The streets are littered with cigarette butts, bottle caps and a questionable amount of discarded shoes. There’s a lingering smell of pho in the air, and not more than 3 seconds pass before another horn abruptly blares. It is not uncommon for cockroaches to scuttle under your feet and the sidewalks are reliably uneven. Scooters dominate this city, swarming the roads, and even driving on sidewalks without hesitation.
My senses have been stimulated to say the least, but it’s in the contrast that we know ourselves better. Being here affirms my love (and deep appreciation) for tranquility, space and quiet.
We rented an air bnb, inconveniently, but charmingly located on the 7th floor of a building sans elevator. To say we got our steps in every day would be an understatement - but the view and rewarding breeze at the top made the treck worth it every time. The space itself was beyond pleasing to my aesthetic - the clean, minimal and bright studio served as a welcome contrast to the chaos just below - if a building wasn’t dilapidated, it was under construction.
As I aim to do in every new city, we walked until our legs gave out, stopping at the cutest cafes we could find (with great thanks to recommendations from all of you) along the way.
The French introduced coffee to the Vietnamese during its occupation, and it has since become deeply engrained in their culture.
CAFES OF SAIGON:
this might be one of my favorite cafes I’ve visited, not only in Vietnam, but all across the globe! It’s dusty pink and serenity colored walls, with uniquely shaped windows and light fixtures were as satisfying as the shakshuka and lattes. 2 hours and 4 coffees later and I still wanted to stay.
Godmother Bake & Brunch:
the design was the perfect mix of mid century & modern, with emerald green velvet chairs, arched doorways (I am a sucker for rounded doorways) and cacti to boast. I had a matcha latte and a smoothie bowl topped with... honeycomb!! A sweet & crispy crunch. Mmm.
The Workshop Coffee:
this industrial coffee shop is located up 3 flights of winding stairs, and offers a wide array of coffee making techniques. It was masculine in design, but a haven for any coffee conasieur.
subway tiles, Edison bulbs, white brick walls, and exposed pipes made up this French cafe. A 2 story building allowed for a chic boutique downstairs with a sprawling cafe upstairs.
Ben Thanh Street Food Market:
a Collection of stalls and street art, this street food market is a MUST in Ho Chi Minh. Sample a dish from each vendor, from vermicelli wrapped chicken to bao buns to banh mi.
this was the true highlight of our trip to Saigon. Tucked away in an unassuming alley, this sushi restaurant only has 6 seats at an omakase style bar. It is not recommended for the budget traveler, as you can only choose between 2 menus at either 3 million or 4 million dong. Add some sparkling sake & few beers later, our bill was over $400, but for the intimate experience, and the obvious passion and craft of the chefs, it was well worth the cost. I lost count of how many courses there were, and by the end, I only wished I had the ability to rewind time so I could enjoy it all over again.
Refreshing, fresh, and delicious! There was such a wide array of ingredients to choose from, and amid all of the hot broth, it was a cool treat to enjoy this yummy poke bowl. Everything from quail eggs to pickled cabbage, I highly recommend this little hidden gem. Plus the inside immediately transported me back to Bali vibes! It is full of the aloha spirit.
With all of the eating we did, it was imperative to find a proper gym. I could not recommend any place more than Saigon Sports Club. It’s facilities were clean, with options for extensive gym equipment (why I chose to do 20 minutes on the stair machine even though we were staying on the 7th floor is beyond me) saunas, steam rooms, and a variety of fitness classes, including Muy Thai, yoga and a pool.
The yoga classes I took there were some of the best I’ve ever taken. The sequencing was dynamic and challenging and made me realize how much more flexible I used to be. I’ll let it serve as motivation to commit to and deepen my practice once more.
About halfway through class, we were turned to face the back wall, which was lined with a series of photographs of yogis, some of whom I recognized. And right in front of me... could it be... a photo of... myself!?! I honestly couldn’t believe it, and almost wondered if I was making it up. It was both a humbling and a very proud moment for me. What are the odds, that I would travel across the world only to find myself?
Oh and I happened to be staying across the street from a boutique named MIKI!!
While this city was nothing short of stimulating, I’m reieved to be writing this from 30,000 feet in the air on our way to Hoi An. Stay tuned as we explore central Vietnam’s world heritage city next!