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Saigon oi! 15 November 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
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After almost two and a half years in this lovely country of Vietnam, I have finally made it to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time. Not going earlier was not by design, I just thought it was one of those places that I would probably end up visiting often, so I never made the concerted effort. But being in my last year now, I realise that time is running out! So when my partner had to go down for work, last week, we tagged on a weekend to see the city that all my friends have told me I need to go see.

And what a fantastic city it is!

We chose the perfect time of year to go – Hanoi is slowly getting colder and more misty, and the annual rice stalk burning outside of the city recently left it in a haze of pollution. It is the time of year I am always struggling, I can’t breathe, my skin feels greasy and clogged, and there is a layer of dirt on everything. Rain cannot come soon enough to clear the air.

In contrast, Ho Chi Minh City proffered amazing weather, including 27 degrees, sunny skies, and visibility going for miles. It flirted with us in an outrageous manner, offering one-day-old Australian newspapers, little coffee shops and bars with tasteful interiors, friendly locals and amazing hospitality.

Ho Chi Minh City is the easy life – for an expat who doesn’t really want to live in Asia, it is the perfect option. There are cricket and AFL teams in abundance, everyone seems to have amazing English, and in District 1, there are more Western faces than locals.

However, based on all of the latter, I am glad we are living in Hanoi at this stage of our lives. No kids, still young, happy to try slightly crazy stuff. I love the fact that I have been forced to learn the language more than I would have in Saigon. I love the crazy, sometimes smelly and dirty, but more often than not challenging, adventurous and amazing city I live in.

But it is true that my personal experience (and I am sure many others do not agree) is that to survive Hanoi and it’s ups and downs, I have sometimes felt the need to leave, even just for a weekend. A break from the hassle. An easy weekend, where I feel I am not challenging myself. Lazy, perhaps, but true.

I am sure there are lots of parts in Ho Chi Minh City that would have been plenty challenging. I only went for the weekend, and two days is by no means enough to even get a feel for the city. We mostly saw District 1 and some of District 5. We saw some sights and we did some shopping. We hung out with friends we had not seen for a while. We enjoyed the food. So a lovely  little escape it was.

Saigon almost felt like Bangkok’s little kid brother. Easy, fun, entertaining. But small, and manageable. Worth the visit, and I certainly hope to be back to see more of this amazing city. I did not even scratch the surface.

And after a weekend of trying my best at understanding the Southern accent, I feel I speak better Northern. How odd.

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