One of the best destinations I had been as a backpacker is Vietnam and instantly, I fell in love with Saigon! When I was young, I only heard about Saigon when Lea Salonga won a stellar role in the Broadway hit musical Miss Saigon! Nothing else followed afterwards and at that time, Vietnam was just a dot in the world map. Even when I studied Foreign Service, it was never on my radar of interests foreign policy-wise. I can admit now that I was wrong not to see Vietnam with keen interests before but this jaunt to this lovely country is what I needed to go back on track and find my way, my own way, to the hearts of Saigon.
As they say, Vietnam, particularly the streets in Saigon and elsewhere are a dangerous flare but I can now say, I don’t see it that way, in fact, it is perfectly safe. Aside from common sense, perhaps luck too one must heed warnings and reminders when walking around Saigon. Of course, do not carry your DSLR and flaunting it as it will be a precious gem for snatchers and those perennial motorbike riding robbers which is very similar to the streets in Manila and elsewhere. When walking its street and crossing it, one must also err to the side of safety and security. I can still remember the advice of my friend, fellow travel blogger, Daniel Karlo de Leon when he told me to stay at the interior part of the pedestrian pathways but sometimes, I walk just as many residents and locals walk, just beside the busy street.
The greatest experience I have in Saigon is its impressive cosmopolitan characteristics. They are used to foreign backpackers and tourists visiting their lovely city so people knew English, French, German, Japanese and Chinese among many languages. Many tour-guiding agencies dotted De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao where a huge concentration of backpackers stay for cheap hostels.
The streets of De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon is a backpackers haven and many locals walk their selling food, pirated books and the yes, Lonely Planet (reproductions) are aplenty. Also, it is here where pretty local girls walk in girly skirts selling more than what you see in the eye but of course, not in your hotel: find somewhere you can do it!
This is the Saigon I come to love and yes, Welcome to Saigon! My Vietnam series commences.