survive vietnam motorbikes

I loved Vietnam. It was the first country I ever visited with my backpack, and sense of reckless abandon. I started up in Hanoi, and worked my way down this awesome country – all the way to Saigon. As one of Vietnams big cities, Saigon is filled with museums, parks, and sights to see. But, it was not a place I enjoyed. So read on to find out why I’d never go back to Saigon.

The craziness

I’m someone who loves a good crazy city. I adore getting turned around in the bustling, buzzing metropolises of the world. In fact, in Hanoi, I got lost on day one, and spent over an hour wandering through random streets and markets before making it back to my hostel. But, for me, Saigon was on a whole other level. I felt rushed, harassed, and in danger of being run over by errant bikes on every corner.
Throughout Vietnam, motorbikes are everywhere.

In fact, it would be weirder to see a road bereft of the two wheeled machines, than covered in them. I was still surprised though, when the bikes starting driving off the road, onto the pavement, instead of waiting in the traffic. And even having the audacity to beep their horns at me as I walked along! Crossing the roads is always a little stressful in Asia, but nowhere else have I felt so unsafe off the road.

why i'd never go back to saigon

The constant hawkers in Vietnam had never bothered me before. A simple ‘no thank you’ and they would move on. Here in HCMC though (the real name of Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City; but many locals still don’t use this title), the hawkers generally just waved at me and grunted. At least TRY and entice me! At one point, I had gotten so sick of it all, I actually stopped and shouted at one of them, in English. He clearly had no idea what I was saying, or what my issue was. And, although I’m not proud of it, I did feel much better afterwards.

The blandness

I only spent a few days in Saigon, but I was never drawn into the city, like I was across the rest of the country. When I visited places like Hanoi, or Hoi An, I really felt like I was in Vietnam. But, in Saigon, I could have been in any Asian city. I know a big part of this is due to the French and American influences that have overtaken the city, and weirdly, there were lots of Japanese brands around too.

why i'd never go back to saigon

The skyscrapers, McDonalds, and general blandness of the city really put me off. Granted, there are some beautiful areas here too. I loved Notre Dame, and the post office; and the area around the Saigon Opera House was beautiful. but again, all these buildings are French colonist styled spots – not Vietnamese.

The vibe

How very, very vague of me I know. I just couldn’t relax in this city. I had a TERRIBLE tour of the Mekong Delta from here, people didn’t seem as friendly, I just wasn’t excited to be there. I wasn’t feeling the vibe. Loads of people love this city, and each to their own, but I know I’d never go back to Saigon. Next time I go to Vietnam, I’m going to stick to what I love; the rural areas, the unique experiences, and authentic Vietnamese adventures.

Have you been to Saigon? What did you think of the city? Have you ever been to a city you didn’t like? Let’s Discuss!

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why i'd never go back to saigon

  • D

    U.S. citizen
    Hanoi (2 weeks) – Halong Bay (10 days) – Da Nang (airport only) – Hoi An (2 months+)
    1. Not worried about being ripped off/scammed:
    If I have been on this trip it’s been for a couple of dollars at most. I’m half Chinese so learning to ask, from the very beginning of any transaction, “How much?” while throwing up the fingers rubbing together sign, for non-English speakers, is easy 🙂 I have had fun interactions, including smiles and laughter, bargaining with some of the local marketeers. If I don’t like the price I buy somewhere else (tip: If you still have questions, ask locals you trust “How much should I pay for…?”). From the market to retail stores I remember exactly who doesn’t try to scam me and support their businesses.
    2. What I don’t like is the harsh staring/”mean mugging” ( for those confused, explained here, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mean%20mugging):
    This is one of the rude behaviors they need to fix if they want to attract/retain more U.S. tourists. I’m not talking about curious/friendly staring. I have traveled to other countries, Ghana West Africa 17 years ago for instance, where kids and elders in villages had never seen a white (I look “white”) person before. So yes, they stared at me in Ghana at times, but it was a friendly stare, complete with smiling, conversation, and laughter. I was ok with that. Here though, several times(10+)/day, I get harsh stared at/”mean mugged” by both men and women. In U.S. culture/where I have lived on the West Coast (no, not in the ghetto) and Washington DC (yes, including the ghetto – respect and love for SE DC), this means you have a problem with me/want to start some trouble with me/fight with me. We all stare at times, but when I look at the people here staring at me, they don’t look away and instead continue with cold/angry/hostile looks on their face (it has been funny once: a fruit seller woman, while squatting and eating a banana, staring at me like I was the next thing she was going to eat). If this happened a couple of times/day no worries, but 10+, that is a cultural behavior they need to fix. And yes, I smile and am polite in my interactions with the locals here, except for that fruit seller, she scared me.
    I do like Vietnam in so many ways too though, the countries natural beauty for instance, just please stop with the harsh staring. Many tourists from the U.S. will not like that, and combined with the behaviors mentioned in the article, etc. will never return to, or visit in the first place, Vietnam – Asia has too many other great places to enjoy!