As part of our recent trip to Asia, B and I spent a few days in Vietnam. Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City, or as the locals still call it, Saigon.
I’ll admit it – when we first got off the plane in Vietnam, I was overwhelmed. We had flown in from Hong Kong, where everything was so orderly and many things were even in English. Suddenly we were at a strange airport where signs were in Vietnamese and everyone was speaking a different language.
But as we drove into the city from the airport, I became at ease. The sky was just getting dark and the streets were lined with beautiful holiday lights, making a grand archway for our entrance.
Overall, I really enjoyed Saigon. B and I were lucky – our hotel turned out to be really nice, clean and in a great area for us tourists. All of the people that we met were nice. And we had nothing but good food the entire time. Here are a few things we did during our visit:
Walk all around downtown Saigon.
Yes, taxis were cheap but B and I love exploring cities by foot (we even went for a short run along the water one day!). Our first day in town, we took in so many of the sights:
– The post office (I know, it looks too pretty to be a post office!)
-Notre Dame cathedral
– The parks
– Some markets
See a few museums.
I’ll admit, B and I don’t make it to local museums a lot when we travel. Especially if the weather is nice (and it was sunny and 80s in Saigon! In January!). But there were two museum-like stops we made that were worthwhile- the local Vietnam War Remnants Museum and the Reconciliation Palace. Both offered a really interesting view of Vietnamese history- one we don’t often (or ever) see.
Enjoy (and make!) local food.
I love Vietnamese food. In Cleveland, B and I make it to our favorite spot, Superior Pho, a few times a month. Saigon was heaven! Thanks to the years of French influence we enjoyed some fresh French pastries for breakfast some days. We also feasted on pho (yes even for breakfast), bun and banh mi sandwiches.
On our last full day in town, B signed us up for a cooking course where we learned how to make spring rolls, a green mango salad and fried rice in a lotus leaf. I can’t wait to try some of the cooking at home!
Take trips outside the city.
Outside of downtown Saigon are the somewhat chilling Cu Chi tunnels, Mekong Delta River and more. We made it to the tunnels and they were hard to see I admit. Especially the Vietnam propaganda video about the brave women killing evil Americans … but thats another story. The Mekong Delta River day trip was amazing- we escaped the crowded, loud and smoggy city for a boat ride along the peaceful river, more local food, local tea and candy and so much greenery. More about that to come – yes, it warrants its own blog post.
Explore off the main path.
Since we had a few days in the city, we were lucky enough to have time to do some exploring of non-tourist attractions. We walked down side streets and saw families eating dinner in alleyways behind their crowded homes. We visited an American University in Vietnam and heard all about the amazing things they’re doing. We walked around a children’s hospital that serves the lower class and that was hard to see. We found markets only locals frequented (I presume at least- they weren’t in our guide book, we were the only white people there and we got stared at). Sure, we saw some rats and other things not worth mentioning, but we saw the city for what it is.
Some questions for you:
- Have you ever traveled to Vietnam? Or other nearby areas?
- How do you like exploring cities?
- On your trips, do you prefer cities or countrysides?
- Do you enjoy Vietnamese food? What’s your go-to order? In the US, cabbage salads and spring rolls. Salads were hard to come by in Vietnam – so bun, pho and banh mi. And course spring rolls!