Tag Archives: Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon?


It doesn’t matter what name you choose  to call it, Ho Chi Minh is a BIG city!

Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City

It covers an area of over 2,000sq. kms, and is made up of about 24 districts, with District 1 and District 3 being the most popular for tourists. These two areas have the most sights, museums, eateries, bars, etc.

I loved Saigon (I choose to call it by its former name, don’t ask why, I just do)!  It somehow felt like an “Asian London”  if that makes any sense!  The size, the new with the old, the way it welcomes visitors and makes you feel at home.  Although it is an extremely busy metropolis I felt totally comfortable wandering the streets from one tourist site to another. Of course, crossing the road was a feat in itself!  Luckily there are no drunken westerners on motorbikes to contend with like in Bali, just locals who have the dodging and weaving down to a fine art!

Saigon has many beautiful buildings, one being the Reunification Palace which is open to the public and well worth a couple of hours of your time.  For those of us old enough to remember, it is where the tank broke through the gates and thus signalled the end of the war in 1976.  The Palace has been kept really well and down in the basement you can see the  “war rooms” as it was back during the war. It’s a must for anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

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We found Saigon very easy to navigate and really enjoyed wandering around each day. The people are far less “reserved” than those in the northern city of Hanoi.  Our favourite place of course had to be where the street food was in District 1,  Ben Thanh Market.

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BBQ Grill stall

food marketWe ate there every day, no matter what the time, it was a place to sit and chill with great food and cold beer. Can’t wait to go back in November and take my friend!

There are so many stalls serving different types of food, not all Vietnamese but Indian, Korean, French and I wish I could stay there long enough to try them all!

Food Saigon
Typical dish cost about $2 !

The markets are all undercover and next to the food is the retail market.  If you can’t find what you’re looking to buy here,  it doesn’t exist! market There are clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, kitchen ware, watches, jewellery, gadgets just about anything you can think of. Haggling with the sellers is huge fun, they expect it and if you do it well there are bargains to be had! Just have a figure in mind and stick to it.  Be prepared to walk away if they won’t agree – they’ll eventually give in!

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Marble Mountain, Lady Buddha and more….


Oh, beautiful Da Nang!  On the back of a motorbike from Hoi An to Da Nang beach, nice wide roads and cooling breeze – can’t wait to get to the beach!

Da Nang Beach.jpg
Da Nang Beach

Oops, forgot I can’t swim!  Never mind, just lazing around keeping out of the heat of the sun watching Rick swim was good enough for me!  Dan Nang beach is beautiful, white sand,  lots of sun lounges and beachside restaurants a great way to spend a morning.

Bike hire in Vietnam is really cheap, about 5AUD per day and petrol easily available and equally as cheap.  Once out of the busy cities, the roads are wide and for the most part empty.

We spent a few days on the bike leaving Hoi An and basically just getting lost!

Dan Nang beach
Dan Nang beach with basket boats

After the beach we cruised up to Marble Mountain,  where we decided to take the elevator to the top instead of climbing the 150-odd steps!

Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain is a group of five marble and limestone mountains, named after the five elements of the ancient oriental philosophy: metal, wood, water, fire and earth.

Once at the top there it is quite a surprise, much bigger than we thought and there are temples and pagodas everywhere!

Temple Entrance Marble Mountain
Temple Entrance Marble Mountain

The main attraction though are the temples inside the cave, it is definitely worth the trip for that alone.  We easily spent a few hours here,  wandering around and stopping every now and then to take in the view and grab another cold drink.

We decided not to be totally lazy, and took the steps on the way down!

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After a nice seafood lunch at one of the beachside restaurants, we continued along the beach road and up the mountain to see the Lady Buddha.

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She is amazing, so pure white and standing 72 metres high, the largest statue in South-east Asia. There are 17 floors in the statue, each floor has an altar with 21 Buddha statues which have different shapes, facial expression and posture.

Lady Buddha can be seen from anywhere in the city, standing on the side of the mountain she dominates, and the views from there are spectacular.IMGP0284 (1)

There are many statues at this site, all are pristine white and made of solid marble.

Dragon at Lady Buddha
Dragon at Lady Buddha

Again, like everywhere you visit in Vietnam,  the sense of respect for everything is something you can’t help but feel.



 

 

 

Hoi An – City of Lanterns


You’re staying HOW LONG?

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That’s the response we got when telling people we were staying 10 days in Hoi An!  Apparently no-one stays that long!  A few days, maybe 5, but usually no more.  I guess that’s because there isn’t really a great deal to do in Hoi An, but unlike most visitors, we rented a motorbike and went off exploring nearby villages, beaches and other places like  Da Nang and My Son.

My Son
Old Temple at My Son

 

My Son
Bridge leading to ruins of My Son sacred site

Hoi An itself is a beautiful city and rightly named the City of Lanterns.  Sitting on the riverside, the old town is closed to vehicles at night making walking the streets very comfortable and safe.  Numerous restaurants, bars and little shops everywhere all plying for your attention.  We met so many wonderful people there,  the Vietnamese are so welcoming and friendly.  We shared a lot of laughs and jokes with them all and the girls in the markets loved to rub Rick’s tummy exclaiming  “Happy Buddha!”

Bridge Hoi An
Bridge over river that separates the Ancient City from the newer city

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The markets are a sight to see, the fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood is all so fresh, and unlike a lot of markets, it doesn’t smell!

If we had been staying in self-catering accommodation we would definitely been shopping there every day!  The fish were still flapping about in the bowls, they were straight off the fishing boats!

At night the city transforms into this wonderland of lights and for a few cents you can buy a candle and set it afloat along the river with hundreds of others. Hoi An is one of the cheapest places we stayed as far as food and drink went. A bottle of beer could be had for less than a dollar and cocktails for about $3. A meal for the two of us cost about $20 including drinks!  And during happy hour all cocktails are 2 for 1 “until you are drunk!” (quote)

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However, our favourite food was the street food, and the night markets provided that in abundance!  For a dollar or two a meal and a laugh could be had from any of the carts and we sampled just about all of them!

And again, like everywhere in Vietnam, it is the people that make it so good, the feeling that you belong there and are so very welcome.

Street Seller in Hoi An
Street Seller in Hoi An