Ho Chi Minh City is the former capital of Vietnam, and remains the largest city in the country. It completely contrasts with Ha Noi and shows much more Western – in particular American – influences particularly within District 1. Down the main road, the streets are teeming with beachwear shops, American grill restaurants, tourist information offices, bars and drunken Western tourists. It’s a lot hotter than Ha Noi too.
The accommodation, especially down Pham Ngu Lao, the main backpacker area, is very basic and more expensive than you might expect. We stayed at Pink Lotus, which had free interenet downstairs and the sheets were cleaner than in other ones we had looked at. It can also be very difficult to find a room here as so many places are full due to how popular this area is.
If you’re heading out for some drinks in District One, I wouldn’t bother paying attention to the “Happy Hour” deals. When we took out the ice in our drinks, our glass eneded up being a third full. Despite that, this is a fun and lively area which is great for meeting likeminded people. There are many different types of venue to choose from and unlike Hanoi, there isn’t a curfew so you can stay out until 6am if you wanted to.
Lucy and I spent one of our afternoons on a cyclo tour. While we were in a café, a sweet old man came up to us, waving a magazine at us showing him and his cyclo, as well as some letters from other tourists saying it was an amazing trip. We agreed to take his tour after he told us his tragic story of how he rescued a baby from a railway line and is bringing him up as his own despite his lack of money. Yes, we are suckers. We didn’t expect however, that the cyclo was only built for one person though he reassures us we can fit in. of course we can, with Lucy sat in between my legs for a really comfortable ride… The tour itself was really interesting and I definitely recommend something like this, though be careful not to get scammed. Agree on a price, and make sure you haven’t agreed to an hourly rate instead of a fixed price. With such a knowledgable guide who speaks great English, we ended up having a thoroughly interesting afternoon and got to see sights in the city that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. It was also interesting to hear the difference in opinion of the government. This man was very open about how much he hates the communist government and the police.
When we visited the BonzaiGarden, we learnt that the bonsai trees are particularly important to people, and highly valuable and can even represent how wealthy the family is. They are placed in the BonzaiGarden to enter competitions, and can be grown in a way that affects the shape, soze and style of the plant which represent various things such as a family, a building, a pond, animals, etc. Our guide also shows us around the streets which work in the same way as streets in Hanoi. For any item you need, there will be a street selling only that type of product, for example there is Shoe Street, Silver Street, Antique Street, Bike Street, etc.
After realizing that we had been on this cyclo for almost four hours we do worry about what he’s going to charge for us as he had told us it would only be a one hour tour. After trying to chare us $25, he accepts our $10, but not without trying to emotionally blackmail us with his adopted son and other 5 children.
Ho Chi Minh is a lively city bustling with tourists and locals. There are a wide range of things that you can do. Other things we did included visiting the WarRemnantsMuseum which was excellent, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and the large famous indoor market, only a ten minute walk from Pham Ngu Lao.