Quickstep in Saigon
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
195Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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Where I stayed
Qúy Hùng Hotel
Qúy Hùng Hotel, $20.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? Since the war, City officials call it 'Ho Chi Minh' and everybody else call it Saigon. The city center is officially 'Saigon', the city's historic name. We’ll do what the locals do and call it all Saigon!
After breakfast overlooking the Ben Tre River, we were picked up at 9:30am by the medium sized bus that took us all the way to Saigon. There is always interesting stuff to see out of the bus window. At fuel and bus stops, motorcycle guys showed up, their handlebars decorated with interesting intricately wrapped food snacks, to peddle their wares. We bought two types and discovered that these were filled with different fruity sticky-rice treats.
The countryside is blanketed with fields. Rice fields are dotted with above ground graves which reminded me of the ones we saw in the U.S. South on the Mississippi delta. What is unusual and interesting about these graves are that they are scattered within the agricultural lands. Small family groupings, from very simple to slightly more ornate, are spread out across the landscape.
At about 12:30, we arrived in Saigon. We planned to immediately catch another bus to Dalat, a mountain city in the central highlands. We were told that buses to the north, including Dalat, leave from the north bus station in the Binh Thanh district. We jumped in a taxi to get across town as quickly as possible.
The large station had many windows for the different companies. At first it was overwhelming and confusing. We were directed by helpful customers to ticket windows for the two bus companies that serve Dalat. The next bus wasn’t until 10PM. We weren’t keen on waiting in the station for eight hours and we don’t ride at night if we can help it. We’d have to overnight in Saigon or take the night bus.
The pace of this town is cranked up a bit from what we had gotten used to. We were let off near a large busy traffic circle with motorcyclists racing towards us.
We happened to be in between the budget hotel backpacker area and a 5-star high-end hotel zone. We have begun to develop a sense for the hotel scene in Vietnam. We saw new mini hotel in this transition area that looked great. We went in and were happy to be quoted $25 for a small, but very nicely appointed, new room. What made it better was that they agreed to accept $20 per night.
4/12 Day Two in Saigon
We did a whirlwind walking tour of Saigon, and admittedly, barely scratched the surface. Neither one of us had much interest in spending much time here. Clubs, shopping, museums and temples are its main draw. In fact, our initial instinct was to skip it altogether. We were here and we made the best of it.
First off, we secured tickets on the "open bus" to Dalat for tomorrow. We wanted to work our way north on the Central Highlands route instead of the Coast. The coast is all beaches and palm treed resorts in the sun. What fun is that?
Next we embarked on a ‘walking route’ described in the L.P. We had been forewarned, by everyone we met who had been there, about Saigon’s chaotic traffic situation. I have to admit, it was intimidating but not nearly as bad as we anticipated. We quickly took the mad dash along with the locals and shuffled right into the center of the mad traffic barreling towards us. Traffic miraculously maneuvered around us and we emerged safely on the other side! "Just don't make any sudden unexpected moves and you'll be all right" we were advised. "The drivers will adjust for your presence." It worked for us.
Walking in the midday heat-wave was brutal. We hopped on a city bus. Just watching city life from this vantage point was great fun too. There is no lack of food options here from fine dining at the riverfront to endless choices of street side stalls and snack-foods outlets. Great juices, shakes and coffee, coffee, coffee are everywhere.
We perused around Ben Thanh market for a bit without finding anything unique or particularly interesting, Dave found a pair of replacement shorts to hold him over until he can find something better. Many people pass through Saigon to use its well-connected airport so it sees a fair number of Westerners.