Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is the commercial heart of Vietnam. I liken the city to Shanghai, for it has a blend of historical and modern architecture.

I was expecting Saigon to be a cramped, chaotic city, similar to Hanoi. Saigon is filled with honking motorcycles and people and has bad air pollution. However, the city has wide boulevards and open spaces, making it less dense than Hanoi. Furthermore, the city has modern cafes, bars and restaurants for those who are tired of eating at street stalls. I was surprised at the number of modern hotels and skyscrapers in Saigon compared to Hanoi.

My time in Saigon was spent sightseeing and eating. I was lucky to finally have a local, my CS host Tuan, show me around. Tuan took me all over Saigon on his motorcycle. We visited French colonial buildings such as the Old Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and City Hall. We passed by the War Remnants Museum, with its U.S. tanks, helicopters and planes displayed outside. Tuan then led a tour of the Reunification Palace, the former presidential palace. He narrated the history of the building and was more knowledgeable than the other Vietnamese tour guides I have met! One unexpected place we visited was the expat neighborhood, a new development in south Saigon. I was again surprised to see Western-style apartments and homes in Saigon.

One of the highlights of my time in Saigon was the food! Tuan took me to street stalls and local restaurants. Among the items I tasted include self-wrap rolls (with veggies, pork, fish sauce), pork and egg rice, meat and spring rolls on rice noodles, veggie juice, and fruit shakes (plenty of these). I thank Tuan for showing me around, for I would probably not venture to these eateries on my own, or with other tourists.

No comments:

Post a Comment