I’m not exactly a big city type of gal. My palms get sweaty and the mass crowds make me cringe. But while traveling you are inevitably going to pass through some major cities. In Vietnam, this was Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh). I had nothing in the way of hopes for this bustling place, other than to survive it and catch my flight north. But wow, Saigon was quite the charmer.
I titled this post 24 hours on the streets of Saigon because I was literally frolicking through the streets for a full 24 hours. I was lucky enough to befriend my roommates right off the bat and tagged along with them for my whole stay. I’d be naive to think that their utter awesomeness didn’t sway my love for the city, so find yourself some fun friends when you arrive!
We started bright and early and hit the streets after some much needed coffee at the hostel. We decided to listen to the advice of our guide books and visit the War Remnants Museum. I highly recommend taking an afternoon to walk through this museum if you are ever in Saigon. It’s not exactly a “fun” activity, but it’s an in-depth look at the damage caused by the Vietnam War and I think it’s important that we hear this side of the story. Be prepared to feel a little emotional while walking through the various rooms and give yourself plenty of time to take it all in.
Our second stop was food, of course. We ate lunch at a crowded local hotspot and totally hit the jackpot. We ordered about 6 dishes to share and everything was amazing, even though we weren’t quite sure what it was. I even got to practice my chopstick handling! Which I’m embarrassed to admit has hardly improved…
After lunch, myself and Jeff (from Canada!) decided to try our hand at the Ben Thanh market. After crossing a few too many 6 lane streets we finally found ourselves surrounded by food vendors and clothing stalls and began our shopping quest. It was a little overwhelming but we held strong to our bargaining techniques and made it out with a couple great deals!
And then we ate again. This time some fresh spring rolls!
We arrived back to the hostel just in time to shower and join the other three guys for dinner. Like all true westerners, we ate at a sports bar. The boys ordered Australian beef burgers, to remind them of home and I ordered a quesadilla. I hate to admit it, but it was really nice to have some comfort food. The restaurant is called Phatty’s Bar and Grill, just in case you are in need of a burger and fries!
After dinner, we made our way back to the hostel for some drinks at the bar. We played a few serious matches of Jenga then joined a huge group of travelers for the pub crawl. The pub crawl was quite fun and you got a free shot at each new venue, so naturally the night got more entertaining with each new bar.
The pub crawl ended and after hours of being lost downtown (the most hilarious 3 hours I’ve had in a long time) we made it back to the hostel at 5:00am, just in time to catch my flight to Da Nang!
Saigon tips for success:
1. Stay at Vietnam Inn Saigon. Best hostel in Vietnam, hands down. It’s located in the heart of the city and has a great atmosphere for meeting new people. AND FREE BREAKFAST!!!! $7 per night.
2. Check out the War Remnants Museum. It’s a sobering experience and will provide you with a new perspective of the Vietnam War. It’s very one-sided so make sure to go in with an open mind. Entrance is $1.
3. Eat as much food as you can. Vietnamese food is full of flavor and Saigon is home to some delicious eateries, so don’t be shy! It’s also VERY cheap. A must-try is Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s crazy strong and really sweet, but it will wake ya up!
4. Don’t be afraid to cross the street. I will be the first to admit that the streets of Saigon are terrifying. But be brave and be bold and you will make it to the other side without a scratch!
5. Explore the city by day. The Ben Thanh market is quite the site, but I recommend walking down the nearby streets for the best deals on souvenirs. After shopping to your hearts content, take some time to yourself in one of the large parks.
6. Then explore the city by night. A pub crawl is a great way to not only meet people, but to also check out the different nightlife scenes. Don’t pass it up!
What big cities have snuck their way into your heart?