Ho Chi Minh City

IMG_6502

Saigon

The largest Vietnamese city by population is located in the south-eastern region of Vietnam, 1,760km (1,090miles) south of Hanoi. The city has undergone several name changes, which reflects the settlement of various ethnic groups, and the various political and cultural groups. Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of the city, however the former name of Saigon is still commonly used.  When Saigon was the official name of the city, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina before becoming the independent republic of south Vietnam. In 1976, Saigon merged with the Gia Dinh province, which surrounded the city and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City, named after the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of history. The area that reflects the city was once a part of the Kingdom of Cambodia. In the 18th century, relations with France began. Even when the Japanese occupied Saigon, the French still continued to administer Vietnam until 1945.  Although the city of Saigon was relatively unaffected by world war two (compared to other areas of Vietnam), it played a huge role in the Vietnam war, the fall of Saigon is described as  marking the end of the Vietnam war and as illustrating the beginning of the transition period of the unification of Vietnam.

This city has undergone so much change, and nowadays resembles city life, full of pulsing energy. The city is bold and dynamic.

IMG_6477IMG_6478

District one

We left the beaches of Nha Trang on an overnight train to the largest city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. Our train ride was about nine hours long. We arrived early and checked into our guest house and set out to explore the city. The city is separated into twenty four districts, we were staying in district one. District one is the commercial and financial center  and is a very popular district for travelers. District one and district three is home to the majority of sights and filled with bars and restaurants.

With its rich history, fascinating culture and ever growing into a modern city, Ho Chi Minh City is very interesting  place to explore. The city has a mix of old new, from buildings with the classic French architecture to sleek new skyscrapers, from the typical vietnamese street food to fancy rooftop bars and restaurants, plus the charm of the ancient ornate temples and pagodas. This city was different from the seemly reserved capital, Hanoi, and contained different vibes from the other places that we visited on our journey through Vietnam. It was so interesting to see the diversity throughout Vietnam.

IMG_6505

Highlights and must sees

Ho Chi Minh square

Surrounded by stunning French colonial buildings, this historic square is a symbol of history of south Vietnam during the 19th and 20th century.

Independence Palace

Also called “Reunification Palace”  and was a significant government center during the war.

Saigon Notre- Dame Palace

Represents the French architecture and charm of the city. A cathedral built by the French.

Saigon opera house

Elegant French architecture, I was in awe of its beauty.

Central post office

A remnant of French colonial times, withs its stunning architecture.

War remnants museum

A museum which greatly documents and showcases the brutal impacts that war has on the civilian victims.

Ben Thanh market

A huge market, a great place to buy local art and souvenirs. I enjoyed walking around amongst the chaos of this busy market.

IMG_6487IMG_6490IMG_6682IMG_6669IMG_6670

The end of this backpacking adventure

We spent seven nights based in Ho Chi Minh City, after exploring areas of the north and central region of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City was a great place to finish the trip, we were able to explore the culture and beauty of the city and enjoy the nightlife, with both the local people and other travelers.

Mid way through our stay in Ho Chi Minh City we took a one night, two day tour to the amazing Mekong Delta .  Another great tour and very easy to access from the city.

Traveling through Vietnam was a really enriching and enjoyable backpacking journey. My knowledge of the history of Vietnam greatly increased. I loved experiencing the diverse climate and different landscapes throughout the country.  This was a really rewarding and memorable trip, arriving in the north at Hanoi and traveling throughout the country to reach the south. From looking into the effects of war, to the breathtaking world heritage sites, Vietnam has a lot of beauty to offer. From the history, culture, people, diverse environment and the delicious local food, Vietnam is a great country to explore.

IMG_6496

boatstreet-viewstrain

Advertisement

Hanoi

 

IMG_5631

Backpacking journey through Vietnam

After a week in Bangkok, Thailand, we flew (only a 1 hour and 50 minute flight) to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. This was the start of our six week backpacking journey from the North to the South of Vietnam. Hanoi, was out first introduction to this amazing country. As one of the most ancient capital cities in the world, we found the city quite charming with its mix of Russian, Chinese and French influencers. With its rich history, culture and charming atmosphere, Hanoi was the perfect introduction to Vietnam.

IMG_5647IMG_5648

bikes

Old quarter

We stayed at a guest house in the old quarter  (the Hoan Kiem district). This district is considered to be the busiest in Hanoi and the most popular district with tourists. Plus, the old quarter is the oldest developed area in Vietnam! I found wondering through the streets of the old quarter to be rather charming, as you can witness generations of Vietnamese life. Strolling through the ancient commercial streets is a must do in Hanoi. Street food and street artists are prominent. Each street was unique and provided a different glimpse into the local way of life. I always find that just roaming the streets, with no plan is the best way to gain a sense of any of the locations that I visit, and the best way to find hidden gems.

