Tiffany Abbey from our Wallingford branch recently visited Saigon in Vietnam and has taken time to write about her experiences.
Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city with a current population of 4.5 million and counting!
This all year round destination is the gateway to the beautiful Mekong Delta and an ideal city break for a few nights at beginning or end of your Vietnam adventure. Temperatures are generally warmer than the North of Vietnam and winter in Saigon enjoys climates of around 18 degrees minimum and rarely has rain.
The Vietnamese are genuinely warm friendly people and although such a bustling city it’s very safe with an extremely low crime rate.
Saigon is a fast-paced, thriving metropolis which has soaring skyscrapers, chic shopping malls, fine restaurants and delightful districts full of colonial charm. The city’s central area, District One, is where you’ll find most of the main shops, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions along with the original French Quarter.
The more sedate District Three offers more colonial architecture, parks and wide boulevards while District Five incorporates Chinatown. Highlights in the city include Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace, the Jade Emperor Pagoda and the 18th century Thien Hau Temple.
An important ingredient of Vietnamese culture is the food. Fresh, fragrant and subtle in flavour, Vietnamese dishes tend to be boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, with a huge emphasis on herbs and seasoning. For those keen to learn more about the art of Vietnamese cooking there are numerous cooking school which can be included in any of our itineraries to Vietnam.
During our cooking session we learnt how to make spring rolls, sweet and sour soup and a main fish or meat dish with rice. Allergies and eating preferences are alltaken into consideration.
No trip to Saigon is complete without the Vespa night trip run by Vespa Rouge with prices starting from £95 Per person. This is a great way to see the city and mingle with the crowds and locals during “rush hour”.
There is no better way to be immersed in the culture of Vietnam than by exploring side streets and back alleys where the local people congregate, feeling the warmth of genuine interaction. Stop by some street food restaurants to try Vietnamese cuisine, as well as discover the diversity between the local cafés with Vietnamese music and popular bars with acoustic music or rock.
Another must is the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels where the Vietnamese guerrillas built a labyrinth of narrow tunnels as hideouts during the war. The tunnels are around 1-½ hour outside the city and can be accessed by road or river. We took a private speedboat along the Saigon River taking in the scenery on the way. If you feel brave you can venture down the tunnels (watch out there rather small!), see the traps used during the war and learn about how they used the tunnels to protect themselves.
During my short stay in Saigon I stayed in two hotels. The first was The Reverie Saigon which opened in 2015 and is designed with sheer luxury indulgence much of which was designed by an Italian artist. It is Ho Chi Minh City’s only member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Boasting a fabulous location on the topmost floors of the landmark Times Square Building in prestigious District 1.
The second hotel was the Caravelle Saigon which is Ho Chi Minh City’s landmark address in the heart of the business, shopping and entertainment district. Combining French and Vietnamese architecture. The hotel is home to the iconic “Saigon Saigon” rooftop bar and Vietnam’s first Champagne Corner.
For further information on our tours of Vietnam please click here or call Tiffany on 01491 825155 and she will be happy to tailor-make an itinerary for you.