I’ve been living in the largest city in Vietnam for two years now, and I’m still discovering its magic on a daily basis. The culture, shopping and tropical climate are all great reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh, but it’s the little things that will make you want to stay forever. (Don’t worry, mom, I’m not staying forever. But it’s tempting.)
Anyway, here are 6 unexpected reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh City.
REASON #1 | The Dong
Who wouldn’t want to explore a country with a currency called THE DONG? Especially when it’s the kind that makes you a dong-millionaire for just $50. And such a great way to make loads of immature jokes… but seriously, you can visit Ho Chi Minh City and have a brilliant time for under 2 million VND, which is $90 (or around R1000 for my South African homies) a day. That’s a steal.
REASON #2 | No one understands when you ask for decaf
That’s because coffee is supposed to be caffeinated. And boy, is Vietnamese coffee caffeinated. Or maybe the kick comes from the sweetened condensed milk that’s used to replace ‘normal’ milk. Either way, it’s delish and keeps you sane in the hot madness that is Ho Chi Minh City. Order an iced Ca Phe Sua Da from a street stall for the real experience.
REASON #3 | The motorbikes
(Technically scooters, but who’s checking.)
Who didn’t love bumper cars as a kid? Well, the adult version is a reality when you visit Ho Chi Minh City. Zipping through traffic on a scooter amidst thousands of others is an exhilaratingly terrifying experience that makes you feel invincible. Just remember, you’re not. If you’re inexperienced or under the influence, opt for a GrabBike and be chauffeured around the city (hey, this way you can also crack open some beers en route whilst enjoying the city views).
REASON #4 | The food
(Okay fine, this isn’t an unexpected reason, but you could visit Ho Chi Minh City simply for the cuisine and have the holiday of a lifetime. So it’s the most important reason.)
Ah, yes. The infamous Banh Mi. A simple baguette stuffed with an assortment of flavourful ingredients (that you question when seeing the price). And then there’s the oh-so-delicious hangover cure, pho. Never mind the street BBQs featuring tantalising seafood, red meats and chicken (again, how are these people profiting?) and an insane amount of excellent international restaurants. C’mon Ho Chi Minh City, is there anything you don’t have?!
Insider tip: If you want to eat street food, ask a local for a reputable stall or pick a spot that looks popular if you want to avoid getting sick.
REASON #5 | The karaoke craze
Now, I’m not talking about the 3AM-stumble-into-a-bar-singing-“Eye-of-the-Tiger” kinda karaoke. No. This is Ho Chi Minh City. This is a serious event. Prepare your vocal chords, your dance moves, and book a room at a karaoke bar (Kingdom Karaoke is a popular choice) with a platter of fruit. If you’re bringing Vietnamese friends along, be prepared to be put to shame by their karaoke skills. And if, like me, singing in public truly horrifies you, maybe grab a couple beers beforehand.
REASON #6 | The people
This can’t go without a mention. Our city dwellers are full of character. From the feisty market ladies to the kindest taxi drivers; when you visit Ho Chi Minh City you’ll understand that it’s the people who make your stay utterly memorable. It’s the people you’ll miss when you’re back home, recovering from post-holiday blues. And, might I add, when I speak about the people of Ho Chi Minh, I’m including my awesome self. Maybe we’ll bump into each other on karaoke night.