In a short while, I leave for Saigon (officially, Ho Chi Minh City) with my younger daughter, Alex. I’ve done my research to prepare as best as I could.
And what have I learned, so far? Anything related to the lotus flower in the photo? Well, yes, I read that the lotus is regarded as Vietnam’s national flower. I also learned that the difference between the lotus and water lily flowers is that the lotus rises above the water while the lily floats on the surface.
But that’s not exactly useful information insofar as preparing for a trip goes, right? That’s a free stock photo from Pixabay, by the way, because I don’t have Vietnam photos yet.
So, what useful and practical things have I found out?
“The heat is on in Saigon”
That’s the title from a song in the musical “Miss Saigon”, of course, but it aptly describes the climate in the city.
My pre-trip reading revealed that the daytime temperature in Saigon rarely goes below 30C at any time of the year. For February and March this year, Accuweather predicts 35C to 36C daytime temperature that will dip to 22C to 23C at night. Add humidity to that and the RealFeel will be a couple of degrees higher.
So, very light clothing, especially during the day, is key to comfort.
Saigon comes alive at night
The good news is that although good food is available from early in the morning (some establishments open as early as 6.00 a.m. including the iconic Ben Thanh market), the street food scene that has become stuff of legends comes alive at night when the temperature is cooler.
That means breakfast at establishments that open early and market visits in the morning, a little sightseeing before noon, lunch, retreat to our air-conditioned accommodation while the heat lashes through the city, then go out again just before sunset.
The most common petty crime is phone and camera snatching
I was really sad when I read that piece of information in at least six travel blogs. A mobile phone and a camera are the tools of every blogger so it’s impossible not to whip out one or both while seeing the sights and devouring street food.
But, as Alex pointed out, it’s not so different in Manila. We’ve managed not to have our phones and cameras snatched here at home; we’ll manage just as well in Saigon.
I hope so.
Taxi scams are a-plenty
I read too that, just like in Manila, a lot of taxi drivers refuse to use the meter but instead insist on a flat (and bloated) price to take you to wherever you want to go, and the notorious scam begins at the airport.
Grab came to mind but whether Grab will still be in operation when we land in Saigon is debatable. Just like here at home, Grab gobbled up Uber in Vietnam and has been under investigation for violating “anti-competition” laws.
Ask the hotel for airport pick-up and drop-off service.
Book half-day tours that include transportation for our first few days in Saigon. After that, hopefully, we’ll get our bearings and be wiser about spotting fake taxis.
Walk to nearby destinations.
Update on March 11, 2019: Our trip to Saigon has concluded and we loved every moment of it. Well, most. There was a little problem with the accommodation but, other than that, everything was swell. We stayed away from taxis (we used Grab). We did quite a lot of walking at night and experienced none of the horror stories about phone and camera snatching. If anything, the Saigonese are polite and helpful. We loved our week there.