Saigon then and now
As you know, I traveled around in Vietnam almost 25 years ago.
The only place that I revisited now was Ho Chi Minh, better known as Saigon.
And obviously a lot has changed.
Saigon is developing rapidly in many ways. Foreign investors finally got access, so there is a lot of construction and developing going on. Housing, offices, businesses…
The city is getting a subway.
The economic climate of today is perfect for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Most people have a (motor-)bike and a smartphone. More people speak (a bit of) English nowadays, although still not that many.
The first really upscale and international hotels have arrived and next to the ever so popular Vietnamese coffee (drip coffee with condensed milk) western cappuccinos and americanos are widely available.
There are still lots of street vendors, but the cyclos have disappeared, except for a few for the tourists.
Crossing the streets is still a challenge (make eye contact and walk slowly but steadily. The dozens or hundreds of motorbikes will sway around you, somehow. Don’t run and don’t stop. Although stopping for cars makes perfect sense, hahaha….) and the pavements are still a disaster.
In short: Vietnam/Saigon is in an interesting fase. The changes in the next 10 to 20 years will be enormous.
What did we do?
So what did we do?
- we walked a lot, to see the main sights.
Mind you: Saigon does not really HAVE that many sights and the ones they have are not that spectacular or interesting. There are some worth mentioning though, so I will write a post about those.
It’s a city that you’ll have to ‘work’ for in order to discover and appreciate it. I found several good ways to achieve that; here’s what I did:…
- we met a friend who lives and works there. Which was great! Not only for catching up, but also for hearing first-hand what’s going on in Vietnam and how life is in Saigon.
Talking to him gave us more insight in the city and country.
- I arranged to visit the local tango salon, TaTango, AND to be the DJ that night (and dance, obviously). This way you immediately meet locals and come in places you would otherwise not have. It turned out to be a lovely night!
- we booked one of Saigon’s most popular tours: ‘Back of the Bike’. Frits and I, and two other couples, were driven around by 6 local youngsters on their motorbikes for 4 hours. It was brilliant!
- another tour that we booked ahead was ‘Sophie’s Art Tour’, this time run by Stu, a colleague of Sophie.
It turned out to be a very educational tour, not only about local art, but also about Vietnams history. Loved it!
- I had done my homework, as usual, which resulted in a long list of things to see and do and where to eat and drink. We incorporated as many of these places as possible in our walks, which lead us to cool restaurants and speakeasy cafes in unlikely places.
Map with all the hotspots on it
There was more on my list than what we managed to do and see in our five days. Ah well, another time, maybe.
It IS all on my personalised Google-map of Saigon, so if you go to Saigon (or if you live there) be sure to check it out. It’ll bring you to a lot of interesting, cool hotspots.
Coming up on the blog….
In the coming weeks you can expect more articles about Saigon, e.g. about the tours that we did, about some of the sights, about the cafes and restaurants….
…..and last but not least…about BIKES. Because those are such an important element in the Vietnamese daily life!!!
Have you been in Saigon? How was your experience? What were the highlights for you?