No matter if you call it Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City (or even HCMC) it is the same epic place.
Talking to other travellers you find that HCMC is a Marmite city and I know people who hate it, or who generally prefer the north to the south. But for us, HCMC is the best city so far, by far!
From the wild arrival HCMC lets you know there is a special vibe, a frenetic energy and friendly buzz to its main streets. But hidden in its nooks and crannies there remains a laid back community feel.
In five days we grasped every opportunity to experience the touristy and not so touristy spots.
From the war museum to the independence place and even out to Cu Chi we experienced the horrors of the war. The war museum was without doubt the most poignant, telling the story of the war – and it’s aftermath – through incredibly graphic photography and literature. I viewed most of the exhibition through misty eyes and with a growing resentment and anger to the U.S. politics that dictated the conditions of the war. That killed and maimed so many, and continues to damage lives even today.
Despite the historical sadness there is a welcoming lightness in Saigon. Every night the sidewalks expand and the roads narrow as thousands of Beer Hoi establishments spread their little plastic chairs far and wide. A great place to chat to catch up with people and to make friends of the strangers on the seats next to you. Many, many hours were spent here… And many many beers consumed.
But our socialising didn’t stop on the sidewalk and Saigon proved to be a drinking highlight beyond – and even above – the beer Hoi stalls…
We meet up with Mathias, who we first met in Kampot, and had the most expensive round of the trip so far – $30 for a glass of rosé and a negroni – up in the skyline bar, Chill…
We chilled with the guesthouse owner and our Guesthouse mate, Mark (who is now riding the highways of Vietnam south to north – safely we hope)…
And perhaps sweetest of all, we met up with Dong and Me who we met many months ago in Chiang Mai. Once they heard we were coming to Saigon they told us to look them up, and so we did. Dong invited us to his restaurant for an all expenses paid dinner (it was fab) and then insisted on taking us around the city. We went from a chilled-out local coffee shop to a boat ride down Saigon river. See you guys in London one day!
And then, finally it came time to leave. And so we awoke before 6am to get our bus. Rising our Guesthouse owner up from her slumber we paid and checked-out, sleepily stumbling to the bus. It was on time!
Finally, after a frantic five days we can relax on the coast in just a few hours. With the sounds and smells of the ocean consuming my mind I sit back and relax. And then my mind does a mental checklist through everything and… PASSPORT! That’s right. Myself, Joyce and even the Guesthouse owner forgot about our most vital of documents. It was hours back in HCMC! After informing Joyce – and seeing her eyes go wide – we nervously chomped on our nails until we eventually pulled into Mui Ne.
Scurrying across the road we flew into a travel agent’s, ‘Next bus to HCMC?’. It was only half an hour and we manage to secure the last couple of seats. And so we were heading back to a city we love but for all the wrong reasons!
After another gruelling and stressful bus journey we pull into Saigon not far from the guesthouse. Running through the throngs of happy revellers (and oh how I begrudged them their beer Hoi that night) we made it back to the guesthouse, located the owner and… Our passports. Relief! But would we make it back to Mui Ne that night?
With passports gripped firmly in our hands we sprinted back to the travel agent and with minutes to spare we managed to get on the last bus back to Mui Ne. So. After setting off at 7am on the morning of 27th April we finally arrived at Mui Ne after 3am on the morning of the 28th April. More than 20 hours doing the same journey!
Neither of us can believe this happened to us – we really are quite organised… Although you may not believe that from this post!
But it is easy done (trust me). Although we won’t be doing it again any time soon… I hope!