I have three weeks in Vietnam and am starting in the south working my way north.  I had two nights in Ho Chi Minh and have undoubtedly been reintroduced to large urban Meccas.  It is truly a city on the move, not just with the motorcyles but some of the largest skyscrapers and brand name shopping I’ve seen in Southeast Asia.  After being off the beaten path a bit in Laos and Cambodia, Ho Chi Minh brought familiar sights such as Starbucks, Subway, Popeyes and Baskin Robbins.  Ho Chi Minh was formerly called Saigon but many still refer to it as that.  I mix up Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh so I have been calling it Saigon although I read that Ho Chi Minh is more patriotic?  Not sure of the exact reason why.

I love big cities and Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam although the capital is Hanoi (another reason I may continue to mix them up).  Upon arriving and finding my hostel in an alleyway where I had to share space with motorbikes I knew I would not be able to see and do it all, the streets are a bit confusing. When leaving Phnom Penh, an old college friend and coworker Paul, messaged me on facebook saying he would be in Ho Chi Minh as well.  What better way to be welcomed to a city!  To add to that, my American travel guy friends Jason and Darren from New Jersey were in Ho Chi Minh the same two nights I was.  These guys are extremely outgoing and are backpacking SE Asia for 50 days until they begin medical school in the Fall.  I have randomly met them in Thailand at a cooking class, then again in Laos twice! and unfortunately for the last time abroad in Saigon.  This is just more proof of two things.  One, that the world really is your playground and that it can be small after all and that two, when you travel solo, you are really never alone.

Paul (UW friend), his brother Sidney and myself walked through the night markets, along the pier of the Mekong and through the old French colonial areas by the water.  We had a nice meal and then went to meet Jason and a new friend, Helly, on a rooftop bar for a few drinks.  Great first night.

My second day in Saigon I slept in.  When being in a new city every 1 – 2 days you often have early wake up times, say 6-8 am which really is not the worst but then you factor in walking around and wanting to see everything everywhere the days can get long, especially when you also want to appreciate the night life.  Slept in until 9 am and it was amazing, also very surprised I was able to do so since I was in a dorm room with five other people.  Usually I’ve been staying in guesthouses with two single beds.  I’m making a mental note to take more of these photos for future posts.  After sleeping in I met Jason and Helly for brunch and then had a foot massage.  After the foot massage it was raining heavily and could not walk to the War Rememberance museum so jumped on the back of some mans motorbike for 25,000 dong or $1.25 to go the approx. 30 min. walk.  

In the States, we refer to the war that happened in Vietnam as the Vietnam war and in Vietnam the war is referred to as the American war.  It is a continued feeling throughout SE Asia to feel conflicted about being American.  I’ve told locals that I am from the Philippines, not just because of the war but because they won’t think I have as much money.  (To add, this is in response to hey lady, where you from?  you buy this.  or hey lady, you want tuk tuk? where you from?)  A very sobering experience going to the museum as the story that is told is clearly the viewpoint of the Vietnamese.  Was it biased?  Was it a facet of the truth?  This is all up for debate but I do know it was an honest depiction of the horrors of war.  Americans were/(are?) not seen in a good light and it was even declared that the American war was the US performing acts of genocide on the Vietnamese.  

After going to the War museum I headed to the Notre Dame cathedral which was a relatable place of worship as opposed to all the Wats I’ve been visiting.  I’ve seen the original in Paris and it is odd that the cathedral is even mentioned as a tourist point because it isn’t as grand as the original or as brilliant as the surrounding buildings.  Then, something light to end the afternoon on, Helly, Jason and I went to a water puppet show.  Tourist trap?  Possibly.  I guess the Vietnamese have been doing water puppet shows since the 11th century and the performance was in Vietnamese with live music.  It was a welcome change after the war museum.

Finding my hostel in this alley way


Paul and I in Hoh Chi Minh

First night in Hoh Chi Minh, at a rooftop bar

Brunch with Jason and Helly

Saigon Streets with Helly

Street food that did not make me sick

War Museum

War Museum