Ho Chi Minh City, which is still most famously called as Saigon, was the last stop in my Vietnam adventure. I have heard mixed reviews about Saigon before coming here. Some liked it so much. Some didn’t like it at all. I am in the middle. Saigon is a city that I find okay.
Saigon view from the Reunification Palace
I admit I didn’t really spend enough time that this city deserves. I was only here for 3 days. But given my short stay in Saigon, I have been to few places that I find worth recommending:
1. The War Remnants Museum
I don’t think there are a lot of very interesting spots to visit in Saigon. I’ve been to a few but thought they were just okay but there is one place that I believe everyone should visit- the war museum. Not only will you learn more about the history and war, you’ll also get to see Vietnam’s side on the war. It might not be the most beautiful place to visit in Saigon but the beauty in seeing this place lies in you realizing how incredibly lucky you are to live at an amazing time and have not experienced such a difficult and sad time.
2. Take an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels
My ‘fans’ watching as I entered the hole
You didn’t really visit Southern Vietnam if you haven’t been to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels is a half day excursion that is worth every penny. My Vietnam crew and I arranged our tour with the hostel and the tour guide they had was simply excellent in providing historical details about the war and Vietnamese culture before and now. Not only do you get an educational side trip, it’s also a fascinating site to visit. Going inside the tunnels was like experiencing what it was like during the war.
3. Support a Good Cause
Our last night in Vietnam
Saigon is a big city and there are a bunch of options to eat. However, there is one restaurant I wholeheartedly recommend- Sesame restaurant. This place is a hospitality training school for disadvantaged children in Saigon. I suggested to come here because I love supporting good causes like this even in small ways. My crew and I went here on our last night in Vietnam and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The place and the ambience was relaxing. The servers were so hospitable and the food was so deliciously made with fresh and fine ingredients.
Where to Stay
Saigon Backpackers Hostel was recommended to me by my good friend who have traveled extensively around Vietnam. Among all the hostels in Vietnam, this was her absolute favorite and so was mine. Not only are the rooms clean and had comfortable beds and huge bathroom, the hostel staff are excellent. Highly highly recommend.
My little adventure in the market and my toothpaste story
A few days before my trip ended, I ran out of toothpaste. And because I was feeling adventurous, I went not to the convenience store nor supermarket but the real market. The market where people are wearing the triangular hats. I love markets. It wasn’t easy to find one and alas I found one lady selling a toothpaste. I saw on the packaging that the toothpaste was VND 10,000. To add a little adventure to my market visit, I did some testing to see if the vendor was like any vendor in Vietnam. Here’s how it went:
Me: “Hello. How much toothpaste?”
Lady: *pause* (scrutinizing me and finding out I’m not Vietnamese) “Hmmm. 20,000 dong.”
Me: *points to sticker* “10,000 dong???”
Lady: *firm* “20,000 dong!”
Me: “Lady, I no Vietnam people but I also Asian. You no fool me.” *smile*
My lady looked at her friends and they all smiled at me as if they were saying “she’s one of us”. Ha.
Disarming tough Vietnamese vendors accomplished.
I brought this up because I wanted to end my Vietnam series with a simple note: be very aware of scams in Vietnam. I could have bought the toothpaste easily but this experience had proven me that In Vietnam you can get scammed right in your face even in the simplest of things. Sure there is no way you can get away from it completely, but being aware can save you a lot of money and frustration with the local people you’ll be dealing with. If you can deal with tough Vietnamese vendors, you will be fine with the rest of South East Asia.
I could not also emphasize enough that it’s totally important and normal to negotiate. I am always surprised how many people I meet not negotiating. Negotiating, I believe is an essential skill in life, not only in Asian markets.
I think the main reason why a lot of people don’t go back to Vietnam anymore is because of these scams. Vietnam might be safe, beautiful and not to mention a cheap country worth visiting, It’s just that one country that I have no desire to visit again.
Is there any place that you don’t feel like visiting again? Why? Leave a comment.