Jun 26, 2014

Vietnam: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Ho Chi Minh City

The people from the South (except for city and government officials) still refer to this place as Saigon. Many of my relatives live in this super busy Metropolis. I have been here twice before, and each time I go it becomes increasingly more dense and westernized. 

About Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)

  • Population: 8.19 million (vs. 5.5 million in Toronto, Canada)
  • Location: Ho Chi Minh City is southeastern Vietnam. 
  • Districts: It is compromised of several districts, of which "District 1" is the most urban and central.
District map from Codie Maps

Bến Thành Market

Ben Thanh Market is the largest market in downtown Saigon, located in District 1. Its a popular destination for tourists and you can find textiles, souvenirs, local eateries and a fresh meat/food market. 

After entering Ben Thanh Market, I also realize I have my dad's gait too. Many of the sales people would try to beckon me in English, tourists in French and even Japanese. It was interesting. "Please sir, take a look at these khakis!"

You can find textiles, clothing, souvenirs all in this famous market. 

Downtown Saigon

I spotted a Baskin Robins, Starbucks, McDonalds (which first opened in Saigon in February 2014), Paris Baguette! My cousins took me here to stop by briefly and look at different tourist spots. 

This place is so much more developed than what I remember the last time I visited 9 years ago. 
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to see a Starbucks Coffee here, especially since Vietnam has such deep-rooted history in coffee. However, they have opened several locations since introducing opening their flagship store in 2013. Prices are still higher than regular coffee, but I believe many young people in Vietnam (like in Canada and the US) go for the "ambience".
There was a Starbucks in every corner. 

Cyclo - the 3-wheel bicycle taxi

These have been around Vietnam for as long as I can remember, and still remains popular among tourists. They are not as common as they used to be as taxi fares have deceased and going on buses are not more affordable. Supposedly they are banned from major traffic routes because of the hazard they present on the road.


The major mode of transportation in Vietnam are motorbikes. Usually in Toronto/Hamilton we don't see this volume of motorbikes unless there is a meetup (gang or enthusiasts lol). 125 cc can go from $500 to $1000 Canadian depending on the brand (Honda, etc). These bikes are strong enough to motor through uneven ground and comfortably fit an entire family on board. 

Whats interesting is that some large trucks and cars do not check their blindspots, so motorists have to beep to make larger vehicles aware they are coming up from behind. 

My dad hitching a ride back to my aunt's place while he left us girls to go explore!

Saigon River

Notre Dame Basilica

Constructed by the French in 1880, this cathedral is a famous fixation in downtown Saigon. All the original building materials were imported from France! The day we went there was a married couple taking wedding photos. It's a beautiful sight to behold. 

Notre Dame Basilica in central Saigon, Vietnam.
One that I took in Saigon early morning at 7 am. 

Saigon Central Postal Office

This building was constructed in the early 20th century back when Vietnam was referred to as "French Indochina". The design is neoclassical and is a big tourist attraction today!

Looking super touristy outside the postal office!

Getting our eat on!

Getting Pampered

I got my hair permanently straightened today, which took a total of  5 hours. I also got a pedicure and my brows done too! The hairstylist is a family friend and she knows a great deal of English. We spoke about life, travel, relationships, it was great. She did a fantastic job (at a fraction of the price in comparison to what would have been charged in Canada). 

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  1. Your hair is looking great! Also, that's kind of scary to have those kids riding on a bike! Yikes! Well, hopefully everyone is being safe. The Market place looks like it'd be a lot of fun to look thru... and, I'm not surprised there's a Starbucks either... lol That place is everywhere :P

  2. haha thanks Jessica! I can't wash my hair for three days (according to straightening perm instructions). Its super flat right now but I'm looking forward to getting a little bit of volume back after a few washes :D

    And starbucks.. yeah.. it is everywhere.

  3. Holy crap Annie you're looking incredibly gorgeous. I got a massage and headwash done by a salon and it was a really relaxing experience, glad to hear that you were able to have some fun too! :D