After numerous travellers told us that Saigon is a ‘get in and get out’ kind of city, our expectations for Vietnam’s largest city were very low.
It is over run by mopeds, cramped, loud and stinky, and…. we loved it! There is an air to the city that feels very unique, it has a distinctly Vietnamese feel, which is accompanied by the soundtrack of 4 million scooters. Somehow, despite it being a thousand times busier than Hanoi, it is much more enjoyable to wander through.
The absolute highlight was our visit to the War Remnants Museum. Though highlight really isn’t the right word for it, shocking and traumatic would be a more fitting description. Focusing almost entirely on what the Vietnamese call the American War, it was mostly made up of photographic exhibitions of the different impacts of the war on the Vietnamese, including the hardest to see and comprehend: the use of Agent Orange.
In other war-related tourist activities, we took a trip to the Chu Chi tunnels, on the outskirts of Saigon, which is a section of the maze of tunnels the Viet Cong used for communication, supply routes, defence and living quarters. The main reason to visit is to walk through the insanely tiny tunnels, which, alarmingly, have been widened for us giant westerners. I’m not claustrophobic, but as we took our first steps into the tunnel, it was very hard not to panic and I had to really concentrate on staying calm. We only walked 20 metres of the network – and that was 15 metres too far!
We said our goodbyes to Saigon, and to Vietnam, and, looking out over the beautiful mess of lights and traffic, we felt genuinely sad to be leaving. Our time in Vietnam has felt more like an extended holiday than strenuous backpacking, due to the spotlessly clean accommodation, easy transport and high-levels of seafood in-take. It was definitely a stark difference between the more rough and ready days of Laos. Though the touristy experience has meant that we don’t feel like we really got under the skin of the country, it has been an amazing few weeks.