Three Days in Ho Chi Minh City
Our first stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City. We flew into the Tan Son Nhat International Airport from Phnom Phen. During our travels we heard very mixed reviews of Ho Chi Minh City. We were told that it very busy and dirty, that there was nothing really to see, and many people didn’t recommend spending more than one day there. After three days in Ho Chi Minh City I found that I actually really enjoyed the city. We ate delicious food, visited cool coffee shops and great museums, and walked along some beautiful boulevards.
We stayed near the Bui Vien Walking Street in a tiny hostel. Many backpackers stay in this area as the Bui Vien Walking Street has many bars and restaurants and is similar to Khao San road in Bangkok at night.
Walking around Ho Chi Minh City was challenging. In some areas there were nice large sidewalks for you to walk on. In other areas the sidewalk were very narrow and almost non-existent.
Sidewalks were sometimes blocked by street food vendors and motorbikes.
Cars often parked on the sidewalks when there was limited on-street parking in the city.
Motorbikes often went wherever there was space, including sidewalks. There were occasional barriers on sidewalks to prevent motorbikes from driving on them, but they still manage to get through, even when traffic officers are watching.
One of the nicer areas to walk around was the area surrounding the Vietnam War Museum. Here there were many beautiful large boulevards with trees lining the sides that were similar to boulevards in Europe.
Bui Vien Walking Street
Nguyen Hue Walking Street
On our way to a rooftop bar, we walked through the Nguyen Hue Walking Street at sunset. It was a great relief to see a large open space after struggling to walk our way through the city. At one end there is the Hotel de Ville from the French colonial era with a large statue of Ho Chi Minh right in front, and at the other end is the Saigon river.
The street was renovated in 2015 and is very large, open, and clean - making it exceptional for Ho Chi Minh City. There were both tourists and locals walking along the street at sunset. There were two fountains with lights where children could play and cool down from the heat of the day. Vendors sold food and small toys along the square.
Around the square were expensive name-brand stores and new hotels. There were even crosswalks with lights! The cars and motorbikes didn’t obey the lights even if the pedestrian had a green and the drivers had a red. One can never be too careful walking around Ho Chi Minh City.
There are 8.6 million people living in Ho Chi Minh City and an estimated 8.5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, the highest in any city in Vietnam. Car ownership is very expensive in Vietnam, so many people choose to own motorbikes instead. With the extremely high number of motorbikes in the city, the streets are always congested, leading to a high amount of air pollution. Motorbike riders wore facemasks to protect themselves from the pollution.
We used Uber a few times when we needed to get to a destination that wasn't walkable. We all already had accounts and were comfortable using it. We heard about the local app Grab and saw Grab Motorbikes all over the city, they always wore green helmets or sweatshirts with their logo.
There were many buses in the city but I never took them. When we asked the hostel about them, they said that they were a great way to get around but didn’t run according to a schedule so you would have to wait around for them. This is probably one of the reasons that people chose to ride motorbikes instead of public transportation.