Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Saigon came as a very pleasant surprise, and quickly stole our hearts. A bit part of that was the fact that we arrived right on New Year’s Eve, and the carnival on the street with tens of thousands of motorbikes was a fabulous experience for us.

We’d read about Saigon’s high level of development before we arrived, but reality exceeded our expectations. We spent three full days in Saigon, which was enough time to get a basic idea of this megacity. It wasn’t the tourist attractions which made this city so attractive for us, though the war memorial museum (about a two-hour visit) was interesting, and you could spend an hour or so in the Emperor Jade Pagoda.

The markets were exhausting, and I didn’t particularly like the Benh Tanh Market, especially because of the aggressive vendors, and the Chinese district was a dirty, unpleasant disappointment.

What we liked best was just strolling in the central district, with its good restaurants, parks, little shops, and of course the local people.

We read,  that many people found crossing the road a really scary experience, but I think that’s an exaggeration – you can easily cross at traffic lights with no trouble at all, but even in other places we were able to cross the road between the cars without any particular danger or fear. Even by the end of the first day we had learned the technique, and I enjoyed being able to walk on the road as a pedestrian.

Restaurants are expensive in the city center, at least if you go to tourist places, but we ate very well, that’s for sure.

In general, I’d say the Thais generally strike me as friendlier than the Vietnamese, but my experiences in Saigon have modified that judgement somewhat. We weren’t bothered in most places by pushy sellers, shopkeepers or beggars, and we met a lot of very friendly people. A group of students spoke to us in the park, because they wanted to practice their English. They were lovely.

I really like the dynamism of the Vietnamese, and their eagerness to learn. Our 19-year-old son Andris is firmly persuaded that Vietnamese girls are prettier than Thai girls.” (K.J., 2014)


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The bustle and dynamism of this city are simply incredible – the tourist is left shaking his head in wonder, unable to decide where to point his camera so as not to miss a single instant. The population of this city is enormous, added to which it has approximately 8 million mopeds. We stared open-mouthed as a family of five swerved by on a single moped! Here everyone drives one, from the age of about 15 until they’re 90, and children are born to the two wheels. For them it’s a completely normal way to go to the shops, or to work, or the other everyday journeys. They just climb on and off they go. They use mopeds for things that would seem impossible to Europeans or Americans, and we couldn’t help but smile at the way they load more onto the back of a bike than we could into a car!

Suddenly it doesn’t seem so funny when you have to cross the street, though… The trick is to step out determinedly – just take a look around and go, and don’t try to avoid them, they’ll avoid you. Incredibly, we didn’t see a single accident during our four days there. They must have some secret because if we tried the same at home there’d be pile ups on every street corner.
 

Practicals

Transport

Saigon's population is 8,6 million (in 2020), and the number of scoters is 8,5 million.

Walking:

It is a challenge for a first-time visitor to cross a street, even on a crosswalk. Based on first impressions, being a pedestrian here means the lowest of the living world, roughly the pigeon's status in my home city. However, as my size is more extensive, local drivers won't hit me to avoid causing damage to their vehicle.

Taxi

Vinasun and Mai Linh are safe taxi companies. They always have a taximeter in their cars. If you don't see the driver's identification sticker on the dashboard, you shouldn't board.

There is a taxi counter in front of the exit at the new international airport terminal, and there they offer fair fixed prices. You pay in advance at a counter, and someone accompanies you to the specific taxi.

If you are satisfied with the driver, give a tip of 5-10 thousand dong. It's optional; they don't expect it.

Motorcycle taxi (xe ôm)

For short distances, a motorcycle taxi is a fast, convenient, albeit adventurous means of transport. It’s a bit stressful that you have to bargain in advance for the fare. It helps a lot if you already have some experience in haggling.  Motorcycle taxi should be cheaper than the cab. A five-minute trip should cost no more than 20,000 dongs (less than one USD).



Warning:

Don't spend more than VND 300.000 if you're going to Cu Chi tunnels in Saigon. Anything more would be a rip-off.

Saigon - public bus - b.g. photo

Saigon - traffic - o.e. photo

Shopping

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Saigon - supermarket - meat deli - b.d. photo

Fun

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Saigon - cafe - k.s. photo

Public safety

GrabBike driver snatches the cellphone of the woman holding her child (street camera photo)



Saigon - police

Health

,,The concentration of people and motorbikes degraded the city into a broad mix of smog and trash. Often the air is so hot and smoggy that it feels thick when breathing."

Saigon - smog

Background

Destination in brief

The official name is Ho Chi Minh City since 1975, however, all locals, even people elsewhere in the country, use the name, Saigon. . “Saigon” represents the colonial and pre-unification situation (pre-1975), while Ho Chi Minh City is the name given once the Communist North won the war, and the country was unified.

Saigon is in the southern part of Vietnam.

Population (in 2020): 3.4 million (City area) and 8.6 million (Urban area) - Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam, larger than the capital city, Hanoi (8 million), if the Urban area considered.

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 400 USD (Hanoi's average: 420 USD)

Nowadays

Tourists can not choose but stand the constant harassment by street vendors and tricksters. Typically, these guys start a friendly conversation with you, hiding their business intentions. At least, in this phase of communication, you'll experience how much they know about your country. They are surprisingly knowledgeable about far-away places.   

People

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Saigon - birthday dinner - c.n. photo

Attractions

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