Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon for the more romantic, is a busy but friendly city. This is the description that our lovely local guide Tam gave when I asked her. I couldn’t agree more. Saigon in Vietnamese means busy/ dynamic. No, I am joking, but it could well be. From the plane you can already see a sea of short houses painted all in pastel colours one next to each other. No organization what so ever and you can barely see the street weaving through the houses. On ground, you are consumed by the noise, the amount of people, cars and most of all motorcycles. But the rhythm in Saigon is not heavy hard core punk as it may seen, it is more like Beethoven – active with a purpose but without being harsh and ruthless. People smile and are extremely friendly even under the masks, loves, hats, helmets and other 4 people on the same bike. Honestly, if there was a version of clowns car for bikes, it would be in Saigon.
Enough of the romance, let’s get into all the things we packed into one weekend: – A O Show at the Saigon Opera House: this was an amazing find. Acrobatics on bamboo sticks and wicker basket. Pure talent from the dancers showing a little bit of vietnamese life in the countryside and city. Super cool. After that we had an incredible meal at Hoa Tuc which by the end offer cooking classes too – next time 🙁 – Cu Chi Tunnels: we were not 100% bought into going but we ended up getting a tour with the hotel agency and went there on a private tour. It was actually quite nice to see the tunnels. We didn’t do the shooting. There is something slightly weird about shooting on a site where thousands of men, women and children died. In fact, that is the sound effect throughout the tour… a bit scary.
– War Remmenants Museum: a little gory but interesting to see Vietnam’s side of the war story. – Reunification Palace: we didn’t even know that the Palace was open for visitation but it was a pleasant walk around.
Now, on the less tourists path, we took a friend’s recommendation and took a Saigon after Dark Vespa tour. It was an amazing experience! The tour is super well organized and it has all the transport, food and drinks included. It basically took to parts of the city we couldn’t even imagine from District 1 to District 4 where very few tourists go. You get driven by a motorbike/ vespa driver through the crazy streets of Saigon praying for your life. Eventually we started to enjoy the view and the incredible moment of being on the deep end of what this city is all about. We ate amazing seafood but the highlight of the night was banh xeo in a corner shop. We went to a secret cafe to listen to live music in, what I would describe as someone’s living room in a little alley somewhere and then went to a rock bar. Quite bizarre combination but it worked nicely. We had a great time!
On our last day we took our first Triip tour. This is basically a broker website for local guides. Tam was our lovely guide to take us through the main markets in the city like true locals. She took by public bus to Binh Tay Market in District 5 to see a true local market where they sell food and everything else. The market is located in China town so we stopped by a couple of pagodas as well. It was interesting to see these religious buildings with incredibly intrinsic carving next to bit old horrible looking buildings. After that we did a quick stop at famous Ben Thanh Market to then reach the best moment of the day: eat a proper banh mi! Tam took us to the ‘joint’ where she has very snack in the afternoon during work days. PS: that is after she took a siesta on a mattress that she leaves in the office. Anyway, banh mi is a super sandwich with pork or chicken meat and a salad. It sounds much duller than what it is. It was fantastic!!!
Only one weekend but enough for us to fall in love with Vietnam. We will definitely be going back!