Why We Loved Saigon, and Why You Will Too!
After recovering from an unknown illness that kept me bedridden for five of the six days that we spent in Nha Trang, we decided it was time to head to our next stop in Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon).
Getting to Saigon
We booked our train tickets through our hotel in Nha Trang for a small fee rather than having to head down to the station when I wasn’t feeling too well and it was definitely worth the extra couple of dollars. The next morning our taxi picked us up and took us to the station where we waited, and waited, and waited for our train to Ho Chi Minh.
Cost: Train tickets from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City — 180,000VND ($9.18 USD)
An hour and a half after our scheduled departure time, our train arrives. We jump on board and get settled into our seats for this eight hour journey that will take us through the south, right into the heart of Saigon.
On the way we saw farmers working in the fields, and packs of mountain goats scaling the giant rock cliffs that line the edge of the tracks. This is when I realized that there’s something I actually really enjoy about train travel. I love the fact that you can sit back in your seat, plug in your headphones, and stare out the window for hours as the scenery passes by. It’s amazing to see how quickly the landscape changes each and every second of the way.
Before we knew it we had arrived in Ho Chi Minh and now it was time to get our minds back into haggling mode as it’s the only way we’re going to get into town without being ripped off royally by the gangs of motorbike taxis. We set up a deal with two motorbike guys out front of the station and due to the quite typical reckless driving of the Vietnamese, we were at the front door of our hotel within minutes of arriving in Ho Chi Minh.
Cost: Motorbike taxi from Train Station to Hotel — 30,000VND.pp ($1.53 USD)
The Nguyen Khang Hotel is situated in District 1 on Pham Ngu Lao street, which is also known as the “backpacker” area of HCMC. For being a backpacker area, I was very content with our choice of accommodations.
The room had two twin beds, cable television, mini-refrigerator, A/C, private en-suite bathroom, and free Wi-Fi internet which is more than enough than I need.
Website: Nguyen Khang Hotel
Cost: $20 USD/night
Once we checked in, it was time to explore what we had hoped wouldn’t be another Hanoi. After walking around and getting our bearings of the area we both looked at each other and said, “Wow, I think I’m really going to like this place.” Over the course of the next few days, we spent our time doing the following…
Exploring District 1:
We never really made it out of District 1 on foot due to the sheer size of the area although we still really enjoyed walking the busy streets of Saigon during the day and the night.Yes, the traffic was a bit rough at times but far more manageable than the traffic in Hanoi. What we liked most about HCMC is that it seemed to be easier to navigate than Hanoi and even when we did manage to get a little lost, we quickly found ourselves in walking in the right direction again. There’s also some great people watching to do in Ho Chi Minh City, so don’t forget your camera!
Looking for the best places to eat western food in Ho Chi Minh City? I’ve got what you’re looking for! I’ve also listed cost examples below just so you have an idea of what things cost at these places.
Head here if you’re feeling like eating some good BBQ food. This place turns into a bar/nightclub by night with music that you can hear down the block.
Costs: Salad — 75,000 VND ($3.82 USD), Mexican pizza — 105,000 VND — ($5.35 USD), Nachos — 75,000 — ($3.82 USD)
For a really nice lunch (sandwich w/ french fries), and Liz loved the Vietnamese slow-drip coffee here. (Website)
Cost: Sandwich w/ french fries and drink – 98,000 VND ($4.99 USD)
Vespa scooter themed restaurant. Great meals, a little over-priced, sidewalk seating facing the traffic like many of the other restaurants in the area. Allows you to eat and watch the insane traffic pass by at the same time. Be careful not to choke when you see a father, son, and a mother holding a newborn all on the the back of one motorbike!