IMG_5664IMG_5668IMG_5676IMG_5657

 

Highlights and must sees

  • Hoan Kiem lake and Ngoc Son temple: We found ourselves relaxing by this lake on most days of our trip. It a a calming place to rest from  roaming around the hectic streets. The lake surrounds the gorgeous Ngoc Son temple.
  • Ho Chi Minh museum: An informative museum dedicated to the late Vietnamese leader; Ho Chi Minh.
  • Ho Chi Minh mausoleum: The final resting place of the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.
  • Temple of literature: Visit the country’s oldest University! Although this historic site of education was destroyed during a war, restoration work is ongoing to retain this 1,000 year old temple of education.
  • Thang long water puppet theatre: Watch a traditional performance at this gorgeous theatre, seeing this performance was one of my favorite nights in Hanoi.
  • Dong Xuan Market: Shop and bargain hunt in Hanoi’s largest indoor market! Even if you don’t like to shop, walking around this market is amazing to just take in the city’s atmosphere.
  • Vietnamese coffee: Try the local coffee at one of the numerous cafe shops around the city, it is strong and delicious!
  • Binge on street food: Try the local street food, there are many options in the old quarter and around the Hoan Kiem lake. Full of flavor and so cheap.
  • Nightlife: Experience the laid back Hanoi night life, cheap beer bars on street corners, to fancy cocktail bars in the French quarter.

IMG_5698IMG_5694IMG_5692IMG_5683IMG_5680IMG_5677IMG_5660IMG_5661IMG_5662IMG_5654IMG_5650IMG_5649

 

 Trips from Hanoi

For the beginning of our backpacking journey of Vietnam we based ourselves in Hanoi. From Hanoi we were able to take three trips before heading south.

  1. A day trip to the stunning  Tam Coc, Ninh Binh
  2.  Three days in the magical Ha Long Bay
  3.  Four days in the breathtaking Sapa

From Hanoi, we continued our journey south along the coast, next stop Hue 

park

Bangkok

Krung Thep Maha Nakhon

city-views

Bangkok, crazy, chaotic and absolutely fantastic! I have visited this wonderful city twice, and would go back for more, given the chance! This city is amazing to explore. Culturally rich, friendly locals with a great city vibe. There are many different areas of Bangkok to explore, gaining varying experiences from each.  In amongst the craze there are many hidden gems. From Royalty, temples, markets, canals, shopping, street art and a vibrant nightlife, this city has something for everyone. The food is also wonderful; local, fresh and healthy.

water-front

Sukhumvit

For our first visit to the capital of Thailand, we stayed at a guest house in the Sukhumvit district of Bangkok. I loved this district, so vibrant and full of life. The nightlife was amazing, from night markets to classy bars. The shopping was fun, street markets and easy enough to get to the luxury malls to look around. Also, Sukhumvit road is the longest road in Thailand, and one of the longest boulevards in the world, pretty cool. Our stay felt authentic and we were able to hang out with the locals, which is always so fulfilling and gives you a better learning experience about that destination.

bangkok-roadsshock

Khao San Road

For our second visit, we decided to stay at a backpackers on the famous Khao San road. Located in the northern part of Rattanakosin. Described as the backpacking hub of South East Asia. It was crowded and full of partying. This was fun to experience for a day or two, however I did prefer our first stay in the Sukhumvit district, which gave us a better feel of how people actually live in Bangkok. I would love to return to Bangkok and have the opportunity  to stay in a different district. Bangkok has 50 districts, and these are split up into 169 subdistricts! So there are plenty of areas to stay in and explore.

fruit-market

Highlights and must-sees

  • Grand palace – The official residence of the Kings of Siam. Located in the Rattanakosin area (the old city of Bangkok).
  • Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the emerald Buddha. Located in the Phra Nakhon district (the historic center of Bangkok).
  • Floating market-the closet one is Taling Chan which is fairly small. If you have time and want to travel outside of the city, the top rated floating markets near Bangkok are the Damnoen Saduek floating market and the Amphawa floating market.
  • Yaowarat road – Bangkok’s Chinatown, which is located in the Samphathawong district.
  • Wat Po- Buddhist temple complex located in the Phra Nakhon district.
  • Chao Phraya River – The “river of kings’ that flows through the city. Provides scenic views of the city and you can use boat transportation to get around to the different districts.
  • Chatuchak– a weekend market and one of the largest markets in the world! A popular shopping center for the local people, is now becoming popular with tourists.
  • Nightlife – Bangkok has a very vibrant nightlife. The best areas to go – Sukhumvit, Khao San road and the royal city avenue (RCA).

royal-building

top-of-buildingroyalnight-marketrailcastlebuddahbangkokbab