Vietnam is an up and coming economy from, at one point, one of the poorest regions of Southeast Asia, to number 47 in the world pushing it up into the middle income range of nations.
No where is this more evident than the powerhouse that is Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. Signs of growing prosperity abound, new skyscrapers, we visited the impressive Skydeck at the Bitexco Building, high end boutiques, Versace, Christian Dior, Burberry, Channel, Cartier, Samsung has a big presence, the new Metro being built in a joint venture with Japan. Large hotels with rooftop bars and swimming pools, especially where we stayed in District 1, where a beer can cost 98,000 VD (about €3.74) but locals can get the same beers for 13,000VD in residential areas. Simple things like being able to pay for food & drink with debit and credit cards. There are many more cars here than say Hanoi, and the infrastructure is advancing quicker.
However, from a tourist perspective Saigon doesn’t hold the same charm as, say, Hoi An or the Old Quarter in Hanoi. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our visit. The War Remnants Museum is a powerful if somewhat harrowing experience showing the inhumanity of man to his fellow man. There is some beautiful colonial architecture like the beautiful Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral and The Central Post Office. There are some great markets to browse around. Plenty of good restaurants and bars to frequent! Further out you can visit the Mekong Delta for a different experience and the Cu Chi tunnels are famous, there are a few islands off the mainland popular as seaside resorts as well.
Happily we met with a young Irish ex-pat who has lived for the last two years in Saigon and it was great to get a his perspective on Saigon. He agreed that from a touristic point of view Saigon doesn’t hold the same charms as other places further north but as a place to live it can’t be beaten. The people are very friendly, it has a constant warm year round temperature whereas further north there are clearer seasons where it can get quite cold and houses, in his view, aren’t built to deal with the cold. He can live with the rainy season as long as he doesn’t have to put up with the cold. He loves the food, it’s much easier to live a healthier life style. The cost of living is very low. There is a buzz about the place and economically the place is doing well, he believes there are more venture capitalists and people investing in Vietnam than any other places in Southeast Asia. What does he miss? Well apart from family, is live music in pubs and bars like back home in Dublin. He certainly intends to spend another couple of years here before deciding where to next.
We thoroughly enjoyed our short trip to Ho Chi Minh City, apparently we picked the ideal time of year, although the temperature was in the low to mid thirties it was not humid and it was very bearable. This is the cool season !!😉 One highlight was a qualifying match for the U23 soccer team against Brunei. They had installed about 10 huge TV screens along Hue Walking Street and it was great to see the crowds out to watch the match. We also had a few lovely meals, Vietnamese food is special and I think it’s great!
Now off to Hoi An, the last time we were there, November 2017 we were met with the afters of a huge Cyclone/Storm that flooded many businesses/bars/ships/restaurants along the rivers edge and a few streets back. Flooding like this apparently is quite frequent and it is amazing to see how quickly they recover. Hopefully better weather this time!
To finish a few photos from Saigon.