Cost: Panini w/ french fries – 88,000 VND ($4.48 USD)
Our favorite place to hang in all of Saigon! We stumbled upon this place after spending a few days walking the streets in the area of our hotel. Head upstairs to the restaurant/lounge area where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner with free Wi-Fi. This seems to be the spot to go to hang out and mess around on the internet while chowing down. You’ll surely see plenty of people talking to their family back home on skype. This place isn’t huge so it tends to fill up fairly quickly, so get there in the morning to get a nice seat. [Bobby Brewers Website]
Cost: Latte — 59,000 VND ($3.00 USD), Salad — 65,000 VND ($3.31 USD), Strawberry Lemonade Italian Soda (highly recommended) — 38,000 VND ($1.98), Sandwich — 69,000 VND ($3.51 USD)
This place rocks like no other! Yogurt Space has frozen yogurt concoctions that you can only dream of. Here’s the scoop…
- Grab yourself a bowl (one-size fits all), and make sure that you take your time to figure out exactly which flavors of frozen yogurt will go good together.
- Next, start to fill your bowl with 1, 2, 3, or 10 different flavors of frozen yogurt.
- Once finished make your way over to the toppings bar where you’ll find anything from Oreo’s, to Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumbles, to Sprinkles, to Strawberries, and even a bunch of odd Asian toppings if you’re feeling a little adventurous.
- Once you’re finished piling up the toppings, head over to the cash register where you’ll find caramel sauce and chocolate sauce.
- Proceed to pour the sauces all over your new yogurt creation as you catch yourself drooling.
- Wow, sounds amazing right? Well hurry up and throw that thing up on the scale next to the register and realize that you pay by the weight. Oops!
Cost: 20,000VND per gram — ($1.02/gram)
There’s tons of shopping to do in HCMC! Liz went absolutely nuts buying North Face jackets for her whole family while here, and I even picked one up for myself as well. If you’re wondering how Liz and I fit our newly purchased North Face jackets in our bags, we didn’t! We shipped these jackets home the day after purchasing them.
Cost: Liz — (4) North Face Jackets — 2 Winter, 2 Spring — 2,500,000 VND ($127.50 USD)
Cost: Ryan — (1) North Face Jacket – 1 Winter — 750,000 VND ($38.25 USD)
If you’re looking to get something custom made whether it’s a suit, a pair of pants, a dress, or shirt, right here in Vietnam is where you want to be.
How’s this for service? Liz walks in with two separate photos of a celebrity that she saw online in two different style dresses. The lady looks at them, quickly scribbles the designs down on a piece of scrap of paper and asks Liz to pick out which fabric that she’d like to use. After flipping through the endless amounts of colors and fabrics, she chooses one type of fabric for one of the dresses, and mixes two types of fabric for the second one. The woman takes Liz’s measurements and tells her to come back tomorrow at 2pm. We’re thinking to ourselves, okay it’s 2pm now so that means that this woman plans on making two custom dresses in 24 hours!? The following day we show up a little earlier than expected and the woman says “Come in, I’ve finished your dresses!”
I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to Liz ordering these dresses but once I saw them I was completely amazed. Check out the photo to the right, and leave a comment below with your thoughts! Liz would love to hear your thoughts!
Cost: Custom made dresses — $30 USD/each. with a 24 hr turn around.
What ever you do, DO NOT miss out on the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. What an eye opener! I mean, I know a bit about the Vietnam war but this place really hit home and opened my eyes to how brutal and truly disgusting of a war it was.
Outside lies a fleet of military vehicles from helicopters, to airplanes, to tanks, bombs, ammunition and more. Inside, you’ll find more than enough information, photos, and war artifacts to keep you busy for the entire day if that’s your thing. Museum buffs will LOVE this place.
For more information: Vietnam War Remnant Museum
Also, be sure to check out the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica which is located in downtown HCMC not far from the War Remnants Museum. The two giant towers that stand at the front of the basilica are a staggering 190 feet tall!
Oddly enough back in October of 2005 passersby claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary statue out front of the basilica actually shed a few tears. This attracted thousands of people to the site in attempt to get a closer look but authorities quickly put a stop to all traffic around the cathedral. According to the top clergy of the Catholic Church in Vietnam, the Virgin Mary statue in front of the cathedral did not shed a tear.
For more information: Saigon Notre Dame Basilica