Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


This is part 5 of our 5-part December travelogue:

  1. Phuket, Thailand
  2. Bangkok, Thailand
  3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
  5. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) was the last stop on our December travels, and our favorite.

Logistically, visiting Vietnam was not that hard. Americans need a visa, but you can arrange for one online (we used this site) inexpensively, and bring the approval letter to a desk at the airport. We got by on English, although we spent quite a bit more effort trying to learn Vietnamese than was evidenced by our results. It’s a very difficult language, and the Northern and Southern dialects are pretty different. The currency denominations are comically large. It was fun pulling a million dong ($45) out of the ATM.

As an American, I was a bit anxious about visiting Vietnam. However, everyone was very gracious and friendly to us.

Many people that we interacted with suggested we visit the “War Remnants Museum”, which had lots of photographs, information, and relics from the war. We did, and it was very sobering. We were mindful of “the victors write history”, and looked up lots of the statistics on our phones, and they were pretty accurate. Mostly, there were lots and lots of photos of the devastation to the Vietnamese people and land. The museum called the South government the “puppet” government.

Ho Chi Minh City 1

At the airport. We presented our visa approval letter, and they retrieved the visa which our travel organization had prepared. We brought a passport photo and some USD. It took about an hour altogether.

Ho Chi Minh City 2

The Star Hotel, where we stayed our two weeks. Small, quiet, and comfortable, in a nice part of town for $20/night.

Ho Chi Minh City 3

Casey’s Vietnamese friend and former colleague took us on a really wonderful road trip. He and his mom were visiting a temple about a 3–4 hour drive away from Ho Chi Minh City. The most common religion in Vietnam is a local “folk” religion where people visit shrines to pray and provide offerings. You can see one of these shrines behind us in the photo.

Ho Chi Minh City 4

Table of offerings to “The Golden Lady” at the shrine.

Ho Chi Minh City 5

Nearby the shrine there’s this hill we drove up. From the top here you can see Vietnam in the center and on the right and Cambodia off on the left.

Ho Chi Minh City 6

Formerly known as “War Crimes Museum” (how all the locals referred to it). Changed in 1995 after the U.S. and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations.

Ho Chi Minh City 7

Ho Chi Minh City 8

There are quite a lot of beautiful parks in HCMC

Ho Chi Minh City 9

Ho Chi Minh City 10

The second ice rink arrives in Vietnam. As such, the populace in general doesn’t know how to skate so it was required to wear pads and helmets!


The most immediate thing you’ll notice in Vietnam is the extraordinary density of motorbikes. They flow non-stop, and many intersections are not controlled, just a meeting of two streams of bikes which flow together. There’s not all that many cars, and so the cars that do drive have a motorbikes all around them. Crossing the street is terrifying! You just kind of walk out at a steady pace and trust that the motorbikes will flow around you.

Ho Chi Minh City 11

Ho Chi Minh City 12

The motorbikes are backed up trying to enter this mall’s parking lot.

Ho Chi Minh City 13

Here they are once they made it in and parked

Ho Chi Minh City 14

The indoor parking at another mall


And now we come to why Vietnam was probably our favorite stop in our travels: food! Many people know about pho (soup) and banh mi (sandwiches), but beyond that there’s a huge assortment of leafy greens and stems, and all sorts of different meats. Casey and I liked living in NYC because of all the different restaurant options, but Ho Chi Minh City was like that but 10x in terms of sheer diversity of food options and how delicious they were.

The rest of this post will just be a variety of food pictures. :)

Ho Chi Minh City 15

At our first meal in Vietnam. Little did I know what food would be in store this trip…

Ho Chi Minh City 16


Ho Chi Minh City 17

Ho Chi Minh City 18

Ho Chi Minh City 19

Delicious until you learn that it’s mouse

Ho Chi Minh City 20

Banh Mi

Ho Chi Minh City 21

Build your own rolls. So many leafy things to choose from on the side

Ho Chi Minh City 22

Ho Chi Minh City 23

More Banh Mi

Ho Chi Minh City 24

Still more Banh Mi

Ho Chi Minh City 25

Ho Chi Minh City 26

Ho Chi Minh City 27

Ho Chi Minh City 28

Ho Chi Minh City 29

Another place where you have your meat in the center and a variety of leafy greens to choose from to go with it

Ho Chi Minh City 30

Yeah, those are octopuses in the center there. Sad, but delicious.

Ho Chi Minh City 31

From a chain restaurant called “Wrap and Roll”. They have them here in Singapore! Sadly they don’t seem to have made it to the United States yet.

Ho Chi Minh City 32

Ho Chi Minh City 33

Ho Chi Minh City 34

This restaurant only served frogs in a huge variety of dishes. Both of these menu pages (and there’s more pages…) list various ways of preparing frogs.

Ho Chi Minh City 35

Two of the frog dishes that we ordered

Ho Chi Minh City 36

There are more cafes than you can possibly imagine (more than Boston, NYC, probably even Seattle!). This one had a neat drink where the coffee came as frozen ice cubes, which you poured the milk over.

Ho Chi Minh City 37

Ho Chi Minh City 38

Ho Chi Minh City 39

Ho Chi Minh City 40

At this restaurant we chose the frog we wanted…

Ho Chi Minh City 41

…and a few minutes later it came out like this.

Ho Chi Minh City 42

Then we chose our fish…

Ho Chi Minh City 43

…and voila!

Ho Chi Minh City 44

And then we chose our cat…

Ho Chi Minh City 45

…nah, just kidding!

Sat, Apr 16, 2016 | For updates follow me on twitter