The sights, sounds, and colors of Saigon
Now known as Ho Chi Minh City, it is the largest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million people living there. Many still call it Saigon, which I prefer - it sounds so exotic. This was a quick trip, only two and a half days, so I did not take as many photos as I normally do.
It was a
more modern city then we expected, and more people spoke
English then we anticipated. When walking through local streets, people went out of their way to say hello. They especially liked to have their small children practice English with us. They would bring them up to us in stores, outside their homes, on the sidewalks, etc to have them say a few words. And, the teenagers would wave to us, smile, then take photos of us with their cell phones. It was very sweet and fun.
HCM City was originally known as Prey Nokor, and was part of Cambodia. In the 17th century, the Vietnamese conquered the city and named it Saigon. After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City, named after the Communist leader who led Vietnam's independence from France. The official name is Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh.
Despite the fact that modern high-rise buildings have begun to dominate the skyline, there are still many examples of French colonial architecture such as the Notre Dame Cathedral. French colonists built the Cathedral between 1863 and 1880.
Neighborhoods and apartments
In Cho Lon, HCM City’s Chinatown, almost every building has a shop or workshop on the ground floor and the shop owner has their house on top.
There was a very large park close to our hotel. One morning we took a walk through it and were surprised to see hundreds of kids having school lessons outside. Some were exercising, some were being lectured to, and some were reading. I asked at our hotel and they said that as long as the weather is nice, they hold classes outside.
We also saw a group of children having an exercise class outside on the sidewalk. They were having so much fun.
Donald with the little street gypsy... her mother had her ask us to buy little bracelets. M, who was with us, couldn't resist her sweet smile and bought a few.
Like most of the Asian countries we have visited, street food is very popular in HCM City. This is efficient, selling homemade noodles off the back of a scooter.
Now that is a bowl of soup! I would struggle cooking a bowl this big on a regular stove, how she is managing this on the street is impressive!
Love this one, he is cooking away in the middle of the road, traffic whizzing by.
A pack of cigarettes with your lunch?
We love Bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich you can buy on the streets. Bánh mì really is a term for all kinds of bread - more specifically, the baguette, introduced to Saigon by the French during its colonial period.
The sandwiches are made with meat such as roasted pork belly,
Vietnamese sausage, or grilled chicken. They usually start by spreading a layer of pork liver
pâté and a layer mayonnaise. Then a few vegetables like fresh cucumber slices, cilantro leaves, and pickled carrots. Common
condiments include spicy chili sauce and sliced chili.
How much did the beer cost? Most bottles were 10,000 Dong (50 cents USD). In Singapore, they average $10 (USD) a bottle!
Traffic and Scooters
Like Hanoi, there were thousands of scooters. I took this photo from our taxi.
Check out this confused lady going the wrong way on the road... note that she is not wearing shoes.
How about a flower delivery on a scooter? A very large flower delivery!
Fun to see how he is actually carrying the arrangement. How on earth can he see? As always, safety first!
We LOVE Vietnamese coffee.... hot or cold. The taste is very different from regular beans. One reason is they add chicory to the bean. Another reason, once brewed, they add sweetened condensed milk. Our favorite brand is Trung Nguyen - Gourmet Brew and Creative 5.
You can buy Creative 1 - 5, but we like 5 the best. It is fragrant, smooth, and has a distinct taste from the pea berries. It is also the most expensive. We bought 5 boxes and 4 bags to carry home. We can only get it at one store here in Singapore and it is 3x the cost.
We were in a sweet little cafe, "iCafe" (25 Trinh Va Can Q.1), and decided to try the siphon coffee. We have read about it and were curious. Most places it is fairly expensive, but in Vietnam it was only $2 a cup. Deal. What’s so special about it? It's supposed to provide a much gentler, less bitter, flavor to consumers.
They brought it to our table for us to watch it being brewed. To make coffee using this method you fill the lower carafe of the siphon with water and the top with your ground coffee and a filter.
The burner heats the water and it "magically" travels into the top chamber. She then let it sit 5 minutes and before adding condensed milk and ice, and she shook it hard in a silver martini mixer.
I have to say - this was THE BEST cup of iced coffee we had ever drank. Seriously! If you are in Saigon and are a coffee fan - it is worth going out of your way to have a cup. Did I mention it was only $2 USD?
We were there during the rainy season, which lasts May through October, but lucked out with beautiful weather. Our hotel said it had been raining for 4 days straight before we arrived. We loved our hotel. A sweet B&B, Ma Maison, a French Colonial home in a very local neighborhood. We highly recommend it if you are visiting Saigon.
We really enjoyed Saigon. The people were very friendly. We were told by one of the expats living there that south Vietnamese like Americans, as we fought alongside them in the war. You could really feel the friendliness when going off the beaten path and walking through the local neighborhoods.