My new travel buddies and I left on a bus to Saigon early afternoon and arrived at the bus stop around 6pm on Friday. The traffic was absolutely insane and we had a fairly short walk through the craziness to our hostel. It felt weird to be back in a big city again, after traveling to smaller towns for the past couple of weeks! We got checked into our hostel and learned that they put us in our own dorm room with just the 5 of us, and it even had a balcony just outside the door overlooking the busy street. We decided to have a chill night and just hung out at the table and chairs on our balcony chatting with a guy we met who had just decided to stay in Saigon to teach English, which is quite a common job for a traveler who is in need of funds…in order to travel longer. Our next day would be jam packed with “tourist attractions”, so we called it a night early-ish and went to bed.
Our day of sightseeing started off with a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral. HCMC has quite a large Catholic population. The cathedral was built in the 1800’s by the French, so it is French-colonial architecture, and was constructed using only materials shipped from France.
Directly next to the cathedral is the Central Post Office, which is also French Colonial architecture. We saw a group of college graduates taking pictures outside of this building and they were too cute, we had to snap a picture!
We then continued our own walking tour to see the Reunification Palace. This palace has housed the French governers, then became the Japanese officers headquarters, and then finally the Vietnamese emperor. We decided not to go in to take a tour, since we would be touring the next museum, and too many tours in one day causes us to not really take it all in.
Next up was the War Remnants Museum. In Vietnam, the war is called the American War, but of course I know it as the Vietnam War. Being an American touring through this museum was really tough. Emotional. This is not a blog on history and I certainly do not consider myself a history buff or an expert on the Vietnam War details, so I will obviously not go into detail. It is worth seeing if you are ever in Saigon, but also, much like what I’ve read prior to visiting the museum, there is a lot of propaganda and you must remember that you are being presented with only one point of view, so take that for what it’s worth. My friends kept asking me if I was ok, if that tells you anything about the experience of seeing this museum and being an American. (FYI: No pictures from inside the museum.)
After the museum, we headed to the famous Ben Thanh Market, where there are over 3,000 venders selling anything and everything! We walked around for an hour or so and picked up some snacks for our bus ride the following day.
After relaxing a bit, we searched on trip advisor for a good restaurant to have dinner and found a cute and inexpensive place nearby. They had a combo platter that was a great sampler of Vietnamese food and it was delicious!
After dinner, we headed out for some drinks and dancing on the popular backpacker street. We started at a rooftop bar of a hotel that had views of the city.
Since this was our last night in Vietnam, we had to have one last banh mi (Vietnamese street sandwich), and we all agreed it was the best one we had during our time here.
Experiencing Vietnam the way we did was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea we would spend a month in this country when we started out this journey. I am enjoying seeing more parts of each country I visit, as opposed to trying to see every country and only a city or two in each. Vietnam is an incredibly beautiful country and full of travelers just like us. We made some great friends and had amazing, once in a lifetime experiences here. I feel like I am getting quite good at letting go of the idea of having plans and just going with the flow and trusting other travelers for suggestions on routes and places to visit. I am so excited to see how my travels unfold!
Speaking of….up next for me is Phnom Penh, Cambodia!