As a globetrotter or traveler or a vacation addict, you only have a limited amount of time to explore and discover a new city. As an 8-year resident of Saigon who still feels very much a tourist in her adopted country, I came across two articles that may help you (and me) how to get the most out of your short visit to a new city.
In an article by Verona von Pfetten, a Conde Nast contributing writer, “Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Every Vacation”, she advised that the best way to get most of the experience is to “embrace life as a local”. This means putting yourself out there by taking a chance (within reason) to maybe ditch expensive hotels for local accommodation through Airbnb or homestays and getting in touch with locals that can give you a better insight to the city you’re in. It also meant putting on your “local hat” and do as the locals do by say, grocery shopping to give you a “real sense of local flavor”, as well as really diving into local dishes by repeating restaurants. Overall, Pfetten suggests that trying to be more social and saying yes often will lead you to memorable experiences.
In another article by guidebook author and travel TV host, Rick Steves, “Making the Most of Your Trip”, he outlined some great tips as well — for a European audience where we can also get valuable information. He explained that while there are no perfect trips, you can plan ahead to avoid screw ups and if ever you encounter a hurdle, “tackle the issue creatively” and “don’t let one unpleasant interaction ruin a travel day”. Having a good attitude by shooing away pre-trip anxiety and being sociable will pave the way for “meaningful connections” to locals and new experience. One must not be afraid to “butcher the language” when you need to ask questions and to “perceive friendliness and you’ll find it.”
Drawing on these two articles and my experience in living in Saigon, I have listed 3 tips to get the best experience when visiting Saigon.
- Contact a local – While yes, you want to visit famous spots in Saigon, contacting a local who can share with you his view as a resident can be more enriching. There’s this wonderful site, withlocals.com where you can get in touch with a local and customize a tour just for you in case you don’t know anyone in Saigon.
- Ride the bike – You cannot get more local than by riding a motorbike or a bicycle in Saigon. Hopping on and off while immersing yourself in the frenzy of Saigon traffic is the best way to tour in the city and get that local vibe.
- Say yes – Ride the bike, yes; Eat hot vit lon (hard-boiled duck egg), yes; Drink a strong ca phe sua da, yes. Just be open to local experience and saying yes often will lead you to exciting and new experiences.
These 3 tips paired with a positive attitude will surely make your trip to Saigon an unforgettable one.