WORLD TRAVELLER EDITION PART 1 – VIETNAM
Hello again! This post is the first in a series of our monthly World Traveller edition in which we will tell you a little bit about our impressions on the countries we visit. The dancing scene, people, fashions, food and interesting sights. We hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy travelling around the world, meeting and working with new people and getting immersed, even for a little while, into their culture and way of life. The first country we land in is Vietnam.
The dancing scene is developing fast in Vietnam, also thanks to TV shows such as The Vietnam Showdance Cup that I have been a part of. Along with Dancing with the Stars series it has record viewings, reaching over 10 million people every time a new episode airs. DanceSport athletes are growing in numbers and even though Vietnamese couples are not winning mayor international events at the moment I’m sure this will change in the coming years. Where there are youngsters dancing, some incredible talent will sooner or later emerge. And Vietnam has an enormous number of young dancers.
Before the start of the TV show
I visited Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) a few weeks ago and it was my first visit to Vietnam. I have been to many other Asian megacities, but what I found particularly peculiar was the sheer chaos of Saigon traffic. To me it looked like a scene straight from a movie, motorcycles weaving around huge lorries, taxis pushing their way through intersections, pedestrians jumping on the roads out of nowhere…and all of this spiced with the song of a thousand car horns, beeping constantly even as late as midnight. Lets just say the journey from the airport to my hotel was interesting. Terrifying but interesting. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
Ho Chi Minh offers all levels of accommodation to travellers on all budgets. From youth hostels to 5 star hotels, you can easily find a place which caters to your needs. Great location and excellent service are a staple of Saigon Centre Pullman Hotel, located in the busy heart of the city and well connected to all the major attractions of Saigon. If you’re visiting on a budget then check out the Luan Vu hostel, situated in the backpacker district.
If you are staying only for a few days make sure you don’t miss out on these top sights in Ho Chi Minh, as they are well worth spending a few hours of your time:
The Ho Chi Minh City Hall
A beautiful colonial building from the beginning of 1900s, it is not opened to the public, but its adjacent square is nice to have a walk through, especially when it gets dark. The City Hall is illuminated at night, with different colour lights creating interesting visual effects. It has been renamed “Paris of the East” by many tourists who have enjoyed the view of its architecture, peculiar for this part of the world.
The War Remnants Museum
Period war equipment and detailed historical facts from the American War are on display in the War Remnants Museum. Probably the most interesting thing about it is its changing name, which varied with the changing political relationship with the US. Established in 1975 as Exhibition of US and Puppet Crimes in 1975 it changed into a much more diplomatic Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression in 1990, before converting to its current name The War Remnants Museum following the end of US embargo and normalisation of its diplomatic ties with the government of the United States of America.
Amongst its most interesting pieces are the reproductions of Tiger Cages, where the Vietnamese government used to hold prisoners of war.
Notre Dame of Saigon
Yes, not only Paris, also Ho Chi Minh has its own Notre Dame Cathedral. To be honest, it looks the same as many of the other Catholic churches around the world, but to me it looked like a little piece of Europe amongst the slightly alien architecture and vibe of the modern Asian metropolis.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
Built in honour of the Jade Emperor in 1909, it is an interesting mixture of statues and intricate wood carvings. If you desire wealth, you should visit the City God, where an inscription promises that “at one glance, money is given”.
The view from my hotel
Lovers of street food will love it in Ho Chi Minh as it is difficult to find a street without makeshift restaurants filling the sidewalks. Everything from exotic fruit to local delicacies can be found on the street stalls but beware – Vietnamese love their food spicy!
If street restaurants are not your preference there is fine dining available in numerous restaurants, ranging from traditional Vietnamese cuisine, Asian fusion and also delicious western food with a twist. The place which offers the most memorable dining experience is definitely Shri Restaurant & Lounge, set atop the Centec Tower. Apart from exquisite Asian/European fusion cuisine, you can enjoy breath-taking views of the city.
Chilling Vietnamise style
Ho Chi Minch is a busy, bustling metropolis that never sleeps and never stops. But the thing that left a lasting impression on me are not the busy roads, colourful temples and thousands of brightly lit shops. It was the incredible kindness and warmth of its people. No matter where I went, I was always welcomed with a huge smile. And it is the super friendly, super warm people of Saigon who I would come back to meet again any time.
Thank you for reading! Dance, smile, live!