Noise, pollution, rats, cockroaches, insane traffic, incessant honking, unhygienic street kitchens, non-stop construction, and drunken singers who belt out horrible karaoke late into the night… Saigon has all of this and more! So how is it possible, that Jürgen and I enjoyed our 91 days here so completely?
Once the sun sets, taking the suffocating heat with it, Saigon turns on the lights and lets down its hair. Students meet to play cards at coffee shops, the bars fill up with both locals and tourists, and the city’s innumerable old lady brigades claim their habitual seats on the corners. Whether we were getting drunk at hotpot joints with brand new best-friends-ever, strolling along the canal with dozens of dog-walkers, or zipping around on scooters while the city lights blaze by, some of our best Saigon memories came at night.
For our 91-day trips around the world, there is no decision so critical as the apartment in which we’ll be based. And I imagine that’s especially the case in Saigon, where neighborhoods can be too loud, too touristy, and either too far or too close to the center. Happily, we couldn’t have found a better home than BonBon Residences.
We had planned on staying in Vietnam for just three months, but when the time came to choose our next destination, we weren’t quite ready to leave. After spending so much time in the south of the country, how could we neglect the north? Just one problem: our visas were set to expire. I’ve heard Cambodia is nice this time of year. How about we visit for a couple minutes?
We judge a city based on a few critical factors: cuisine, transportation, museums, nightlife… and the cuteness of its street cats and dogs. And that last one is a category in which Saigon scores high. Check out some of the creatures we’ve met during our 91 days in the city. Which ones would you take home? You can only choose one!
During our visit to District 2’s undeveloped Thú Thiêm neighborhood, we noticed a pier to which a few fishing boats were anchored. Interesting. A week later, we returned to try our luck. A fisherman met us on the pier, evidently clued in to what we might be proposing. And he was game.
One of Vietnam’s most cherished military heroes, Lê Văn Duyệt, is buried alongside his wife at a temple in Saigon’s Bình Thạnh district. Constructed after the marshal’s death in 1830, this religious complex provides an attractive place of quiet, in the middle of an otherwise chaotic neighborhood.
Running along a curvy, eight-kilometer course which defines the northern border of central Saigon, the Thị Nghè Canal is an attractive waterway lined with sidewalks and exercise equipment. A walk along either side of the canal is one of the most pleasant and popular ways to spend an evening in Saigon.
Built in 1897 by French architect Eugène Ferret, the Saigon Opera House is one of the most spectacular pieces of colonial architecture in the city. It’s worth visiting even if you’re not going to catch a performance, but we can recommend the AO Show, put on by the Luna Production Company.
What do you get when you cross foreign hipsters, the newly-wealthy, and regular Vietnamese folks? Probably something that resembles the neighborhood of Thảo Điền, in District 2. We spent a day walking around this weird section of town, constantly finding ourselves surprised by the abrupt shifts in style, around every other corner.