TRAVEL / VIETNAM
April , 2015
HO CHI MINH CITY + DIARY
We feel like every post we’ve read about Ho Chi Minh City seems to omit an extremely important aspect of this city: the unbearable heat. It is hot, hot, and hot to the point that you have to shower twice or three times a day. Be ready to sweat your life away.
Somehow the heat becomes part of the city charm, you get used to it by learning from the locals and the lifestyle they lead.
The first thing you need to know is that at certain times of day it is best to hide inside a café and avoid the heat. Adapt yourself to the environment and you will have a blast. Wear comfortable clothes, flat shoes are your best friends ladies if you happen to be a walker like us. Learning to cross the street is a skill in itself. We’ve managed to master street crossing! And at first we did so by just standing behind the locals who were crossing and becoming their shadows. It is very frightening at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is much like being in a video game and dodging vehicles, and the motorbikes are very good at dodging people as well. It’s important not to hesitate! That’s how accidents happen. If you are unsure, just follow a local and cross the street next to them.
Taxis are always available and pretty safe to take: Our favorite taxi company is Vinasun. I accidentally left my phone in a taxi and when I called, the taxi driver picked up 5 minutes later and told me he was waiting around the corner for me. As I said, extremely safe and they always have a/c.
The War Museum is the best museum you will encounter in this city! And it is very different from your usual to-go Museum. We highly recommend it to everyone. A lot of people complained on Trip Advisor that it was biased and didn’t really show “the true story” of the events that took place. We didn’t really see it this way, and we thought it was very interesting and powerful. Having taken A.P. U.S History back in High School, it was refreshing to get a different point of view and get an entirely different perspective, as well as be able to broaden our knowledge on the topic. Some of the images are extremely graphic and shockingly gruesome. Be prepared to see such explicit content, it can be very emotional.
Ho Chi Minh City has a big café culture, which means that in almost every corner you will find a cute or trendy café, whether you plan to work on your laptop, meet for lunch with coworkers or have a coffee with a friend everyone gathers here. You will find a mix of locals and expats hanging out at different cafés during the mornings and the afternoons, when the heat takes over the town. Some of our favorites, and the ones we kept returning to were: L’usine, I.D café, Modern meets Culture, and Worskhop.
If you are not a coffee lover, there are also cool places to hang out for high tea: like Khanhcasa and other establishments located in the happening Dong Khoi street.
Out of all the markets we’ve been to in SouthEast Asia, Ben Thanh market wasn’t anything special. Unless you have to buy souvenirs and small gifts for friends, you may skip it. Check out Cholon instead (Chinatown) located in District 5, you will find some hidden treasures here amongst a more authentic vibe of Vietnam lifestyle. They also have the beautiful Thien Hau Temple. If you are around the area take the time to learn about its history, it’s a very ancient Chinese Temple that gives you a glimpse of the influence of China in Vietnam.
As far as tours go, we opted for the Mekong Delta Deluxe tour. The Floating Market is truly impressive! How they still exchange goods and sell groceries from boat to boat. It is truly a unique experience that is catered to locals and not necessarily tourists, but to get this feeling you might want to wake up at 4 am, otherwise you will miss all the action. Most tours will cost around 45 dollars per person and will include one meal, water and an exploration of two islands, The Floating Market and rowing boat through the Mekong River and sometimes a bike ride around the jungle. The Mekong Delta area is about 3hours away from the city so this is why you need to wake up early to catch the first wave of The Floating Market and be able to see much more of what the area has to offer. People often stay here for a few days to be able to do more things; for example, very close to here you can visit Cu Chi Tunnels- the tunnels that helped win the Vietnam-American War.
Now, on where to eat: most Tourists choose Pham Ngu Lao street (backpacker street) to find an inexpensive restaurant to eat. This is a tourist trap, you will end up paying more for unauthentic Vietnamese food. If you really want authentic food, go for street food where all the locals hang out! Further into the city, closer to District 5. For a more upscale dining experience try Secret Garden for lunch (a really cute terrace/garden, affordable and a local hidden spot!) Cuc Gach Quan for dinner (ask for recommendations on how to order! the extensive menu can be discouraging but there is a method to this, and its amazing!) or, Nha Hang Ngon is also a must! (it looks like its expensive, but its actually affordable and very yummy)
Ho Chi Minh City has an ever growing bar scene. Every week there are trendy bars to hit. Most of the bars will have happy hour; some of our favorites are: Blanchys Tash, Xu Bar, and Racha Room (you will be fooled into thinking you are in a cool New York loft).
If you love your Rooftop bars and you are not afraid to show it, check out some of these hip places for a drink or two. Saigon, Saigon Bar (Caravelle Hotel), Rex Hotel rooftop, Glow skybar, Level 23 (Sheraton Hotel).
Have fun because Saigoners know how!
to book a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City by the river : HOTELS BY THE RIVER
to book a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City center : HOTELS
to book your next flight to Ho Chi Minh City : FLIGHTS
xx Amanda & Cynthia
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