Ho Chi Minh or Saigon as it is also known was our first destination in Vietnam. Our over all plan was to travel up from the South of Vietnam, hop over to Cambodia and from Cambodia fly to the North of Vietnam to end our trip. The reason being was because during our time out there, the middle of Vietnam was flooded and it was monsoon season plus I really wanted to see parts of Cambodia. We were in Ho Chi Mihn for two days before heading out to the Meekong.
My first thoughts of Ho Chi Minh were very positive. This city doesn’t as a whole have a positive reputiation largely because of its crime rate towards tourists but I felt nothing but safe. As with anywhere, you do need to have common sense and I generally found Saigon rather pleasant and actually preferd it to Hanoi.
Saigon has a surprisingly friendly vibe within the hustle and bustle of city life and there is a certain grimy charm about its streets and market places and most of the locals were exceptionally accomodating.
The two days we were in Saigon we did a walking tour on the first day and on the second day we visited local markets to really get a feel for life in Vietnam. Walking tours can be found on the internet or I highly recommend the Lonely Planet guide book which is what we used. The walking tour takes you round some exquisite French architechture, hidden tiny temples down back alleys and gorgeously gritty markets to whitness sellers chopping up the catch of the day and washing their produce. A word of caution here: Do not wear white, these markets are crowded places, yet blood and fish guts still go flying. These markets are not for the faint hearted or Vegans who may not enjoy seeing this side to Vietnamese life, it can look a bit gruesome. I, personally enjoy visiting these places because it teaches me how other cultures live and I find it fascinating encountering all the different types of fish I’ve never seen before.
At the market you will find all sorts of goods from food to clothing.
The market as well as its side streets are a real great experience.
There are countless people walking around and in spite of all those
people, there are still motorbikes squeezing through the side streets of
the market. The pure chaos, but quite worth seeing.
When crossing roads in Vietnam, surprisingly pedestrians have right of way. Essentially just slowly go for it, if you wait for a break in traffic you’ll be waiting for pigs to fly. If you’re slow and they can see you crossing, they whizz round you. It’s actually quite easy, although daunting at first, however you get used to it. Do not rush across like a deer caught in headlights, you will get run over!
Tasting Ho Chi Minh’s celebrated street food and taste bud-tingling Vietnamese dishes was a dream and crossing the motorcycle-choked roads, getting lost in hostel-fringed narrow lanes and coming face to face with the architectural medley of temples, Soviet-style housing blocks and French-inspired buildings and museums made my heart burst with joy.
Ho Chi Minh/ Saigon, once the capital of
Vietnam, is located in southeastern Vietnam. It was originally known as
Prey Nokor, a fishing village, home of the Khmer people until the
Vietnamese settlers arrived around the 17th century. But in 1853,
Saigon (formerly Prey Nokor) was conquered by the French and Spanish,
reason why you’ll still see a wealth of French-styled buildings
scattered all over Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Eventually, Saigon was
renamed Ho Chi Minh, derived from the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary
leader who was Chairman and First secretary of the Workers’ Party of
Today, the rising number of tourists is fast transforming its districts, with new hotels, bars, galleries and restaurants. Yet despite its urbanization, it has managed to retain its pride in Vietnamese culture. And that’s one of the reasons why I like this frenetic city.
One thing to warn you about is bag safety. Hold it tight and not to use yourcamera or phone while on the road because Ho Chi Minh is notorious for motorcycle-riding snatchers.
The Ben Thanh Market is one of the famous landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City. Every day thousands of visitors come to the market to stroll around and buy something. You can almost buy everything over here. Clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, food or the popular Vietnamese coffee. Don’t forget to bargain about the prices!
Inside the Ben Thanh Market there is always something going on. You can
also try some Vietnamese delicacies, which is totally recommended.
Not too far from the Ben Thanh Market you can find the Bitexco Financial Tower, where the amazing Saigon Skydeck is located. It is on the 49th floor and has a great 360-degrees view at Ho Chi Minh City. We totally love viewpoints and if you do so too, don’t miss that one. This stunning view can be seen from “Sky Bar” where you can enjoy a delicious cocktail whilst you marvel at the views below and around you.
Currently the price for a ticket is VND 200,000, which is about € 8. If
you can refrain from visiting the Skydeck, you can still check out the
cafe or bar in the floors 50 to 52. There you won’t have to pay an
admission but still have to order something like a drink.
As part of the walking tour do visit The Jade Emperor Pagoda, it is one of the most important Taoist temples of Ho Chi Minh City. In the temple you will find plenty statues of various gods, Buddhist statues and of course some of the eponymous Jade Emperor. Next to the main building is a small basin with many turtles and on the inside you can see lots of different rooms, shrines and altars. Very impressive and despite the high visitor rate the whole temple complex is really quiet and relaxed. The pagoda is open daily from 7.00 A.M. to 6.00 P.M. and there is no admission to pay. Nevertheless, you are always welcome to leave a donation. Visiting temples and shrines is a favourite pasttime for me and I found this particular temple stunning.
Also visit The Thien Hau Temple is located in Ho Chi Minh’s Chinatown. The Vietnamese name is: Chùa Bà Thiên Hậu. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, the protector of the sailors. Even if the temple isn’t really impressive from the outside, it is still known as one of the highlights of Ho Chi Minh City. As soon as you get to the inside, you will notice the smell of the incense sticks that are scattered throughout the temple and hanging from the ceiling. A really imposing temple which is definitely worth a visit.
And lastly please do stroll down to the Turtle Lake which is a huge roundabout in the center of Ho Chi Minh City and its especially popular in the evening among locals. Here you will find countless street stalls with delicious Vietnamese food and the locals (mostly the younger ones) who meet at the Turtle Lake to eat, chat, play games and more. It’s super fun just people watching as the sun goes down in this place and was probably one of my favourite landmarks of Ho Chi Minh.
Saigon is a diamond in the rough, to me it was a brilliant introduction to the Vietnamese culture and city life, I also loved how warm the weather was and how friendly the people were. The street food is incredibly moreish too.
If you wish to see more of my travels visit the links below: