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I am so enamored of Saigon’s beauty, it inspired me to write again. And no, it’s not just the city’s facade and great food, it’s the resilient and unpretentious people, with their fascinating culture and history that captivated this wanderer’s heart. While many places have caught my eye, only a few have made a lasting impact on my soul (I’m dramatic like that). I’m grateful to have experienced this kind of high. Traveling over material things, always.

Ho Cho Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is one of the most interesting cities I’ve been to.  Despite being a progressive city, the people are still deeply rooted to their heritage.  I am so fascinated with their culture, I opted to immerse myself in their everyday routine instead of going to the usual touristy spots.  OK, I did a bit of the touristy thing but just because those worth-seeing places are not far from each other.

And the food…don’t get me started with the food! Everything is just so good, from the street food to the restaurant dishes.  No wonder Anthony Bourdain keeps coming back to Vietnam.

We started our day with an early morning walk and a lot of death-defying street crossing towards Ben Thanh market.

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It was in a little stall (out of a thousand stalls) where we tasted the best pho in the world. And after a dozen or so restaurants, even pricey ones, nothing can still beat this winning bowl of spicy seafood pho.

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After breakfast, we wandered into the colorful alleys of the market.  I could stay in Ben Thanh market the whole day.

Vietnam's famous lacquerware

Vietnam’s famous lacquerware

Did I mention that their coffee is out of this world?

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We promised to go back to the market before flying home as we wanted to explore the city on our first day.  We gamely walked the streets, occasionally stopping to buy a cup of coffee (and banh mi) from interesting local shops. No Starbucks please!

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I also noticed that the Vietnamese people love art.  There were a lot of shops selling paintings, reproduced art pieces with varying themes from landscapes to heroism.

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Deeper downtown, we stopped by the War Remnants Museum.  It was an experience that I could not forget because everything in it was so heartbreaking.  But it was also here that I began to understand the history and culture of Vietnam. And I truly admire the resilience of its people considering that the Vietnam War only happened in recent history.

Moving on to the brighter side of things, we did the obligatory stopovers to famous Ho Chi Minh City landmarks – Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace, Saigon Central Post Office, People’s Committee Hall, The Opera House and even the old Rex Hotel.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

People's Committee Hall

People’s Committee Hall

It was fun and all but what happened in between those stopovers were far more interesting.

Like seeing these newlyweds running in the middle of a downpour…

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Chitchatting with the friendly coconut guy…

hcm-3And having to wear raincoats instead of using an umbrella amidst the heavy rain.  Umbrellas are for the fainthearted.

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These unexpected moments truly endeared the city to me, something that can never be written into any itinerary.  Thank you, Saigon.  I’ll be back soon.

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