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!
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.
Coffee wasn’t a part of their culture until the arrival of the French, but Vietnam is making up for lost time. Today, the country is the world’s third top coffee exporter, behind Brazil and Colombia, and the drink has become a integral part of the country’s lifestyle. We went to our favorite neighborhood joint, Cỏ Cafe, to learn how to make the perfect cup.
Saigon is a city in constant flux, and there’s no better place to appreciate this than from above. Seemingly every building has a rooftop bar, allowing you to check out how the skyline has changed since… well, probably since yesterday. (Is that a new skyscraper over there? I’ll bet it has a rooftop bar!)
You know those annoying people who, after totally and unquestionably having failed at a stated goal, will pretend that it’s what they wanted all along? “No, it’s actually better this way! Seriously, we’re glad it worked out like this!” Well, we’re going to be those guys. Because finding Giác Viên Pagoda closed for renovation turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Really!
One look at the pictures of Saigon’s bizarre theme parks, and we knew we’d be visiting at least one. After careful deliberation, we selected Suối Tiên. Not only did this quasi-religious park look genuinely entertaining, but it seemed delightfully unaware of its own kitschiness. A day of ironic fun awaits… let’s go!
Although the merest sliver of Vietnam’s population practices the faith, a number of prominent Hindu temples are located right in the middle of Saigon. We visited three in a single morning, all of them a short distance from each other in District 1.
You might think that, somewhere in the metropolis named Ho Chi Minh City, there might be a good museum about Ho Chi Minh. But you’d be wrong. There’s a museum, alright, but in no way could it be described as “good”. A visit to the neighborhood is worthwhile, however, thanks to the delirious street of Đoàn Văn Bơ.
As ketchup is to Americans, salsa to Mexicans, and Vegemite to Australians, so is fish sauce to the Vietnamese. This condiment is never missing from the table, and there are few dishes which which they won’t drench the stuff. One of the most important regions for the production of fish sauce is Phu Quoc, where we visited a factory to see how it’s made (hint: it involves fish).
Our first month in Saigon was just like our first motor-taxi ride: fast, fun, scary, exhilarating, and over before we knew what was happening. This city is a blast. We’ve had an amazing time getting comfortable with its pace, and getting to know its history, culture, people and food.