Well! They say you will either love this city or hate it. I loved it.
After visiting the Angkor temples, I was looking forward to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An. I had one day to spare between Angkor and Danang and I had to decide between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh. I scoured the internet to help me decide better and was left befuddled by mixed to extreme reviews.
I decided that it might not be worth the effort as it was a matter of just a day. I decided to choose the place which could fit easily into my itinerary.
It came to be Ho Chi Minh.
What to visit in Ho Chi Minh when you have just one day
The most fun and exhausting part of working on an itinerary is to list the places, read about their significance and attempt to solve the traveling salesman problem.
Since I had just one day to spend, I gravitated more towards to living the spirit of the city. I zeroed down on:
- Independent house
- Notre Dame
- Post office
- China town
- Pagodas and Chinese temples
Where to stay
District 1 is considered the cultural hub of Ho Chi Minh. I booked a decent hotel in Bui Vien Street because of two reasons:
It is closer to all the monuments present in my list
It is adjacent to the famous beer street of Ho Chi Minh
It is rightly said as the backpacker street. I found this place more inclusive as I could see the equal number of residents and visitors strolling around. The people, music, and aroma of mouthwatering food added to the exclusivity of this place.
How to get around
If you are considering public transport, the first thing to do is to download the map. I remember installing an app (or visiting a website) which was convenient (once you have spent quality time understanding it). It provides the routes, bus numbers, stops, and timings. Public transport is the cheapest.
The next best thing is Uber (there is a local cab hailing service also, which offers competitive prices). I took uber to return from China town to Bui Vien street. It was convenient.
The third option is to hire a motorbike, which I kept avoiding until Hanoi. It is cheaper than Uber.
I read about renting motorbikes. I was awestruck looking at the sheer number of motorbikes on the roads and how those scurried on the streets of Ho Chi Minh. Unless you are an expert, the above three options might work better.
My Experience in Ho Chi Minh
It was a delight to discover the city. Riding in buses, trying to communicate with bus conductors, gaping out of the window at the brightly and colorfully lit cafes emitting hues of red, pink, blue and green – everything has stayed with me.
The Pasture street area near the Independent palace was spruced up with artificial arches embossed with beautiful patterns. Boutique café shops and restaurants lined the streets.
My visit to the Central Post Office was overwhelming. It felt like going back in time. Central Post Office is built in colonial style with magnificent arches and columns and exudes the charm of nostalgia. It was brimming with people, mostly tourists.
I posted a card to my mother, wondering if she would ever receive it. This was one of the most delightful experiences.
In the evening, I headed to the beer street. I have been to Khan Sam market in Bangkok but somehow this place was more personal, inclusive and real. It did not seem orchestrated.
The streets are lined with restaurants serving food and drinks. People sit on small stools and chairs arranged on the streets. It was chaotic, kind of chaos which works.
I could not capture that in my camera, however, I captured the scene on food street in Hanoi
At 10:30 PM and I decided to go to a Sky Bar.
I headed to the nearest one, Chill Sky Bar. There was a cover charge of 200000 dongs and decided to give it a try.
The atmosphere sent me into a trance. It presented the view of the lit-up city. I could see a thousand bikes scurrying on the roads, hordes of people in the streets and on signals. I could feel the city breathing and moving. The view was vivid, wide and hypnotic, with music ranging from popular to rap to reggae.
At 1 am, I decided to walk back to my hotel. The city was still up, food and drinks were still getting served, the streets were still brimming with people, motorbikes were bustling, music was still playing.
I had a flight to catch to Danang at 6 am and I was joyous thinking how good this day had been.