WAVEJourney’s Adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

WAVEJourney's Adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

WAVEJourney’s Adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

WAVEJourney’s Adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) vibrates with a pulse singular to itself. WAVEJourney landed in HCMC to begin a 9-week Southeast Asia exploration of new destinations. We purposely booked 4 nights in a “mini hotel” in District 1 of this bustling city to allow us time to change our biological clock and push through to the other side of jet lag. With a 15-hour time difference and 29 hours in transit (much easier due to our Business Class flights with Asiana Airlines), we essentially lost nearly 2 days just to begin our adventure.

Day 1 evaporated and Day 2 ended with us arriving at Bizu Hotel on Bui Vien at the midnight hour. We settled in with the main event being the placement of our bug tents on our respective twin beds. Pre-trip we knew we had no interest in dealing with mossies, creepy crawlers and things that go bump in the night. So to ensure peaceful rest, we are each field testing tents designed for use indoors to be placed on the bed and keep the bugs out. Jill’s habitat is called SansBug Travel Tent and Viv’s is Long Roads Supplies Travel Tent.

Long Road Travel Tent (left) and SansBug Travel Tent (right)

Long Road Travel Tent (left) and SansBug Travel Tent (right)

Day 3 we rose but didn’t shine… managing only to take in the included breakfast (located on the top floor of the adjacent mini hotel. After a short walk around a few blocks, we made our way back to our travel tents, tucked in and let our biological clocks attempt a re-set and didn’t rise until the next morning!

Sights of Saigon

Sights of Saigon

Day 4’s alarm came directly from the rooster outside and below our window. His cockadoodledoo doodled on and off just like a snooze button. We savored another yummy breakfast enjoying the traditional pho – a rice noodle soup. Looking out from our breakfast nook, we could see rooftops in all directions… many with people hanging their freshly washed laundry or others performing their morning stretches or Tai Chi. Feeling invigorated, we set out on foot to see what we could see.

Motorbikes and Scooters in Saigon, Vietnam

Motorbikes and Scooters in Saigon, Vietnam

Back to the beat, the rhythm, the pulse of Vietnam’s largest metropolis (7.2 million population), Saigon amazes this traveller with its seemingly organized chaos of traffic. When it comes to motorbikes ruling the road, you ain’t seen nothing yet, baby, until you’ve seen Saigon. We’re talking steroids! Motorbikes, in the hundreds on any given corner, vie for space on the streets with horns beeping incessantly with cars, bicycles, cyclos, buses. Like a well oiled machine or orchestra, each part threads its way through the madness, weaving a traffic pattern unique unto itself.

Saigon Street Vendors

Saigon Street Vendors

Sidewalks are claimed by parked motorbikes and the stalls of street food vendors. Little room is left for pedestrians, forcing foot traffic to take a toehold along the edge of the roadways. Negotiating one’s way along the streets of Saigon to the cacophony of blaring horns, darting motorbikes while not having the bejeezus scared out of you takes a bit of time. Yet surprisingly, it really doesn’t take long to acquire a level of calmness about the maddening scene. Get your zen on and become one with the machine. Watch the traffic lights change and move accordingly, knowing that you become part of the fabric as you cross the street with motorbikes threading their way around you. It is in a big way a matter of trust!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City

So on this day we covered a lot of territory and walked past the People Committee Hall, the Opera and the Reunification Palace. For a snack we lingered over coffee drinks and a scone and bagel while catching up on emails via the in-house wifi. Seemed to be quite the popular spot located just across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral. Sometimes a Lonely Planet guidebook on your table top is all it takes to start a conversation! It was here we met a fellow by the name of Jerome who runs Son Ky orphanage just outside of HCMC that is home to 50 boys.

A big bowl of pho helps with jet lag!

A big bowl of pho helps with jet lag!

We opted for a late-afternoon meal at a Pho restaurant (Pho Hoa) on Pasteur, where we did our best to be one with the locals. Sitting on stools at a little table, using chopsticks and a spoon to grab the rice noodles and sip the broth, our meal was complete with a beer on ice! We meandered our way back to our hotel and called it a day.

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City

Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 5, our last day in Saigon, began with a visit to the Ben Thanh Market at 7AM. We wanted to catch the early-morning action, knowing that this would be the time to see the fresh fish, meats and produce on display. Markets never fail to entertain and this was no exception. Merchants presented tidy diplays of their goods and locals were filling sacks and moving from one stall to the next on their daily shopping run. Inside the market are rows of eateries, as well, all doing a brisk morning business.

Early morning at Ben Thanh Market

Early morning at Ben Thanh Market

Walking back to our home base for breakfast, we passed through 23/9 Park. Delighted to see so many people out exercising, walking and even dancing! There are two pavilions and each was in use – one with dancing samba pairs and the other more of a jazzercise group.

Park Hyatt Saigon

Park Hyatt Saigon

After a breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs with toast, juice and coffee, we set out for another day of discovery. We took a peek into several of the fancier hotels (Park Hyatt Saigon) in the area and also strolled with a high-end shopping mall (Union Square) which featured shops from Nike to Versace. Few patrons were in sight and we wonder how this place can survive. Seems out of context to the greater area surrounding it.

Chicken Curry at The Temple Club in Ho Chi Minh City

Chicken Curry at The Temple Club in Ho Chi Minh City

We watched some men fishing from underneath a pier along the Saigon River. We laughed with school children as we exchanged greetings, some more than eager to practice their English. We strolled along street after street, stopping to people watch and sip a cold beer. After a bit of refreshing back at the hotel, we made our way to The Temple Club, a colonial-era villa, for a sumptuous dinner of chicken curry and a dish called Thousand Miles Flower. How can one not order a dish called Thousand Miles Flower? Add a couple of beers and our bill was less than 20 bucks (US$).

Thousand Miles Flower at The Temple Club in Ho Chi Minh City

Thousand Miles Flower at The Temple Club in Ho Chi Minh City

A great day and a fantastic evening… and time to prepare for our morning departure.

Day 6 actually brought a tear to my eye in saying goodbye to Saigon. KT, the manager at Bizu, helped us settle our bill. She, along with the rest of the staff, proved to be exceptionally friendly and helpful throughout our stay. Hugging her goodbye, we hopped in our taxi and the driver streamlined us through the early-morning traffic maze to the airport.

Next stop… Hue

 

 

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