Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) was never in my bucket list. When I have chance to go there, I dont have any expectation, like an open book, I ready to absorb anything there and open for everything there. Nothing on my mind. I dont even googled what I want to see there, I just trust the tour that I have booked, with the list of itinerary they have made.
So I packed my back and just flew there, this is the first trip that I used a tour. I heard that Ho Chi Minh have no Mrt maybe no English too and having booked a tour will help me navigate around the city with no worries of lost.
Arrived in Tan Son Nhat International Airport with Vietnam Airlines (the services are great) it almost at 8.00 pm on October 2016, and sent to the hotel they arranged.
We were staying at Saigon Palace Hotel, for me the location was very strategic, only a few steps a way from Ho Chi Minh Status square, Ho Chi Minh City town hall , the shopping area and the night markets. The hotel itself is comfortable, and quite big. There’s a sofa area and balcony overlooking the city. I start to feel something about the city.
After having dinner at local Vietnamese noodle soup called pho, I decided to go out and see the night. Ho Chi Minh City town hall catch my eyes, the classic French colonial era building fascinating me. The young people are gathered in the square, became a social point. Makes the city alive. A short walk later I found a night market, They sell a souvenirs, after bit of bargain, I bought a few things.
Ho Chi Minh City town hall
We spent 3 nights in Saigon, but I am going only highlighted the things I enjoyed much, as we visited a lot of museums, and I dont really in to history, so I just skip that part. Here we go with the list.
I came to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica on 1st day, beautiful catholic church built in the late 1880s by French colonists. Its remain the original structure and all the material came from French, Remarkable. The interesting story, A Virgin Mary statue also stands in front of Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, acclaimed by many to have shed tears in October 2005.
Next is Saigon Central Post Office, Built by French’s architect around 1886 – 1891 based on Villedieu’s design. Being a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and French influences, this building fascinates me by its typical colonial French features, from exterior to interior decorations. By the first time, I may feel that they’re brought back to 20th century railway station in Europe, rather than a post office in an Asian country.
People like to shop rite? and if you do, dont missed to Ben Thanh Market, it is famous to buy local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art and other souvenirs. After finish buy those art pieces, I decided to sip the famous Vietnam coffee right across the street.
Ben Thanh Market
The next day I blend with locals on a day cruise in Mekong River, hop from one traditional market, try local fruits, try every dishes. I start to fall in love with the city, the mixture hospitality of the people, the tradition and the lack of modernization, reminds me of my home, Jakarta, before the globalization kicks, as now super modern Jakarta has lost it love warming sense of interaction between the people.
I enjoy activities when traveling, and Saigon become memorable when I try to ride a traditional boat cruising the Mekong Delta, after rain sensation makes me feels being a locals.
As the Mekong Delta’s tour over, we had a late lunch in Mekong Rest stop. The restaurant is quite big, with the beautiful garden view, ponds with water lilies, and traditional huts. I tried different locals cuisine including elephant ear fish (typical of the Mekong) which looks scary but was very good.
On the last night in the city before leaving tomorrow, I have another cruise diner. I came to the saigon piers, boarding on Indochina Junk. And starting a journey from Saigon rivers to Thu Thiem Bridge. While on the cruise we served a complete diner accompanied by traditional music performed by Vietnamese artist. Before the journey come to end, I go to the deck and start memorize the view of Saigon’s river at night and have across my mind the story of one of my favorite Broadway Play, Miss Saigon. It tell a story of an American sergeant served in Vietnam not expected to fall in love, but he did. As myself dont expected to love this city, but at the end I fall in love with Saigon, lets call this journey, Mister Saigon experience.