Hoi An is as far north as I’ll go while I am on this trip. It saddens me but I only had a little time to see Vietnam. So, I decided to focus on seeing the south. Hoi An was the cut off point. I was running out of time so I decided it was time to turn back southwards so I could see the famous floating markets of Can Tho.
Now when you are in the south you have to see the most famous city of the south, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). I, however, do not like big cities. They are crowded, noisy, touristy, more dangerous and often in South East Asia, very polluted. Nevertheless I decided no trip to Vietnam would be complete without stopping by Saigon so I decided to spend one night in Saigon before taking the sleeper bus to Can Tho.
After checking into my hostel I decided to wander around Saigon by foot. I really only had one place in mind and that was the former presidential palace of the South Vietnamese government. It was here that the iconic image of a North Vietnamese tank crashing the gates of the palace, thus ending the war, took place.
Now, in the picture is the alleged tank that crashed through the gates. Apparently there is a tank on display in Hanoi that also claims to be the tank that ended the war. No is really sure which tank is the real tank that ended the war. There were also lots of cool weapons from the war on display in front of the former palace (which is now a museum).
The history enthusiast in me really enjoyed seeing the tools of war from the Vietnam American war. I decided to hike back to my hostel and I did not enjoy the long walk. The streets are crowded, busy and dangerous. It was incredibly hot and humid and the air was horribly polluted.
I returned to my hostel where a new friend from Poland showed me the best spot for Pho in Saigon. An unexpected and delightful event in Saigon. After pho for lunch I returned to the hostel and hanged out by the rooftop pool. The other backpackers were there drinking beer and smoking weed I chatted with them for a bit but unlike the other hostels where I met many great people this crowd didn’t seem to be my type. Did Saigon attract this kind of crowd? I was about to find out.
That evening when the temperature was cooler I decided to head out and explore a bit more. I went on the walking street where I was accosted with the sites and sounds of the worst of South East Asia. Nightclubs with there neon flashing lights blasted music that reverberated against my ear drums. Overly expensive restaurants sold stereotypical but disappointing Vietnamese food for five times the price I would get in the country. (Here is a hint in Vietnam, the cheaper the food the better it will be, a bowl of pho for 20,000 dong ($1.20 CAD) will always be better than 100,000 dong ($6.00) served in a tourist restaurant). Massage parlors with attractive women in tight dresses advertised “upstairs massage” (happy ending massages). This was hedonistic stereotype of South East Asia on full display. Drugged up and drunk backpackers sauntered around looking for their next high. Creepy old men hunted for their next pleasure of the night. It was awful and I hated it. I beat a hasty retreat back to my hostel.
I have been in Vietnam for a whole month now and i have fallen in love with the country. Vietnam had a rustic charm, the delicious food, the stunning countryside and the warmth of the Vietnamese people had captivated me. Saigon, had none of these things.
Upon returning to my hostel I quickly befriended two young Indians who were also backpacking through Vietnam. Like me, they were disappointed in Saigon and wanted to get away from the city. They had just started their trip and were worried all of Vietnam was going to be this way.
I was almost done my trip so I had the opportunity to assure them of the great adventure they were going on. They were delighted in the pictures that I showed them and of the great stories I had. (Stories that you see written in the blog).
Tomorrow morning my bus to Can Tho had been booked so I went to bed. Only to be woken up by the night club next door playing bass too loud. I could feel the sound vibrations through my bed. The sooner I am out f this place the better.
I don’t regret coming here. How else would I have known I would dislike Saigon so much. It is off to Can Tho tomorrow. My final destination for Vietnam.
Note: This is just my opinion of Saigon other travelers will have different opinions. Be sure to research around and see if Saigon is worth travelling to. But, in the opinion of this humble traveling panda. Saigon is awful, I hate it.
Vietnam, however, is amazing.