Thriving in the Chaos of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is among the most chaotic cities we have visited yet - it's a non-stop barrage of lights and sounds. And with the dozens of motorcycles on the street at any given time (this is dozens per block), you take your life in your hands every time you cross the street. The city is a whirlwind of noise, motorcycles and lights. Here are some things to do in Ho Chi Minh:
Visit the Post Office
Designed by Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower), this late 19th century post office is a beautiful relic of France's former colonial rule. Go early to avoid the mobs - because there will be mobs.
Grab a coffee at Au Parc and/or L'usine
Au Parc Saigon was the first business to transform a colonial-era shophouse into a cafe. The owners didn't miss a single detail when designing the space, every floor has something beautiful to discover. The food is fantastic. Make sure you stop here, even if it's just for a quick coffee or delicious smoothie. Another great place to grab a drink and a bite is L'Usine. The boutique shop/cafe has a few outposts throughout the city with plenty of beautiful things to look at.
Travel back in time
Famed as the site of the dramatic fall of Saigon to the Communist North during the Vietnam War, the Reunification Palace, also called the Independence Palace, is not to be missed. Previously the home of the President, the palace now stands as a well-preserved time capsule, complete with a war-time bunker, vintage theater room and helipad. It closes every day during at lunch, so be sure to check your times when visiting. We explored on our own, but if you have the budget it might be worthwhile to use a tour guide as there is limited information on each room and the guide would probably have provided us with more context and details.
take a glimpse of City Hall
Since it's not open to visitors, take a quick walk by Saigon City Hall. Yet another French colonial style building, one of many to be found in District 1. Down the street you'll also find a statue of Ho Chi Minh himself.
stop for another coffee break
The city, and country in general, has countless beautiful coffee shops. We stumbled upon what looks like a former residential building filled with boutique shops, coffee shops and restaurants. Grab a piece of cake at Saigon Oi and then head down for a coffee at Buihouse, a coffee shop and working space in one.
Grab a pint at Pasteur Brewing Company
If you're in need of a drink (or five) after crossing those chaotic streets, Pasteur Brewing Company has amazing craft beers and tasty pub snacks. The Passionfruit Wheat and Jasmine IPA were our favorites, but the company also won international awards for its Chocolate Stout.
And a couple of other things...
Upon arriving at the airport, we took what we thought was a standard taxi with a meter. After about 1km of driving, the price had ratcheted up to what should have been the entire 20km fare (at about $10). When we made the taxi stop, he began screaming and threatening us to pay more. We luckily got out unscathed, but it was not the warm welcome to Vietnam we were hoping for. We found out later the only safe taxi companies to take in Vietnam are Vinasun (white) or Mailinh (green), and Uber operates throughout the city. Keep this in mind when taking taxis throughout the country. Uber or Grab seem to be popular ways to get around Saigon.
It can't be said enough: wandering is the best way to stumble upon some great places you may not have seen otherwise. So, try to set aside an hour or two in each city to be aimless.