Bucket List No. 80: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I’ve finally moved onto the 80th on the Bucket List. Nevertheless, the 80th goes to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was there December 23-28, 2015 so this post is a bit late actually. I just thought HCMC has to be posted now since I’d be off to Hanoi in the coming months as well.

First off,  when I researched about coming to Vietnam and read blogs and suggestions on things to do, the issue of VIETNAMESE PEOPLE being RUDE always comes up. In fact Google Autosuggest picked up the most frequently-searched words/ phrases and it’s in the autosuggest… cracked me up!

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What’s my take on this?

I think if I’d be asked about my impression and describe my experience, I would pick the word  and describe SOME and not all…  as “AGGRESSIVE“.

Before hopping onto Vietnam I flew from Thailand so the closest I can immediately think of is, they aren’t that pleasant and polite as Thai people. Although there are Thai people who are rude too, mind you; especially the ones you’ll meet in tourist-laden places like Khao San Road and ostentatious rip-offs in Patong, Phuket. It’s hard to say more because I didn’t stay long in Vietnam to get to know it better. But I understand many independent travellers especially women solo travellers who would worry. It’s just a daunting thought, pondering, going to a strange place and you have no idea if you’ll be accepted well. I came as a tourist and stayed at the upscale area at Dong Khoi St. where ‘locals’ that you’d get to engage with are the staff from hotel, restaurants and cafes and of course they are trained to smile and be friendly to guests so, I mean, I can’t tell apart from few incidents along the streets with random people. Like for example:

  1. Rude motorcyclists. Motorbikes are swarming towards you while you cross the streets, like millions of them. But you can actually get out alive from it while crossing because they will just avoid you, just keep walking and don’t look at them (yes so odd after we’re taught with basics in Kindergarten to stop, look and listen). The case in Vietnam’s massive motorbikes could be an exception. I, as an example had apparently lived to spread the word.  But THE WORSE ARE THE MOTORBIKES ON THE FOOTPATH and there’s a battalion of them!
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    This is a city with huge ratio of people to motorbikes

    The areas we find it so annoying is towards the War Remnants Museum from the Reunification Palace. It could be a peaceful nice walk because these attractions are relatively close to each other but you can’t just let your mind wander around and walk peacefully, worse is glancing at your map and not paying attention on your footpath…BECAUSE THEY’RE GONNA RUN ON YOU! Some are even so rude shouting and buzzing their horns murmuring something in Vietnamese, aggressively harrowing  you why are you on their way. Excuse me, this is the pedestrian’s footpath! Oh my!

  2. Rip-off. I stupidly didn’t bring flip flops and that’s my fault. I hate being ripped-off, but at the very time I asked what’s the price I know I didn’t have the choice because he’s not gonna bring the price lower. With clenching jaws, I accepted my defeat because I needed the flip flops. But rip-off happens everywhere. Largely in Thailand too.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the visit to Ho Chi Minh City that I immediately decided that I’d come back but on the second time, to visit Hanoi. So despite the fact that, sadly, there’s an outgrowing number of unhappy travelers who had some unhappy moments in Ho Chi Minh (or Hanoi and Vietnam in general), Vietnam should not be skipped in your Southeast Asia travels or else you will miss a huge part by not experiencing the authentic Vietnam and the real first-hand adventure, and who knows you’d have a remarkable experience yourself.

Of course I’d  put in here my Ho Chi Minh Things-To-Do but these are my picks according to personal preferences, like opting not to go to Cu Chi Tunnel anymore. So of course just to give you an idea what we did:

War Remnants Museum. You CAN’T can be in Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon and NOT go to War Remnants Museum. The entrance fee is cheap: 30,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND). Although I wonder how an American would feel when he’s inside the museum and read all stories here. People say, its the Vietnam War (which is called, American War here) that made Vietnamese people hostile to white-skinned.

Agent Orange was the most destructive. IMG_2838.JPGThis chemical reagent was supposedly to clear the foliage so they’ll find the Viet Cong hiding, but had devastated human (civilian) lives as well. April 1975 the war ended but the aftermath lived. So sad because those who were exposed, even with just maybe a trace of the fumes of the chemicals resulted into some genetic mutation on the cells or alteration on perhaps some chemical balances stuff on the bodies of the humans in the area affected, which affected the functioning of their system as a whole, thus reproductive system as well which is why third to subsequent generations of those who lived during those times produce offsprings with disabilities and deformations, adverse effects at the least. So heart-wrecking.

