Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City was beautiful chaos. There’s so much history on every street blended with booming new development. It was thrilling to see a place that had experienced such hardship thriving so wonderfully and the mix of old and new was fascinating to see. Vietnam was the real reason we took this whole trip and HCMC was our first stop. Our taxi driver from the airport probably thought we were crazy, jumping up and down in our seats with excitement as we passed through the streets we were so eager to explore.

Our flight into HCMC wasn’t our favorite. You can read more about that and our experience with Cambodia Angkor Air here. After that, we decided to stick with Vietnam Airlines for the rest of the trip and were very happy with that decision. On a more positive note, we were pleasantly surprised by how easy going through the visa process upon arrival at the airport was (I might have been just a tad stressed about it). Of the countries we visited, getting a visa to be in Vietnam was the most challenging. There is a lot of confusing and false information on the interwebs about it and, honestly, even when you do it right it still feels like it must be wrong because it seems very lax. Unlike Cambodia where you can obtain your visa on arrival, you must get a pre-approval letter or obtain an e-visa before entering Vietnam. We chose to go the e-visa route which is good for 30 days in Vietnam. For this we needed to know the date we would be entering (since we didn’t have a plan I just guessed), fill out an application online, submit photocopies of our passports, and pay a $25 fee all through this website. It was processed in about 5 days (but can take much longer so be sure to do this in advance) and we were sent our approval letter. When you arrive in Vietnam you will be expected to present your printed letter, along with 2 additional passport photos, and another $25 fee. We had heard horror stories of being refused entry if everything wasn’t completed perfectly but didn’t have any issues. Having arrived just a few days after TET (the celebration of the lunar new year, Vietnam’s biggest holiday) I think everyone was tired from partying and we’re much more lieniant than usual. They didn’t even make us pay the additional $25! This is NOT the norm. I told a friend of ours that lives in Vietnam and they couldn’t believe it. You can check out the state departments website on travel specifically to Vietnam for more helpful info.

Now back to our time in HCMC. You know when you’re a kid and you get SO excited to eat cake and candy on your birthday but then you overdo it and get a stomach ache? We did the adult version of that. We went HARD that first night. We wanted to eat it all! But after multiple bowls of pho, approximately 5 banh mi’s, several Saigon beers, and a couple of nitrous balloons, we had hit our limit and our bodies made it clear they weren’t too happy with our choices either. Everyone warned us of the sickness that would eventually get us while on this trip but after having been there for 3 weeks already and not falling ill we thought we were out of the woods. And that’s exactly when it gets you! We didn’t think Vietnam would do us like that but, sadly, we were down for a couple of days and didn’t get to do quite as much as we had planned. On the bright side, we were staying in a stunning and very cozy Airbnb that made having to be inside not feel so bad. After some much-needed rest, we rallied and explored a few markets, ate some more food (we can’t be stopped), went to some museums, and walked through the streets taking in as much as we could before heading to our next stop, the magical city of Hoi An.

Ben Thanh Street Food Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam street photography

Historical post office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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