Ho Chi Minh City: Last in the Trilogy of Heat
BRAINSTORMING TRAVEL PLANNING
REVERSING… Last year saw me do travel I hadn’t planned until this year. It was my intention as I may have mentioned already to travel from Athens and work my way north. Instead I did this in reverse and Athens was approached from the north.
Likewise in 2016 Hanoi was intended as the first stop of a Vietnam – Cambodia – Laos tour which in the end didn’t happen. The third stage of that would’ve been HCMC to Phnom Penh but again this occurred in reverse and the second stage – southbound from Hanoi to HCMC became a northward march.
If you’re still there and I haven’t tied your brain in knots with my strategic travel planning then let’s explore HCMC together.
HOT AND BOTHERED
The city, together with Bangkok and Phnom Penh, forms an Indo-Chinese trilogy and if not for the heat and humidity I probably would have stayed there. It is without doubt my favourite of the three and if I went to all the cool cafes I saw I’d be drinking coffee all day and possibly all year!
It begins with a bit of a high in that the bus passed the airport – a potential ‘in search of…’ as they are already building the new one further afield – followed by caressing the canal and swinging into the central district of Pham Ngu Lao. From there it was a sweat drenched low in that my first choice of hostel Trip Writer was fully booked – or so they said.
I eventually settled on the Galaxy as it was the nicest looking at the right price and the only one offering a free breakfast, albeit with fake orange juice and sweet syrup instead of milk which meant I didn’t have to add sugar. Eggs and baguette ok, save for a lack of butter. The hotel/hostel also had a lift – rare in the rabbit warren lanes of District 1. All in all the best value.
My first concern was finding the train station to book my ticket up to Hanoi and out of the heat. GA SAIGON seems to have been plonked in the most inaccessible area on a non-descript street where you least expect it. There’s some confusion with the notes and the amount of zero’s I’m presenting. ‘Not that one,’ they say and I wonder if I’m being ripped off.
I ask the ladies on the ticket counter if the best part of the trip will be in daylight (as there won’t be any point if it’s night). They confirm and I have to take their word for it. I find the correct amount of money and am booked for the reunification line – a 36 hour odyssey!
Back in the throng of the tourist district meant no shortage of scam artists. Everyone from Mr Shades, Mr Fake Watch and Mr Shoe-shine. A pity as I love the Vietnamese otherwise. Fantastic people and fantastic food!
I eat at Bun Cha on Bui Vien street (known for its eateries), it’s de-lish as they say, whoever they are. Around the corner is the Kim Mai exchange for changing money. Very handy to know.
SKY HIGH IN HCMC
With my ticket booked it was onto the sights, Notre Dame, and umm a post office. Yes, a post office in which people are going crazy with selfie sticks! Then there is the SKYDECK, that oddly shaped edifice across town.
Typically, I make my way there with the intention of seeing the city at twilight and then after dark. In the end I don’t go up for the reason that – unbelievably – the Heineken experience is higher than the actual SKYDECK!
So I resort to my usual trick of finding a tall hotel (the Pullman) to take pictures from. Speaking of up, HCMC is a city on the up with the metro slowly slouching toward fruition (aided again by the Japanese) and smart new bus stops (see pictures) and they need it.
The bikes are insane yet not entirely unmanageable, I cruise through a number of busy roads mercifully unscathed and feeling just a little like Jesus parting the Red Sea!
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world.
Reversing – Ryuichi Sakamoto
Three of a Perfect Pair – King Crimson
Starfish and Coffee – Prince
Daylight – Coldplay
Money Changes Everything – Daryl Hall
Change the Skyline – Duran Duran