Although going to another city after Can Tho seemed exhausting, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see one of the most iconic cities in Asia. However, one night will have to do as we’ll be continuing on to Dalat for a few days before heading to Hanoi to meet up with Jordan and Dylan (McKayla’s brothers). I think one good night and two full days in a city of 10 million will be enough time for us.
On a map this place is called Ho Chi Minh City but so far, everyone we’ve talked to still calls it Saigon. Either way, we could end up offending someone so we’ll just go with Saigon. It’s shorter. Sorry, Uncle Ho (that wasn’t even a jab at Ho Chi Minh, they refer to him here as Uncle Ho).
Anyhow, we’re staying at The Thao Nhi guesthouse in District one which is where the tourists seem to stay. Tonight we decided we better hit the town. We found the Chill Skybar. It was about 28 stories up and offered a pretty spectacular view of the city.
I thought I spotted a pretty vibrant party street from the sky bar so we headed in that direction next. Turns out it was a Muslim night market without a bar in sight, obviously. It wasn’t a total waste, I found a fairly nice painting and was held by the arm by a little old lady so I couldn’t leave until we agreed on a price. She was very eager to make that sale and ended up cutting the price in half. I probably still paid too much for it but she was pretty funny.
Turns out the real party street was just a block from our guesthouse. The street was lined with bustling restaurants/bars, but we had a tough time finding a bar you could sit at; most places just had tables. After hopping around for a while, we went back to an actual bar we’d seen earlier that day. Unfortunately, it was empty with just a couple Vietnamese ladies out front. We assumed the 2 ladies were the workers, but then they were joined by 2 more fairly scantily dressed ladies. We figured they’d get more business if there wasn’t a bunch of annoyed looking ladies sitting out front looking bored playing on their phones. It wasn’t until midway through our beers that we realized we might be having drinks at a brothel. Sure, there was a bar and a pool table but those ladies may have been out front for a reason. We finished our beers and left. The following day, we noticed the only patrons were old white guys flirting with young Vietnamese ladies. Suspisions confirmed; lesson learned.
Day 2 in Saigon we had to check out by noon but our night bus didn’t leave until 11:00 pm. Today was our day to cram as much sight seeing as we could into a 12 hour gap. The hotel held our bags for us while we hit the sights. Top on our list was the War Remnants Museum.
The museum was surrounded by old planes, tanks, choppers and artillery. Plaques in both Vietnamese and English gave info about each peice and how many of each were deployed in Vietnam.
When we entered the building, the first display we say was a nice writing about how the US and Vietnam are now at peace and have agreed to respect eachother’s form of government. All past discretions have been put aside and they hope to continue to work along the US in the future.
After that, things got pretty dark. It was organized into sections – some on protests of the war around the world, a tribute to war journalists, the aftermath of chemical warfare and prison torture. The pictures showing the effects of chemicals, especially agent orange, were very difficult to get through. The section on journalists was inspiring. Most of the journalists were killed during the conflict but were honored for the stories they died telling. The prison torture exhibit was horrific. Of course, everything was told from the side of the north so very heavy blame was placed on the US, only once referencing the ‘Saigon puppet government’ to include the south Vietnamese in any implication of a nearly 19 year war.
We went from war to religion. Our second stop was the Jade Pagoda where tourists come to enjoy title ponds, jade statues and intricate alters, while several Taoists come to light incense and pray. Our third stop was the Saigon Cathedral. Both days we tried to get into the cathedral and both days we were turned away, but the outside looked well constructed with twin spires reaching for the sky.
I’m not sure if this is backwards thinking but I figured Saigon would be a great place to find some legitimate foreign food. Next to our hotel, there was a great smelling German Restaurant complete with a big German dude behind the bar. Since we stared our trip, we’ve been fairly adamant about staying away from any ground ‘beef’, hot dogs and sausage. Any meat that isn’t whole, we stayed away from just in case it contains any fillers – cartilages, bones, pets…. Anyway, the German place was the first time I felt comfortable ordering sausage, cheese-stuffed polish sausage to be exact. It was everything I’d hoped for. We were even able to watch a slalom ski race while we ate.
We grabbed our bags and sat at an Italian restaurant next to the bus stop , had a beer and waited for the night bus.