13 May How far does your dong go in Saigon, Vietnam?
Well a fair bit actually……
Ho Chi Min City (HCMC) is a wonderful place to visit. The city could be the younger sister of Bangkok, in terms of its vibrancy, food and friendliness. There is so much to take in and depending what you want. On the plus side; if you love food, you can pretty much get anything and, the local dishes are superb, taste delicious and reasonably cheap. The beer economy is pretty good you can get a local bottle of beer for about $ 2.00 US, on par with Bangkok.
Accommodation is varied and depends on what you want. AirBnB options are abundant. I got a place right in the heart of district 1 for about 20 dollars US a night. On previous stays I have booked bed n breakfasts and hotels, depending on the season prices can be as cheap as 10 dollars a night up to several hundred, but options are a plenty.
Getting around in Ho Chi Min City
Getting around though, requires stamina, you need to walk around, and if you are not use to heat and humidity, you will be wanting to find a watering hole pretty quick. One of the best ways to get around though is on Grab bike or Grab taxi, you can download the app. and choose to pay for your trips via credit card or cash and, the drivers and motorcycle riders are pretty good at getting to take you to where you want. This is HCMC’s biggest weakness, the lack of public transport for tourists.
There is a light rail line being built with a Japanese consortium, I suspect once that is complete and more lines are built the city will be even more pleasurable to visit. You can though, take the Back of Bike tours, it costs around 50 dollars US, but you do get bang for your buck, or dong.
The riders are super friendly, speak excellent English and drive you safely around on the back of their bikes. My tour lasted close to 5 hours, and I was taken to 4 great local eateries, in districts 1, 3 and 5. You can eat and drink as much as you want but pace yourself because each place serves amazingly fresh and delicious foods, which you can wash down with iced tea, beer, a cool drink or water. The riders pick you up from your apartment/hotel and drop you back off at the end of the tour, I couldn’t recommend these guys enough.
Where to go in Saigon
In the evening you could head down to the backpacker area Pham Ngu Lao street, well which is like any backpacker area in SE Asia, loud, cheap, crazy. If on the other hand you feel like going to a great little bar, with great; people, drinks, food and live music then head to the Old Compass cafe on the 3rd floor of Pasteur St, 63/11, Bến Nghé, Quận 1.
This place is an oasis, from all the hustle and bustle from a days adventure in the city. Mark, Duong and Nhi will make you feel welcome, like you were an old family member who they haven’t seen in years.
The beer, wine and food along with the entertainment are a must if you would like to chill out and relax in the evening and it is pretty good value for your money, for about 30 dollars you can have a very satisfying night. Friday nights are huge with a great band, called Broken Rice, and Mark and band certainly get the place rollicking. Saturdays and Sundays can be quiet or busy, you just never know. But do keep an eye out for the talks and gatherings that happen on a regular basis at this place.
I stayed in district 1 and got to see same amazing architecture a legacy of the French colonization of Vietnam, as well as memories of the war, at the War remnants Museum. The museum is a profoundly moving place and, makes you realize how resilient the Vietnamese people are and after all that trauma, they still smile at all tourists with a hello greeting (xin chao). Unfortunately, a lot of the old architecture both Vietnamese and French is making way for apartments, ahhh the cost of progress, which is understandable to some extent, but I hope some things are preserved before they all disappear.
Flights to Ho Chi Min City
Flights are cheap, but those who do need a visa, need to either get one at the Vietnamese embassy in their country or you can get one online. But be warned it can take over an hour once you land to get a visa and then you have to go through immigration. If you are patient take the online option, if not get one beforehand.
I can’t wait to get back to HCMC and explore the other districts in the city, namely districts 2 and 7, well that’s for another time hope to chat soon.