Getting into Vietnam was a bit of a struggle. In order to have entrance to the country, you must have your Visa filed online before landing. Then you go through another set of paperwork with passport pictures that gets verified with the government and a Visa sticker is place in your passport. After you pay some random fees on top of whatever other random fees you paid before, of course. I think we may have over-paid a bit for the Visa so do your research beforehand. I’ll try to write a post that details the process later. After about three hours, we made it through immigration and on our way to our air bnb.
We found that our transportation via Grab to our air bnb was very cheap, but the traffic in the city was insane. Vietnam had the most people on motorbikes that we had seen on our whole trip. Hundreds would line up at traffic lights and then move through the chaos effortlessly. I can’t imagine how many accidents there are or how people don’t get road rage, but it looks like an art form that I’ll never be able to master.
The air bnb was in a very central part of the city, right next to a food market. That was marketed toward tourist, a bit over-priced, but the food was good. Another market, half a block down, Ben Thanh market was open day and night and amassed hundreds of people. During the nighttime hundreds of carts were pushed out from the alleys and on to the street for a night market that was filled with the standard Asian knock-off goods. There were a few places to eat, but most of them in the market we avoided because they were selling things like turtles and other sea friends that I couldn’t bear to support.
Just past the area we were staying in was another place that closed off the streets at night and turned them into walking streets. All the bars were again competing for who could have the loudest sound system and best dancers. The street was loud, flashy, and filled with tourists. There were small pockets of local culture in the side alleys, where we were able to eat good food for a better price. We found that the Vietnamese had really mastered spring rolls, but much of the other food we weren’t the biggest fans of. I think we were expecting the food we had gotten back home that was labeled as Vietnamese but here, it was a little bland and not something we couldn’t make ourselves. I have a feeling that maybe we didn’t know where the best places to eat were or where the locals were eating.
Saigon was used as a stopover for us to see the rest of Vietnam. We spent our days wandering through markets and enjoying the cooler weather. It had been the first place that I could go out in the day in long pants and not be a continuous ball of sweat. We sampled lots of the local foods, rice noodle soup with random chunks of beef in a clear broth, known as Pho. There were also extra crisp spring rolls filled with veggies and sometimes meat. Fruit was everywhere, but not nearly as good as it had been in Thailand and Cambodia. Much of what we ate we didn’t know the name, so the pictures will have to do!
Vietnam in general was relatively cheap, so we thought that we could take in things like massages for Scott and nails for me. The nail place that I go to in the states has all Vietnamese people and they’ve always told me if I ever go to Vietnam to get my nails done there because it’s the best. They weren’t wrong, I was so happy with the services, and the price was even better.
Our last day in Saigon we went to the Vietnam war museum. The museum was a close walk from our air bnb, about 15 minutes. For just $5 each we gained entrance to the four-story museum, and the outdoor war vehicle park. We walked quickly through the refurbished tanks and planes and up to the top floor of the museum where your self-guided tour began. Each floor has several numbered rooms that you went through accordingly. Each room contained the history, first person accounts, photographs, mixed media, and memorabilia from the war. The most haunting part was the photographs of the effects of agent orange. Families for generations were poisoned from this chemical, resulting in disabled children missing body parts and in need of surgical interventions. It was so sad, but necessary for us to understand the tragedy these people have faced in their home country.
On our way home from the air bnb we walked past a woman squatted down over a small fire with coals and cast-iron presses resting on the top. We noticed she was selling these things that looked like flat waffles for just a dollar, so might as well try it. They turned out to be a crispy, sweet cookie, kind of like a flat fortune cookie, that were so addictive. The rest of our travels in Vietnam (3 weeks in total) we searched for these cookies again, and to no avail. I’ve even tried google-ing them, but I think they were a random special treat that we’ll have to savor in our memories forever!
The next few weeks we will be heading to Da Nang/Hoi An to hopefully enjoy some fresh local food and beaches!