The “Streets of Saigon”: colour, noise, interesting smells, fake Raybans galore, scooters, street food, more scooters, fun straw hats, bikes with boom boxes attached playing gangsta tunes, kids running wild, cute cats with no tails, Starbucks, even more scooters and basically the real feel of city life.
The Food: amazing, tasty and cheap. The best thing I probably ate was a Vietnamese Pancake on the street in an alley near the hotel. Stuffed with pork and prawns, it was damn good. I wish I’d eaten it every day we were there. People get a bit funny about street food, but we made sure the places we did eat were busy busy. ABC Bakery was also a treat. A typical Asian bakery, there really was a mixture of the weird and wonderful. The mushroom pastry sandwich hybrid I devoured was scrumptious.
The Coffee: I’d heard good things about Vietnamese coffee, but I wasn’t expecting such sweet nectar! Made with condensed milk, the coffee was creamy and strong and like no other coffee I have ever tasted! I’ll be sad to leave it behind when we go home!
The Colour: everywhere you turned. Bright lights, pastel paint on majority of the buildings, stunning street art, flowers, flags. HCMC was colour city. I’m a colour freak, so I literally couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the pops everywhere I turned. If only I could paint my own house mint green or pastel purple!
Would I go back? Maybe for a weekend. Or a stop over. It was almost too insane for me. But I loved experiencing a brand new culture.
Where was your last holiday?