In those few days, we spent a lot of time sitting in little plastic chairs on the sidewalk, drinking very strong and sweet coffee, and watching the world go by.
|Cà phê sữa đá. Iced coffee with milk.|
There were many, many motorcycles.
|Nguyễn Thái Học Street. We had to cross this to get to Ben Thanh Market.|
|This became our favorite people-watching spot. Not far from Bich Duyen Hotel where we stayed.|
|An unexpected sight in the heart of the city. It's a friggin' forest!|
|Even the sidewalks were filled with motorbikes.|
Ho Chi Minh City is an exciting, bewildering, intoxicating mix of the conservative and traditional...
|Flower vendor near Ben Thanh Market.|
|Praying to Mother Mary at a Catholic church with joss sticks. I'd never seen that before.|
... And the luxurious and excessive.
|Louis Vuitton mothership across the Saigon Opera House. Bitexco |
|Shaking our booties at the Saigon Saigon Bar, rooftop of the Caravelle Hotel... Yeah, right.|
There are still remnants of the American War everywhere.
|Life-size diorama at the Cu Chi Tunnels.|
|Ho Chi Minh City Museum. Has tanks and choppers on the lawn, and a bomb shelter in the basement.|
Everyday, we ate like kings. Street food, fine dining, Vietnamese, French, it was all good. And relatively inexpensive.
|The pocket garden at Cục Gạch Quán, my favorite restaurant in Vietnam... for now.|
|An eatery on Pham Ngu Lao Street, right next to my favorite money changer.|
We even had dinner at Com Nieu Sai Gon Restaurant, which I had wanted to do ever since I saw it on Anthony Bourdain's show years ago. Thanks, guys, for humoring me. OK, the food was much better elsewhere, but y'all have to admit that the flying rice was entertaining. Never mind that it was inedible.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Like many of the locals, I prefer to call it by its more romantic and captivating name, Saigon. As many stories have been told about it as there are motorcycles zipping through its streets, but unless a person meets this city face-to-face, he will never understand its addictive charms.
I can't wait to go back.
Cục Gạch Quán is located at 10 Đặng Tất, P. Tân Định, Q.1, Sài Gòn. Phone (84.8) 38 48 01 44 or (84) 01 657 10 10 10.
Bich Duyen Hotel doesn't seem to have a website. I booked them through hostels.com. Address 283/4 Pham Ngu Lao Street, 1st District. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Com Nieu Sai Gon is at 6C Tu Xuong Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. The cabbies know where it is.