After having traveled mostly by train or bus all the way from the north (read about Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Dalat), we decided to cheat and go by plane to the last stop on our journey. So we took a plane from Dalat, and some 30 minutes later we arrived at our final destination: Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC or HCM), or formerly but maybe most commonly known as Saigon, as many locals calls it. It is the largest city in Vietnam, though it’s not the capital since that honor still lies with Hanoi.
And compared to the more romantic and almost mellow charms of Hanoi, HCMC is a flurry of sights and sounds, a city made for eating, drinking and shopping. Always buzzing. Even though I thought traffic in Hanoi was crazy, it felt even crazier in HCMC. New buildings mixing with old pagodas, cathedrals, huge shopping malls, old street markets, quirky cafes and extravagant rooftop bars found atop sparkling skyscrapers. I think this city has it all.
And we stayed in the most amazing apartment that we booked through Airbnb!
Located in Binh Thanh District which is still quite close to the more central districts, it wasn’t really a walking distance in this heat. And although I was feeling much better by now with no fever, I was still feeling a bit sick so I ended up staying inside quite a lot… But I still managed to see a little bit of the city :)
The first day we headed into the Vincom Center shopping mall and had a look around (cause there was aircon in there hehe), and we also tried some conveyor belt hot pot?!
Since I’m used to eating kaiten sushi when I’m in Japan, this was a most pleasant surprise! I think the place was called kichi kichi but I might be wrong :’)
We also visited the large Bến Thành Market, which is open both during the day and then opens again later at night. But it was raining a lot so we didn’t stay long, even though most of the shops are located indoors.
And luckily for me there was actually a very nice restaurant located just outside our apartment! I think it’s called Van Thanh, or at least it’s located in the area of Van Thanh park.
We went there one evening accompanied by a Vietnamese guy me and Johan met on the train earlier. He was such a nice guy, and he helped me when I was feeling very sick on the train and got me food and soup and helped me with my bag and everything. And he’s a designer (or rather an art director) too, what are the odds! Such a wonderful guy ;_;
Since he was living very close to us, he showed us to the nice restaurant. Where we ordered lots of strange (but delicious) food!
First up, some snails! (but I love snails so it was really good)
Followed by some frogs… o_O I don’t think I’ve ever tried frog before, but it was good. Tasted just like chicken. But it was a bit weird since they brought them to us whole and then they… literary cut them up (with a scissors) at the table… but it was good!
And lastly, eel! The most expensive thing on the menu I think, but so worth it.
Accompanied by some delicious okra! probably the least interesting thing we ordered hehe.
We also had time to drink. And since my friends drink mostly beer, they found the most amazing beer place where they had all kinds of beer. They ordered these “beer towers” which contained some 5 liters of beer or something. And it was cheap! I think they payed 150 000 VND (about 50 SEK) for a 5 litre tower?
But the funny thing was, since I don’t drink beer, I could go out to the convenient store next door (which happened to be a Family Mart haha!) and buy myself something else to drink (I found Soju…) and then I could go back to the beer place and serve it to myself (!?), and the staff didn’t mind. They even got me a glass and some lime juice to mix it with! Amazing :D that’s something you could NEVER do in Sweden, that’s for sure :P
One of the waiters. He even had some soju shots with us (while working :D), and later he took us to karaoke! Although I couldn’t stay long ’cause I felt too sick, but it was really fun.
And on the last day my friends went out into the jungle to visit the tunnels of Củ Chi. But I decided to stay in the apartment ’cause I still didn’t feel too well.
And maybe that was for the best ’cause the woods crawled with huge centipedes and bugs x_x
They also visited the War Remnants Museum, which they said was a truly horrible, but probably important experience. And I can only imagine. Since I’ve been to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum earlier, and that was a very horrible and emotional experience, this might even be worse. Apparently there were lots of Vietnamese families crying. And they even brought their kids there ;_; War is truly horrible. I know it’s not that simple, but I can’t believe how anyone would ever wish for it.
Now that was a bit of a gloomy ending to my journey. But the truth is, despite being sick, and the long train rides with broken aircon or the horrible stories of the war museum, I really really enjoyed my trip to Vietnam. But there are a few things I would do differently next time.
* Not bring such a huge bag. It’s very difficult to travel with on the train and in taxis. It’s convenient if you’re flying, but not for train or bus. Next time I’m bringing a backpack!
* Not get sick! Ok, that might not be as easily done, but it really messed up part of the trip for me. Although they have really strong medications available at the pharmacy :P
* Not buy expensive malaria vaccine! Unless you’re visiting the northern parts for a longer time, or spending lots of time in the countryside. We ended up not using ours anyway because of the nasty potential side effects.
* But do buy cholera vaccine, I think it helped our stomaches a lot!
I think that was all I had to share for now. I’m working on putting together a short video as well, so I’ll be sure to post it when it’s done. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading some of my nonsense! ^_^ ‘Til next time, Vietnam!
My whole Vietnam diary:
Part 1 – Hanoi
Part 2 – Ha Long Bay
Part 3 – Hoi An
Part 4 – Nha Trang and Dalat
Part 5 – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)