Goodnight, Saigon

Our few days in Da Lat were quite refreshing, so with some reluctance, we headed to our final city in Vietnam. Coming in at a cool average of 95° … Ho Chi Minh City!

We assumed that we would settle back into our daily routine of getting out early, relaxing in the afternoon to escape the heat and recharge our batteries, then out again at night for dinner and evening sightseeing. The heat really put up a battle, and our morning jaunts began to wane.

Me, around 11am, every morning.

Our first morning out we planned a few stops, starting with a studio visit. This studio is a relatively new installation featuring works by the portrait photographer Réhahn. Though his name did not initially ring a bell, we immediately recognized his work. We had unknowingly seen his portraits in postcard-form every step of the way the last three weeks. His work is beautiful, and I find myself increasingly regretting that I did not pick up a copy of his book Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts, but we just don’t have room for souvenirs in our bags.

Selections from Réhahn’s Hidden Smiles collection. © Réhahn

We bravely ventured on to an indoor market, hoping to walk through at least a fan or two. No such luck though, the heat and humidity hung thickly in the air and few fans were in sight. We quickly booked it out of the market in search of something cold to drink. It turns out, Oreo smoothies and air conditioning are just what the doctor ordered.

The next morning we decided to battle the heat head-on and drove out of the city center to an air-conditioned museum. Prior to visiting Artinus 3D Art Museum, we didn’t do any research as we didn’t want to spoil it for ourselves. It turned out to be so much fun! Even better, no one was there! We had way too much fun going around, taking the prescribed photos, and laughing all the way. Mark’s Instagram has a lot more images, but here are some highlights from our outing:

Nights were where Ho Chi Minh City really shined for us. Once the sun starts going down — or in the case of bigger cities, gets blocked out by all the big buildings granting shade — the temperature starts to drop a tad, and being outside becomes bearable again! Trust us when we say, it’s a relief to walk outside and have it only be 85 degrees.

Since there wasn’t a traditional night market nearby, we opted to visit Saigon Skydeck to watch the sunset. Politely declining a combo ticket to see The World of Heineken (yes, a real exhibit), we headed up to the 49th floor to glimpse spectacular panoramic views of the city below. Arriving just before sunset, we got to see all the lights come to life.

The Skydeck was right off of Nguyen Hue Street, which was a 5-minute walk from our Hotel (cue DJ Khaled: and another one). A walking street flanked by all sorts of bars and restaurants, this area was full of locals and tourists every night. People selling all sorts of light-up trinkets, toddlers chasing down their off-leash puppies, teenagers and old couples out for a stroll. At one end there is the aptly-named Ho Chi Minh Square — with his monument standing in front of the Peoples’ Committee building (aka Town Hall) — and at the other end is the Saigon River, winding through the city.

I loved walking around here, it felt to me like the heartbeat of the city. Looking back at past destinations, I often have one visual memory that defines that city, and Nguyen Hue Street was Ho Chi Minh City for me.

The warm nights inspired us to do what other youngins do in the early evening (a time in the day known as “happy hour”) and get a drink. We ventured up to the rooftop bar at the fancy Caravelle Hotel, popular with foreign journalists during the Vietnam War.

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

Traveler’s Tip: Get drinks at The Caravelle during happy hour because they are half off. #dealsdealsdeals

After enjoying our drinks on sale, we headed over to Ben Thanh Street Food Market, essentially a large outdoor food court. You can find ice cream, beer and liquor, Indian food, Korean food, Vietnamese food, pizza, and other types of food here, all for very cheap. Despite the crowd, we were always able to find a spot to eat, people-watch, and enjoy the acoustic band.

I’m happy we ended our Vietnam tour in Ho Chi Minh, but I’m sad to leave this place. I loved the sites, the food, the people — everything. But it’s on to new adventures, a new country:

Cambodia, here we come!

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