That’s what came to mind when we saw the streets of Saigon for the first time. (AKA – Ho Chi Minh City- But don’t call it that. Ho Chi Minh is a man, not a city as we were told by locals.) Motorbikes and scooters weaved around us with such fluidity that it felt more like we were swimming through a school of fish than riding through city traffic.
After the motorbikes, the next thing we noticed were all the smiles!
You may or may not know this, but Americans smile. A lot. I read somewhere it’s because we were once a land of many languages and a smiling was a way to communicate emotion without words. See Why Americans Smile So Much
We were even told on several occasions during our travels, “Do you know how I can tell you’re Americans? You smile.”
So, we made a point to not smile as often. This mostly meant we wouldn’t smile at random people who we happened to make eye contact with. Which was really hard to train yourself to do! Or… not to do.
This was the case in Europe and Mongolia. So when we arrived in Saigon and were greeted with smiles from random passersby, it was so refreshing! We could smile again!
Everyone we met in Vietnam was so friendly. From our lovely Airbnb hosts to the people working at our favorite restaurant near our condo who smiled and bowed as we passed.
The city of Saigon has an amazing blend of modern buildings, colonial French architecture, and great neighborhood local vibes.
A word of warning: The markets are very high-pressure, so be prepared for haggling and very grabby sales folks.
Southeast Asia feels like a whole world on its own and is very unlike Mongolia, which up to this point was the only Asian country we had visited.
We settled into our routine here which included rooftop working sessions.
Making ourselves at home at an Irish pub. (like we do) And eating…
The food! Oh, my, gosh! We could do no wrong with anything here. From nice restaurants to street-side food carts, the food was all wonderful. Fresh, well seasoned, and always served with a smile 😃
Ok, there was ONE bout of food poisoning, but considering how long we’ve been traveling it was bound to happen.
If you have never had food poisoning before, I do not recommend it.
Our dear friend Erica joined us in Saigon and we took a break from our settled routines.
We explored more of the city and visited the War Remnants Museum (formerly called, Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes)
The museum was an eye-opening experience. I realized how little I knew about the Vietnam War. I knew it was not a popular one and one that many in the United States protested against.
I knew how hard it was for soldiers to come home after fighting in this war and being called “baby killers” and other horrific names after all that they had been through. Many of whom were drafted and not in this war by choice.
I didn’t know that not only was it an unpopular in the U.S., but it was unpopular globally with protests in all major cities all over the world.
It was truly heartbreaking to learn about the war crimes committed. I feel like this chapter was very much glossed over in our history books.
The effects of Agent Orange and other chemical warfare are still being seen, generations later.
The images and stories left us feeling broken. And honestly, ashamed to be American. There are many things I don’t agree with about my country (especially right now) but I’ve always been proud of the ideals our country was founded upon. (even if those ideals we very skewed by the white men in charge as well…But that’s a whole ‘nother post!) This was a true dose of reality and a reminder of what a self-serving government can be capable of. Truly terrifying.
OK, on to lighter things!
Day Trip From Saigon
Day Trip on the Mekong River.
Erica and I took a day trip to see the floating markets. It was about a two-hour drive from Saigon and we left bright and early in the morning. The tour we booked said that the day would include many things and among them the floating markets. However as the tour went along, we realized that the floating markets all happen earlier in the morning and we had missed them by several hours. Grrrr… The tour showed us WHERE the markets were, there were just no markets. So some slightly false advertising…
The trip out of the city was still nice. We got to take a quick river “cruise”, see how coconut candy was made, drink snake wine, and see a traditional Vietnamese performance.
The trip all felt like it was very much put-on for our benefit and for us to buy stuff. You come to expect that to a degree on many tours, as this is how many of these vendors earn a living. I get it. and yes, the coconut candy was delicious!
I just wish we actually got to see the floating markets.
Vietnam is so charming and you had an awesome time there, Danielle. What did you like best about Saigon?
Ooo, hard question! Saigon has this amazing mix of modern and ancient that I haven’t seen many other places. There is a big surge new business, but it also feels like life has been pretty much the same in some ways for centuries. Love it!
Ha! We also didn’t see the floating markets during our time out on the Mekong (and we spent a night there, too!). False advertising indeed. But I loved our time there, nevertheless. Next time. 😉
For sure! I really want to go back. I’m sure you do too! I’ll bet you have a whole list of places that you had to miss 🙁