Ho Chi Minh City: A city that never stop surprising you
I was doing my volunteer work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for 2 months. I have got the chance to visit also other cities during my stay, including Hoi An, Hue, Dalat, Mui Ne and Nha Trang. But in this article, I will focus on introducing Ho Chi Minh City, where I have spent most of my time during my journey.
My impression of Saigon
Saigon is the former name of Ho Chi Minh City. When you are talking with the local people, especially the older ones, they prefer using the name “Saigon”. They told me it is because this name makes them feel warmer and they are closer to the city.
My first impression about Saigon is the crazy traffic there. I have been to China, Taiwan and Bangkok before, where is famous for crazy traffic also. But Ho Chi Minh is the CRAZIEST among all of them. Thousands of motorcycles and scooters can be seen at anywhere and anytime in Ho Chi Minh city. For me, one of the most fascinating sceneries is all those motorcycles on the road. Each of them has something unique to surprise you. For example, don’t be shocked when you see the WHOLE family – parents and 3 kids of them, to travel together on the same scooter! Other than people, the stuff that can be seen on a scooter are always out of your imagination. You can see people carrying a big suitcase, a huge case full of different kinds of livestock, a 40″ plasma TV…actually anything can be possible! There is no limitation on the stuff being carried on all those tiny scooters!
When you are trying to cross the road in Saigon for the first time, you may have either one of the following thinkings. 1 – you can never ever cross the road. 2 – you can cross, but you may get killed by the scooters. This is my true feeling when I was trying to cross the road in Saigon. And sometimes when I was crossing the roads in the city, I could always find a lot of foreigners standing on the sidewalk, looking puzzled and scared. Traffic lights for pedestrians can be rarely found in the city. In the other words, there is no instruction for you to cross the road. My advice to survive in the roads there is – be calm and don’t think too much. Tell yourself that YOU ARE the instruction of the road! When you are crossing the road, it is true that no driver is going to stop for you, but trust me, they are all experienced drivers, they can change their ways with their flexible scooters to avoid crashing into you!
Saigon is more stunning at night
I found Saigon more attractive to me during the night. Yes, it is true that Vietnamese people normally sleep quite early every day, but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do in Saigon at night! Indeed, Saigon is more beautiful and vibrant after the sun goes down!
Bui Vien – Perfect place for meeting backpackers
Bui Vien, as known as the backpacker street, is a street packed with only bars, restaurants, hostels, travel agencies and souvenirs shops. If you love drinking and meeting new people, this is the place you should definitely visit! Quite a lot of bars there do offer some deals like buy 2 get 1 free for cocktails, a free drink when you order a dish etc. So if you are on a tight budget, try to look for a bar with attractive offers!
One of the best things to do in Bui Vien is the pub crawl on every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Lost in Saigon Bar. If you are a lady, congratulations. With only USD$1, you are going to enjoy a crazy night that you can never remember (in the next morning) but you won’t forget at the same time! As for gentleman, the ticket is USD$5, still a reasonable price for unlimited shots in the first bar, one free shot in each of the following 3 to 4 awesome bars located in Bui Vien. If you want to enjoy a crazy night with the other travelers from around the world, just show up at the Lost in Saigon Bar at 9pm!
Skyline of District 1
District 1 is the city center of Saigon. There you can find a lot of modern buildings and some skyscrapers. At the night, when the lights of all those buildings are turned on, the view of the city is really spectacular. But the best spot to see this view is not in District 1, but in District 2 – a district across the Saigon River. Standing next to the Saigon River on a quiet bridge without too many people or cars, you can enjoy seeing a panorama view of the skyline of Saigon and escape from the hustle of bustle of the city.
Another choice of enjoying the night view of Saigon is to visit the tallest building of Saigon – Bitexco (aka financial tower). This way will cost you more money, yet you will find the money is worth spending. There is a restaurant on the 51st floor and a bar on the 52nd floor of the building. I have been to the bar only, for several times, and I never get tired of seeing the 3600 view of Saigon from there. The most appealing view from there to me is all the highways which you cannot see the end of them. And all those highways are so shining because of the numerous of motorcycles, scooters and cars.
Starlight Bridge at District 7
The starlight bridge is one of the most beautiful spots in Saigon to me. Located at around 8 kilometers away from District 1, the starlight bridge and the surrounding area is an ideal location for you to chill and enjoy the calm and peaceful atmosphere. This place is more like a place for local people than tourists. There is a lake and a park next to the bridge where you can find a lot of local people chilling there. After a long day of visiting the city center of Saigon, chilling at the starlight bridge would be a great option for you to wrap up the whole amazing day!
There are of course thousands of other stuff to do in Saigon. Stay tuned to my update to look for the tips of traveling in Saigon, and also other cities of Vietnam!