So this morning as the car I was on passed by the Tourist Information Center by the river, I thought to myself what it would be like to work in that center. How much information should they know and would they always have the answers. And I wondered if I was asked what’s the best place to visit in Ho Chi Minh City, what would be my answer?
I realized that I’d still recommend the usual tourist spots in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The thing is that historical sites are within the CBD wherein you can experience being around the locals as they vroom and zoom in the city going about their business. So much local color around and Saigon is best seen on foot or a motorbike.
After drinking in the tourist sites while downing ca phe sua da, I’d recommend just wandering around the roads and hems (alleys). There is so much life along the alleys and each alley has its own theme. I remember ducking into an alley along Mac Thi Buoi and boy, I was amidst rows of boutiques selling quality local goods. It was a dream. But do watch out for alleys that seem to be never ending. I got lost in one and I really had to ask a local for help to get out of the labyrinth.
Having lived in HCMC for the past 8 years, I have been lucky to have met trustworthy locals. There was one time when I was still writing for Word Magazine and I had to interview installation artist, Hoang Duong Cam in his studio. It was back in 2011. I remember being pregnant with my second son and I was dropped off by a taxi in an apartment complex. I don’t remember where. My husband was like, “Are you sure you’re going to go? You don’t know these people. What if you get locked up in the studio or something?” The joy of ignorance and stupidity I guess. Off I went and I had a memorable time.
Another interesting interview was with Anh Tuan. He makes replicas of famous paintings. He doesn’t speak a whole lot of English so I had request my officemate to go with me to help translate. My mom was visiting from the Philippines then as well and so she was also with during the interview. We were sitting on those small plastic chairs on the sidewalk in front of Anh Tuan’s shop. Those were real good times.
Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t get old. Just sit by the sidewalk and watch the sights pass you by. There’s always a motorbike or two stacked with something amusing or something humongous worthy of a snapshot.
So what am I saying? If you’re going to see HCMC, just get lost in the city, sit by the sidewalk, talk to a lot of locals, and know your embassy’s number just in case. Haha.