I grew up on a street with 10 kids, I couldn’t have been in a better place! All of us were around the same age, so we always spent our time together, after school, weekends, school holidays. Parties were a must for the holidays…any excuse to get together!
Being the same age, many of us headed off to University around the same time, which meant we were spread all around the country and didn’t get a chance to see each other as much! We would always make our way back to the street for Christmas, and have Christmas Day breakfast all together!
This Christmas was the first one where I wasn’t able to go home, and it made me realise how much I missed them all!
One of the girls, Sophie, flew to South East Asia shortly before I did, and did her TEFL in Thailand. As I set off for Thailand, she was already in Vietnam so we didn’t get a chance to meet up! Well, the time finally arrived, as I made my travels through Vietnam!
At the last leg of my trip in Vietnam, I went to Ho Chi Minh City to see Sophie and the wanders they have here! It certainly helped with the homesickness I was feeling, and it was amazing to see Sophie and her boyfriend thriving in their jobs and enjoying themselves!
The first 2 days, I spent with Sophie. We swam at the apartment swimming pool and went shopping at Ben Thanh Market. I struggled to control myself in there….! Everything was so cheap and lovely!
Ben Thanh Market
This is an indoor market, in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, which is packed full of stalls selling absolutely anything you want! Watch out, its unbelievably easy to spend lots of money here….trust me, I know!! It´s easy to get lost in here, I spent a few hours there easily!
Ben Thanh market is in District 1, in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. You can find it at the intersection of Le Loui, Ham Ngh, Tan Hung and Le Lai.
Top tip: I would suggest, if you’re not near the area already, to get a motorbike taxi/taxi there. One thing that I was often reminded of whilst in HCMC was to always hold on to your bags whilst on the bike, it would be very easy for someone to ride by and snatch it. Also, try to wear your backpack on your front, as they are easily opened at traffic lights!
War Remnants Museum
This was one of the most difficult places I had visited. I had heard from other people that this was a shocking place to visit, but, I certainly thought I was strong stomached and not affected as badly by places like this.
When you first walk it, tanks, helicopters and trucks from the war surround the area. It´s a great chance to get up close to the vehicles, and makes you realise just how tiny you are against one of those!!
The ground floor was filled with newspaper articles circulating in during the Vietnam War, featuring current stories at the time, as well as propaganda from the War. They had also interviewed American soldiers for a different perspective on the war.
As you make your way upstairs, the images are far more intense. Some show the aftermath of the war, villages left with nothing to rebuild from, people left with nothing, and even some original items from these areas, along with their stories.
Photographs were displayed of injuries obtained throughout the war, and other extremely distressing photographs captured by photographers on both sides during the war. Families were walking through this museum, something I didn’t agree with due to the highly graphic content of the museum.
As you walk through, there is an entire section dedicated to the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnamese generations. Agent Orange was a herbicide used by the American army to intoxicate the trees, and reduce forest cover. Unfortunately, Agent Orange had a catastrophic effect on a large amount of Vietnamese people. Generations on and there are still a larger than expected percentage of people in Vietnam disabled or with health problems.
I ended up leaving the museum, grabbing a coffee, and heading back to my hostel…..on walking street!
After a hard days shopping, Sophie and I decided to visit a rooftop bar in the middle of the city. I hadn’t quite dressed for the occasion, more so comfy gym leggings and flipflops for an exhaustive shopping trip! I wasn’t sure whether we would get in to Saigon Social rooftop bar, but luckily we swanned straight in! I had bandages on my ankles from the mosquito bites in Hue so, maybe they were just being sympathetic!
I actually didn’t end up spending much time here, other than the hostel I stayed at! The hostel was called Vintage Hostel and was slap bang in the middle of walking street! Tip: The girls dorm on floor 4, at the back, is really quiet! You can´t hear the raging music once the door is closed! The first night I stayed here, I actually ended up going elsewhere – meeting up with Sophie for drinks in the less touristy expat area of Ho Chi Minh City.
The Banh Mi in Vietnam is a style of sandwich eaten all over the country. Having lived in Thailand for a few months now, I have certainly missed having a proper sandwich so I took full advantage of these on my visit! There is a small restaurant called Banh Mi in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City that I visited with my friend, and they made really nice sandwiches! I also managed to find a great spot near Walking street, I don’t remember exactly, but I have the feeling the word Queen was in the name of the shop – Queen Banh Mi, maybe? Their chicken Banh Mi was to die for! If I wasn’t in such a rush on my last day, I definitely would have made a stop and stocked up for my travels back to Thailand!
Is it worth visiting?
I would certainly say Ho Chi Minh City is worth visiting, it´s a bustling city with a lot going on. The scene seems to be mainly food, drink and shopping here. I would say my favourite places in Vietnam were Halong Bay and Hoi An, and I would definitely consider revisiting there, along with Dalat and Ninh Banh.