James McIntosh, February 17 2015
Monday, May 26th, 2014
While waiting in baggage claim we met a Vietnamese woman who offered to “split” a taxi with us to the backpacker district of Saigon near Pham Ngu Lao Street.
We dropped her off outside the ice cream shop she owned, before continuing in the taxi to our hotel, Beautiful Saigon 3 where the driver told us she paid for our whole fare.
The hotel is positioned in the heart of the backpacker district in walking distance to a number of restaurants, bars and coffee shops – including a Starbucks and McDonald’s.
Since it was already late, we decided to eat in the restaurant at our hotel before heading out to explore the streets of Saigon. After roaming around and checking out a bunch of different restaurants and bars, we decided to set up shop among the crowds of backpackers sitting street-side on bamboo mats drinking dollar beers.
We spent the rest of the night sitting on the side of the road, drinking, talking and people watching.
Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Having already been to Saigon back in 2011 with @THE_REAL_JW, I helped lead Tarynne on a whirlwind tour of the best sights in the city.
Our first stop was the Independence Palace, the home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. At 10:45 a.m. on April 30, 1975 it was the site of the end of the Vietnam War when tanks from the North Vietnamese Army came crashing through the gates. The building is now known as Reunification Palace, and serves as a museum celebrating North Vietnamese Army’s victory.
After touring around the palace, we made our way to the War Remnants Museum. The museum contains a variety of different exhibits that show the tragedies of war. The exhibits are clearly one-sided and put together from the perspective of the North Vietnamese, but it’s definitely eye-opening seeing the war depicted from the other side.
Oh yeah – of all the interesting memorabilia for sale – Tarynne gets Despicable Me, Monsters Inc and Up coasters…for the glasses and house we don’t even have. Hey, it was a good purchase.
We ended up closing down the War Remnants Museum, and it was already beginning to get dark as we made our way home. On the way back to the hotel Tarynne made us stop at a gym to see if they offered yoga classes – they did, but Tarynne determined it was so expensive the zen benefit wasn’t worth it.
Once we made it back to our room we cleaned up and set out for dinner. We decided to eat at a place @THE_REAL_LW and I frequented during our past visit to Saigon. The restaurant is located at the end of one of the backpacker alleys and made up of a couple of plastic tables and chairs.
We sat back and relaxed under the lights of the city, sipping on Saigon beers and enjoying yummy, cheap Vietnamese food. Eventually we decided it was time to head back to the street-side bamboo mats for some night cap drinks and quality people watching.
Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
During the night a massive rain storm rolled in and from the moment we woke up until late afternoon it poured rain. We took refuge for most of the day in a Starbucks and I worked while Tarynne researched our next few destinations.
(T: The streets all flooded which translates to a no-go with citywide plumbing. Our hotel smelled like a septic tank so we played musical rooms a handful of times before deciding our only option was to burn enough incense until a thick heavy scented smoke distracted our noses). When the rain stopped we went back to the hotel and booked our trip for the next day to the Mekong Delta and subsequent boat and bus ride to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
With our trip booked for the following day, we decided to take one last stroll around the city. Dark clouds loomed on the horizon behind the Saigon skyline, but directly above us the rain held off.
We set out in the evening light to take a look at the famous Saigon Post Office and nearby cathedral. Unfortunately we weren’t able to bring the camera due to the imminent threat of a torrential downpour.
Thankfully, after seeing the post office and cathedral we were able to make it back to Pham Ngu Lao Street without getting caught in a rainstorm.
We ate dinner at the restaurant in our hotel before returning to our drinking and people watching perch on the bamboo mats on the side of the road. We ended up sitting roadside late into the night, chatting with the people around us.
With a large number of Saigon Beers in our bellies and an early start the next morning we finally determined it was time to go home, but not before we made a quick detour to the neighborhood McDonald’s for a late night snack.
“Boo, we hit McDougs hard last night.”