In this, the second edition of the walking the streets series, I am taking you to crazy Saigon, dodging the traffic and I’m busy walking the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
If you blink in this city, you could miss it, or otherwise be floored by the many rampaging motorbikes that are roaming about the roads, the walkways, alley-ways and even the markets. Ho Chi Minh City is that congested with traffic and pedestrians that anywhere goes for the locals.
Bumper to bumper, cars nudging bikes, bikes nudging cars and vehicles nudging into pedestrians, it seemed to be one big circle of life in the world of madness that is Saigon, a city like no other I have ever visited.
Crossing the road was an art in the ever-flowing maze of traffic, slow and steady was the only way to negotiate the traffic and get to the other side of the road, often giving a little fist pump when you made a successful attempt.
Fear needed to be brushed aside when making every attempt to cross the street, but having the kids by my side made that ordeal a little more terrifying, but the good news is, we lived to tell the story.
Beyond the traffic that is unavoidable on your travels to the Southern city of Vietnam, this unique city needs to be explored to every inch with so many things going on. I like to think of it as a city that is divided in three, that has a modern touch, a proud tradition of history and still a hint of third world in areas of Ho Chi Minh City.
A modern touch
I say modern, because this booming city is on the rise, literally, and is continuing to build with skyscrapers all over the place. You only need to go to the viewing area of the Bitexco Financial Building to see how the city’s development is advancing. Either that or get the best view in the house of this incredible city, it is quite stunning.
Ho Chi Minh City has amazing modern shopping centres and often when walking the streets, you’ll stumble across some beauties. Saigon Centre is the best of the lot and is situate in the heart of District 1 where the action happens and the tourist flock to, it is a mall that is a city with in a city, that has popular retail lines, café’s and unbelievable food courts.
I can only marvel when I look upon this city at far it has come since that devastating war a half a century ago, and how much I am sure it will continue to surge forward.
A proud tradition of History
Tradition is well and truly on full display, especially in the District 1 area of Saigon, thanks largely to its large French presence in the 19th Century.
It’s wonderful to walk the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and find some truly mesmerising French designed buildings. The Notre Dame Cathedral and The Old Post Office are a click frenzy with the camera as you get your great shot of these wonderful buildings, but the festivities in the area is alive and it’s easy to get caught up in the party and see a few locals in their traditional Vietnamese dress.
The War Remnants Museum was a great history lesson of the Vietnam War, but keep in mind they call it American War in this country. A real eye opener and I am so glad I ventured through the gates, and was able to spend a full morning reading up on details of the war.
Although the ache in the heart really kicked in when devastating photos and learnt about the Agent Orange chemical destroyed many lives.
A hint of third world
I took a picture in Ho Chi Minh City, one that will feature below and one that I thought summed up the city. With all the modern features on the rise and beautifully designed buildings that were built long ago, it surprised me to still see broken down housing over the river and even a hint of third world about the city.
It’s not uncommon for a city to have poverty throughout the world and Ho Chi Minh City is no different, it is a city that has admirably come along way and in saying that I mean a positive direction. Although it will fascinate you that you can one moment be looking at a flush building, then the next a broken-down pile of bricks that is unsafe for anyone to be living in.
Walking the streets of Ho Chi Minh City
There were so many fascinating things I saw when walking the streets of this chaotic city, whether it was strolling into a temple, or getting lost in the crowd of the Ben Thanh Markets, or any markets for that matter, while getting pestered by the store owner.
It was only my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City and being with my kids I found it a challenge to navigate the streets, especially with their lack of walkways, public transport, and even traffic lights to have a stress-free attempt at crossing the road.
As I have constantly said, this is a city on the rise as is Vietnam, and I got no doubt whenever I revisit Saigon and its markets, the traffic, it’s historic building and flush shopping centres again in the future, I know Ho Chi Minh City will be entirely different city and hopefully next time it may be a little easier to navigate the streets.