13 months
Dec 5:
good morning, vietnam!
Dec 7:
cyclo vs. moped
Dec 17:
ha long bay & cat ba island
Dec 18:
hanoi low down
Dec 21:
food, glorious food
Dec 22:
vung tau
Dec 24:
ambassador colonel sanders
ho chi minh
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Halong Bay
Vietnam, Dec 17, 2004

ho chi minh low down

What we did: We spent about a week in Ho Chi Minh, including a day trip to Vung Tau. We stayed at a funky hotel called the Mogambo (more on that below).

Overall: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) is very different from Hanoi. The people are in more of a hurry, though not excessively. It is considerably more modern in terms of fashion, technology, and the businesses that we’ve seen. It feels more concerned with politics, but this impression might be the effect of the celebration that’s happened while we were here (60th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Army of Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh, the purpose of which was to drive away the French colonists).

Getting around: We’ve also noticed that it’s harder to explore the city on foot than it is in Hanoi, so we spend more time either in a taxi, or trudging along farther than we thought we would. On our first full day in a new place, we often simply set out on foot in the morning, vaguely headed towards some places we’d like to visit, and see what happens. Doing this in Ho Chi Minh wasn’t the most satisfying experience, but it’s probably because we headed in the wrong direction. We ended up walking down a lot of streets that really weren’t very interesting. And the temple we visited, supposedly one of the nicest in the city, just didn’t seem that great to us after being in Hanoi.

Food: Ho Chi Minh is a bigger city than Hanoi (7 million compared to 4 million). There are a wider variety of restaurants and they're somewhat more westernized and/or internationalized. In addition to tons of great places that serve great Vietnamese food, we also found a "California" restaurant called Juice that was pretty darn good, and we ate at a sushi place once that was also good - neither of these would have been at home in Hanoi.

Weather: A tad hotter than Hanoi - still extremely pleasant.

Price: A bit more expensive than Hanoi, but still very *very* reasonable.

Exchange rate: US$1 = 15,750 dong

Specific places we visited/things we did:
  - Reunification Palace (This place is thick with history. Specifically, this is where, in 1975, the Southern forces officially surrendered to the Northern forces. Strangely, the building has basically been frozen in time since then. You can still see the first two tanks that crashed through the gates on display. The propaganda is somewhat thick, but you don’t feel like ideologies are being stuffed down your throat; rather, one assumes instead that it is simply an accurate communication of the political beliefs of the current government.)
  - War Remnants Museum (Showcases the horrors of the Vietnam War. Yikes. It’s not a fancy museum so the photos and video footage are raw and graphic. This place hits you hard. Again, the anti-U.S. propaganda is pretty heavy, but even without any political leaning, it’s easy to see how horrible the war was for so many people, during and after. Visiting this place requires a significant amount of emotional energy.)
  - Jade Emperor Pagoda (Maybe it was just hyped too much, but we didn’t think it was all that great.)
  - Cong Vien Van Hoa Park (a nice place to hang out outside Reunification Palace)
  - Cho Ben Thanh (This is one of several crazy markets in Ho Chi Minh. Come here to buy almost anything sold anywhere in Vietnam. Bring your stamina.)
  - Cho Binh Tay (This is another crazy market, this one in Chinatown, or Cholon. We found this one to be even more overwhelming – see vietnam: ambassador colonel sanders. Nonetheless, we’re really glad we went to see it, if for nothing else to make the rest of the city seem a bit less hectic.)
  - Vung Tao (day trip, recommended – see vietnam: vung tau)

>> Recommended accomodation: Mogambo Hotel <<
website; email; phone: +(84-8) 825 1311;
address: 20 Bis Thi Sach, District 1;
This is a fun, weird place. We liked it a lot, and recommend it. The décor is… um… interesting – kinda’ tiki palace meets… something we can’t think of, but the staff is great, the price is right, and we had internet access in our room, which was a nice treat (But be warned, if you're looking for traditional, this is not it.)

the lobby at the Mogambo - yes, that is Tom Selleck, and yes to all your other questions, too

Check out the vietnam: ho chi minh gallery to see more pictures of all of the above.

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


Vung Tau is where I'm from, but I've been to Ho Chi Minh City alot too, and I think you guys did a fabulous job. Photography, befriending the locals, witty noets to the photos, funny remarks, and especially your ability to captuer the spirit of the places you went to. Thanks for the wonderful photo gallery. =)

--Duong (Vung Tau, Vietnam & Pennsylvania, USA); Jun 6, 2006


In preparing for my trip to South East Asia, I stumbled across your website, and I have to say that I am truly impressed. Your photos speak volumes and your travel log is very helpful. Thank you for sharing your adventure with the rest of us.

My husband and I also enjoy traveling, and I will be in Ho Chi Minh City in February. One aspect of the trip we are looking forward to is the Vietnamese cuisine. Could you make recommendations?

--Jin (New Jersey, USA); Feb 2, 2006

Thanks for the kind words! About places to eat... unfortunately, we really didn't keep track of restaurants, but we were really happy with most of the places we tried. We suggest getting a bit off the main streets once in a while if you're interested in trying different stuff. Or ask the people in your hotel where THEY might go to eat. Good luck, and enjoy Ho Chi Minh!

--Grace & Susan; Feb 4, 2006