In 1975, the North of Vietnam won the war and changed the name of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, in honor of the prime minister, a revolutionary leader of the communist party. The name change was not voluntary on the part of those living in the South; it was a statement of the North’s success. Saigon is the last city of my trip in Vietnam – a big and modern city in the South of the country. Staying in the hotel outside of the city center allows experiencing two worlds – posh and modern with skyscrapers and business centers with mirror-windows in the heart of the city and a cozy, authentic, exotic yet very dirty and polluted part that surrounds the center.
Cities in South Vietnam are more modern, European-like; and the central part of Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) is not an exception. The architecture of the city emphasizes Vietnam’s historical heritage – from French colonial villas (like Saigon’s City Hall, Opera House, Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and others) to modern steel and glass monuments (like Bitexco Financial tower with Skydeck).
Although it’s not the first city where channels are all full of plastic waste, it almost seems that it’s the epicenter of this problem. Actually, they even have special machines/ships collecting all the plastic bottles and bags floating in the water.
Big cities have their good sides and their bad ones. One of the most annoying things, in my opinion, is that scooters are “the kings on streets”, which is quite good, but at the same time – they do not take into account that there are pedestrians on the sidewalks. Actually, if you understand that the sidewalks are not really meant for pedestrians, then it’s easier to move around the city by the feat. Also, most of the sidewalks are transformed into parking spots for scooters.
Another entertainment that you can see while walking near the channel, is cockfights. In the beginning, I didn’t believe that the cocks in crates are actually there for fighting purposes until I saw the fight itself. Nothing crazy or bloody, but it was fun. Especially, when the owner had to chase his animal after the fight to put it back into the crate.
A steel bridge between the 1st and 4th districts of Ho Chi Minh is one of the oldest bridges, and certainly the most famous historic bridge in the city. It is called the Mong Bridge (” Rainbow bridge”) and was built in 1893-1894 by the French construction company, which was formerly led by Gustave Eiffel. After it was removed for the Saigon River Tunnel constructions, it was rebuilt in 2005 and transformed as a footbridge.
The snake was the meal I really wanted to try while being in Vietnam, but I didn’t. The closest animals to snakes I had, were different types of snails, crabs, octopus, and other seafood. However, when I saw where and how the snails were gathered, I wished that the snails I ate did not come from such a place – a channel in the middle of the city, plastic and other waste floating in the water. Two men with nets walking up to their shoulders in the brown, muddy water, scooping snails. At that point I have a reasonable question in my mind – are those snails ending up on my plate later?
SkyDeck at Bitexco Financial tower
There is a great view of the city from the Skydeck at Bitexco Financial Tower. SkyDeck is located on the 49th floor. It is 178m high and costs 200’000 VND (around 7 EUR). However, there is a bar on the 51st floor, where you can enjoy the view and have some drinks. The cheapest on the menu is a soft drink for 99’000 VND (not including 10% for the service) or coffee for 200’000 VND, or some cocktails costing up to 1’500’000 VND. Not cheap, but with the view!
Central Market (or Ben Thanh market) and fruit
Central Market (or Ben Thanh market) is a must-visit place, however, you have to be careful with discussions and bargaining. Initially, I wanted to get a bag and I asked the lady its price. After she said the price, I said that it’s too expensive. She offered a cheaper price and I said that it’s still too expensive. Then she asked me – how much I would give. After I said a price I would be ready to give, I thought once more, if I really need the bag. Lady was ready to give the bag for the price I said. When I said that I had changed my mind and was about to go away, she started to shout how evil I am and that I can’t do that to people… That was a bit scary and I almost ran out of there. That was bad… So – be careful and smarter!
When looking for a floating market I got to a place, where bananas are transported, kept, and most likely, brought for selling when ready. Discovering the city is interesting – it allows you to see the life of locals and maybe even makes you appreciate what you have.
When the trip is over and I have to return home, I always have the feeling, that it wasn’t enough, that the journey was too short, that I haven’t managed to get the real feeling of the country. It is always nice to remember, but it is better to go on new adventures for additional memories.
Thank you for joining me on this virtual trip to Vietnam!