Saigon is officially known as Ho Chi Minh City. However, everyone in the city still refers to the city as Saigon – a form of nonviolent protest against North Vietnam renaming the city after reunification on April 30th, 1975.
We only had one full day to explore the city of Saigon on our own, but we made the most of it. One of the best aspects of our stay in Saigon was the Rex Hotel. The hotel is rated 5 stars and did not disappoint! It’s by far the nicest place we’ve stayed so far on the trip. Hotels in Saigon are significantly cheaper than what we pay in the US. For 4 nights at our hotel, it was only $557. However, using my Citi Prestige credit card gave us the 4th night free, which cut the cost of the 4 nights to roughly $430 – not bad for a 5 star hotel experience!
It was sunny, with just a few clouds in the sky on both Thursday and Friday – but on Saturday it was blue bird skies with a good breeze. Don’t get me wrong, it was still warm, but beautiful weather.
We started with lunch at Nhà Hàng Ngon, which was a short walk from out hotel. It was listed on our guide’s recommendation sheet for good restaurants, and it did not disappoint! We actually ordered sushi and bahn mi sandwiches, not the usual mix we are used to in Nola, but it was very good. The bahn mi was also brought out in a “build your own sandwich” style, which was also interesting.
After lunch, we took an Uber to the arts market area. One note about Uber in the city of Saigon. It was cheap. Not cheap like $4 instead of $14 Uber rides in Nola. I mean 65 cent 12 minute Uber rides. Our most expensive city ride was $1.67, and that was a 17 minute ride across a few districts. Needless to say, the transportation was very cheap.
The arts market area was a stretch of open shops on a street in the 3rd district. There are 24 districts in the city, so it is very sprawling. We ended up buying two beautiful paintings for roughly $26, which we were thrilled about. Unfortunately we didn’t take a picture of them before shipping them back home with all of our other trinkets.
Here is the store front where we bought the paintings:
We walked through another market area, where every third shop was selling the same thing, a common occurrence in these “markets” in most of the cities we’ve visited. Our next stop (via Uber of course) was the Saigon Square. This market was different from the previous one because they were selling more clothing, like $48 North Face ski jackets, and purses, like $97 fancy brand well made (compared to Chinatown NYC). This was one of the few times we were prepared to buy bulky items, because we planned on sending a package home the next day.
Lindsay was very happy to finally find a good purse at one of the 48 markets we seemed to have walked through to this point.
Just a few blocks over was the Bitexico Financial Tower, the tallest in Saigon (68 floors). As we have learned from past experiences, going to the bar a few stories above the tourist trap observation deck is the go-to choice in all cases. One thing that was bizarre to me howver, is that the observation deck was on the 49th floor, the upper bar “Eon 51” was on the 51st floor. The floors above these two observation areas are listed as “Executive offices” which sounds incredibly sketchy to me. When in Vietnam I suppose?
After sunset, we went to a local coffee shop that our guide Khoa recommended. They had very small chairs, as is tradition in Vietnam.
We had dinner that night in a house that was converted to a restaurant, which was also very interesting. The food was delicious, but we were exhausted and made it back before 10pm (a very common occurrence on this trip as well).
A side story from the nights before exploring Saigon (after the Mekong and Cu Chi tour days) was the water puppets show. They had one at our hotel and it was very interesting. I went into it expecting it to be a basic puppet show with little to no entertainment value. To the contrary, it was quite the production! The people controlling the puppets from behind are very busy orchestrating the show. Roughly half the show as dancing and random artistic displays before the water puppet action began. The show was only an hour so it was very manageable to sit and watch. The music was certainly one of the best aspects. I don’t have great pictures from the show because of the low light, but I have two videos that can show you what the show included: Video One & Video Two
Two easy questions to answer: Yes, Lindsay loved the show. Yes, Lindsay purchased a 20″ tall water puppet figurine after we sent the box back home. So we are now toting a water puppet around Cambodia, Thailand, and potentially Bali.
One of the best meals we had in Saigon was actually Indian food, which was a natural detour for me. This feast was only $30, which usually costs around $65 in the US. Another delicious meal was the Uber Eats-esque Bahn Mi’s delivered to our hotel room. Four Bahn Mi’s, a Tiger beer, and a Coke was delivered to our for for just under $9. The food was delicious as well!
The next morning, we sent off a package home with all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs from our travels thus far. The package should be in New Orleans in “2-3 months,” but I have faith that it will arrive in 2 months via container ship.
The final tourist stop in Vietnam was the War Remnants Museum. It was intense. This was not the typical propaganda laden museum in Vietnam. They had an entire section dedicated to the photo journalists that died during the conflict. There was so much death and destruction in this country. Both sides were brutal at times, but the Agent Orange aspect certainly gives the US the edge in lasting destruction of the landscape in Vietnam. I had read about the US involvement in spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, but to see the effects in pictures in a museum was a much more intimate way to take in the information. We both learned a lot from visiting this museum and would highly recommend anyone visiting it while in Saigon.
I made a separate photo album for this museum because of its graphic content. Please be advised before scrolling through the album. War Remnants Pictures
After that intense experience, we collected our bags from the Rex Hotel and went to lunch with our excursion organizer Khoa.
It was a great way to wrap up our stay in Saigon, which was made significantly easier and most enjoyable through his expertise, advice, and organization of our excursions. Our visit in Saigon was our favorite thus far on the trip, and may be hard to top.