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Bustling Ho Chi Minh City & tranquil Mekong Delta

 

My 3 weeks itinerary through Vietnam ends in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or Saigon (as the locals know it). I had 2 days and a half to spend here. Here I met again with Leroy, who got to the city one day before me and left one day before I.

From Mui Ne I took another bus to reach the big city. As I mentioned before, buses are the most convenient way to travel. If you arrange it through your hotel/hostel the bus will come and pick you up from there. Usually I prefer traveling by train because I can read and stretch my legs whenever I want, but during my stay in Vietnam I got to enjoy the conversations that you can have in the bus. On the bus to HCMC I met a woman who is teaching English to staff of a resort in Mui Ne. She wasn't a teacher but she did this for the past years, traveling around and teaching locals basic English. She was finding these opportunities through https://www.workaway.info/, a website who connects travellers who like to travel and do volunteer work in the place they travel. I'm thinking to try this some time.

Once in the big city, my first priority was to get to Metiseko store to pick up my dress that I bought from Hoi An. Afterwards I wandered a bit in the area and saw some iconic sights of the city.

People's Committee Building
One of the city's most prominent landmarks is home to Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee. Built between 1901 and 1908, the former Hotel de Ville decorates the north-western end of DL Nguyen Hue, but unfortunately the ornate interior is not open to the public.
Central Post Office
Another notable building in HCMC is the French-era post office. 
I loved the city's vibe from the first moment. It's so different from the other cities I've seen in Vietnam. I like the mix of old and new. 
Crossing the street here can be more challenging than in other places. A couple of times I had some locals who noticed my hesitation to cross the street and they helped me cross on the other side. What I learned so far is that I should look only straight and have faith the motorbikes will avoid me. When I was looking left-right I was starting to hesitate and stop in the middle of the road.  
This was supposed to be a cafe but I saw motorbikes going by. And in the background that should be a reference to Golden Bridge from Ba Na Hills Danang (which I skipped because it appears to be part of Sun World and it has been made recently). 
For dinner we went to Den Long - Home Cooked Vietnamese Restaurant, where the main star was the pineapple fried rice. It was a little bit spicy but the surprise bites of pineapple were balancing the taste. Other dishes we had were spring rolls, vegetarian tofu with tamarind sauce and baked tofu with vegetables. 
After dinner we went to Bui Vien street, a night life heaven, with bars. It's so crazy!!! The music is sounding loud from everywhere. Bars have small chairs on the street and when the police patrol passes by everyone folds them quickly. When the police is gone, everything gets back to normal.
Bui Vien street
I'm not a party animal but it felt good to be there. I would have hates to miss this spot.
On the next day we booked a day tour to Mekong Delta. I am not a fan of tours but sometimes it's easier to hop on a tour and follow the flow. I didn't have time to go to Mekong Delta otherwise and I wanted to have a glimpse of the place.
Pier in My Tho village
After 1,5-2h driving from HCMC we got to a village we boarded a motor boat and rode along some islands. We stopped on one of those islands to try some local fruits. In foreground we have dragon fruit, then small bananas and jackfruit, and in the background another fruit that I didn't get the name and ananas. From all of them I liked the dragon fruit, ananas and bananas. I like the jackfruit cooked not raw. 

A couple of times locals told me I look Vietnamese. I can't tell. I've tried these twin baskets with shoulder pole and empty they seem heavy. All my respect to those women who carry this heavy loaded on the city streets all day long!

Here we took a small boat to explore the lush, green canals.


We also had a stop to a coconut candy shop, lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant and a trip with a rowing boat. On the way back to HCMC we stopped also to Vinh Trang Pagoda.
Vinh Trang Pagoda

Seating Buddha

Reclined Buddha

Standing Buddha
When we got back to the city it was already 5pm. For the rest of the evening we just went out for dinner and went to Nguyen Hue Walking Street. This street has a different vibe. There are a lot of youngsters singing, dancing, enjoying their time there.
A street with murals
The last day in HCMC I was by myself.
Breakfast @L'Usine
After breakfast I went to War Remnants Museum. This was the most dreadful museum I have ever visited. It depicts the devastating impact of the American war on Vietnamese civilians. While some displays are one-sided, many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating the atrocities are from US sources. It's best to go a little bit informed about what happened during that war. Like any story there are many sides and in order to better understand history we need to get all parties point of view and then have our own opinion. 
I really couldn't go through all exposition. The part that moved me greatly was the war seen through children's eyes. The painting bellow depicts a teenager who was exposed to the orange agent and got disabled. At school she got bullied by the other children, her father was having panic attacks from the helicopters engine sound and eventually died at the age of 58 due to an illness induced by exposure to orange agent. Despite all this she grew older and stronger and founded a charitable organisation which helps people who went through the same horrors of the war.   
After the visit to the museum I just wandered around. I needed some time to get over those photographs.
Secret Garden Restaurant
For dinner I went to this hidden restaurant. I was seated at a long table sharing with other people. Before I left a handsome guy was seated in front of me and we started chatting. I really enjoyed this solo trip. It gave me the opportunity to interact with other people. And the fact that you might not see that person again makes me value more the present moment and just be there. When travelling accompanied you don't get to do that too much. 


I love the contrast between old and new!
Savoury mini pancakes

Mango salad with fried snakehead fish
After dinner I decide to go to a rooftop bar (@Social Club Rooftop) to end this amazing journey in high note. During the past 3 weeks, sometimes I was feeling anxious and thinking what I'm doing here?! But at the same time if I look back I see how brave I was to travel to the other end of the world by myself!  

Dragon slayer - Bombay Gin, fresh dragon fruit, peach & lychee 
I can't believe how fast 3 weeks went by. Somewhere mid time I was feeling homesick and now I'm a little bit nostalgic. I'm looking forward to go back home too. 
If I look back, the highlights of my trip were Ha Long Bay, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City. If I could go back in time, I would spend more time exploring the nature of the northern part, and skipp some of the central/south sights.  

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