That’s why we can see conjoined twins, birth defects, malformations, dwarfism actually on my generation. I saw few cases of these in the Philippines too. I wonder if they trace these, it could be coming from an ancestor who had served the war (Philippine troops on the side of America of course) at that time. Because the soldiers themselves were exposed to the fumes and all, as well.

Reunification Palace

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Bitexco Financial Tower for the Saigon Skydeck. The view from the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is the Saigon Skydeck – is fab! On my researches before coming here, I have read that the best time to come would be just before the sunset where there’s a tint of daylight yet, so you’d get best of both worlds, the daylight (and not so hot) and the night view. I did that so I’d spread the word of advice too, in return. It’s best to come about 5:30 or 5:45 just before the sun bids farewell. I had both views of HCMC on daylight and the perfect romantic sights on night time.IMG_2918

Rooftop bars. Opted out from the popular ones at the Buy Vien backpacker’s area but we used our own rooftop bar at our hotel Grand Saigon, the Grand Cafe.

Photo ops at the Opera House. If your accommodation is within the city centre, don’t rush to take photos of this beauty thinking you won’t see it again. You might walk pass this everyday while hunting for restaurants, and just exploring the city. Everything else is closeby.

Notre Dame Cathedral. As there is still a little Christian population in Vietnam, you’d find the Notre Dame Cathedral just opposite to the Post Office. I didn’t find anything special since we have cathedrals at every inch in the Philippines (being the only Christian country in Asia), but still I’d have to get the obligatory photo 😀

Central Post Office. Was once conquered by French, Vietnam’s classic architecture flairs flamboyantly in the city. Amazing that this Central Post Office is designed by nonetheless, Gustave Eiffel, yes the designer of Paris’ most famous tower… EIFFEL TOWER.

Ho Chi Minh Museum. Did this being a history buff, and for the interest of the history behind how Vietnam became North and South in the first place. But you may opt not to anymore because War Remnants and Reunification Palace may have delivered enough history. But if you are like us who likes history, this museum’s entrance fee is so cheap it won’t hurt the pocket if you’ll pop up a visit. There’s huge information on Ho Chi Minh’s life and why the people just adore him.IMG_2867

Fronting People’s Committee/ Nguyễn Huệ Boulevard. Beautiful during the day, colorful at night. Although I don’t know if they still have these lights on when it’s not December. Were here Dec. 23-28, 2015. With the small percentage of Christians in Saigon, they for sure celebrate Christmas season and dot the place with a Christmas spirit.

Benh Tanh Market. It just looks like a local market but the price is tourist-price since of course it’s a tourist area. You’d get better prices somewhere else. I enjoyed the Saigon Square better, just a walk away from here and has clothes and cheap shopping.

Other things to enjoy: Avocado smoothies at Buy Vien street backpackers’ area, strolling at Dong Khoi Street (for Versace, Louis Vuitton, Bottega, Christian Louboutin – sort of shopping), photo ops with the colorful merchandise and produce you’d find in the markets, the cone Vietnamese hats, visiting the History Museum which is adjacent to the Botanical Garden, and seeing some pagodas but didn’t really dug up inside. I have had too many temples in Thailand before this.IMG_2911

Plus of course… a trip to Vietnam is not complete without trying their Pho… Get ready to be spoilt with different kinds of soups. I’ve always eaten at Vietnamese restaurants everywhere (there are countless in Bangkok too) so got me so eager to taste Beef Pho or phở bò, where else, but in Vietnam! Indeed, I downed several liters of it and chowed on beef and its fresh noodles. I’d also highly recommend the crab meat spring rolls as well!

Lastly, while Hanoi is known to be cool/cold, Ho Chi Minh is the opposite. It was actually 35 deg that day when we walked around so cover up and slather a dollop of sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.

*Some bonus info, you’d be loaded with lots of “Nguyễnword. I still don’t know the meaning til now but just noticed streets named from it, their most popular coffee, names of people and bumps onto it just everywhere. Funny that one time I saw a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, clicked LIKE or something on FB with the name NguyễnI then concluded that person is Vietnamese (see how travels educate you?)

Will deliver another report when I’d visit Hanoi,

Fritzie xoxo ❤

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