In this edition of the walking the streets series, I am taking you to crazy Saigon, dodging the traffic and I’m carefully walking the streets of Saigon – 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 marketplaces. Ho Chi Minh City is that congested with traffic and pedestrians that anywhere goes for the locals.
It was obvious from the moment that we Left the departure gates at Tan Son Nhat International Airport and caught the Uber ride (now Grab) to the previously booked Airbnb Apartment in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Chaos, lived in this city. Not that I wasn’t full warned leading into the trip.
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, but a city that was easy to be impressed with.
Crossing the road was an art in the ever-flowing maze of traffic, the old saying of slow and steady wins the race was the only way to negotiate the constant traffic and get to the other side of the road, often giving a little fist pump when you made a successful attempt. Even more daunting with kids in hand.
Fear needed to be brushed aside when making every attempt to cross the manic streets of Saigon, but having the kids by my side made that ordeal a little more terrifying, but the good news is, we all lived to tell the story, with no real close encounters, elbeit, every time crossing the road in the big city was a close encounter.
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, parts of it has a modern touch, a proud tradition of history and still a hint of third world zones in areas of Ho Chi Minh City. Now, let’s get into walking the busy streets of Saigon.
Walking the streets of Saigon – Ho Chi Minh CIty – Vietnam
A modern touch
I say a modern touch, because this booming city is on the rise, literally, and is continuing to grow to great heights 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 to stare into the horizon.
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 in large numbers, 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 going 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 and cathedrals. The Notre Dame Cathedral and The Old Post Office are a click frenzy zone with your camera as you get your great shot of these wonderful buildings. The festivities in the area is alive and well, making it easy to get caught up in the party atmosphere and see a few locals supporting their traditional Vietnamese dress.
The War Remnants Museum is a great history lesson of the Vietnam War, but keep in mind they call it American War in this Vietnam. The museum is real eye opener and I am so glad that 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 learning and witnessing the devastating photos and reading the disturbing stories of the Agent Orange chemical destroyed many lives. I will admit, some pictures can get quite traumatic, especially for the kids that are travelling with you. Nonetheless The War Remnants Museum is a must check out in Saigon.
A hint of third world
I took a picture in Ho Chi Minh City, one that will feature below. I felt in someway that it 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. In my opinion, it’s a city that has admirably come along way and in saying that I mean a “positive direction.” Although it will fascinate you that in one moment you could be looking at a flush modern building, then the next a broken-down pile of bricks that is unsafe for anyone to be living in. It’s crazy scenes.
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, creating your own Ho Chi Minh Food Tour or getting lost in the crowd at the Ben Thanh Markets, or any markets in the city for that matter. Naturally, you would also be getting pestered by the store owner trying to make a buck, but that is common in Southeast Asia.
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 the city’s lack of walkways, public transport, and even traffic lights to have a stress-free attempt at crossing the road. A few more foot bridges would have come in handy, I only saw one in my travels.
As I have constantly said however, this is a city on the rise, and I got no doubt that when I do revisit Saigon and its markets, the traffic, it’s historic building and flush shopping malls again in the future, I know Ho Chi Minh City will be entirely different city and hopefully, next time for this Fair Dinkum Traveller, it may be a little easier to navigate the streets of Saigon.