Our first day in Ho Chi Minh City, which is still informally called Saigon, we quickly learned to follow the locals. Vietnamese people seemed to know good food and have more discretionary income to spend on it.
We sat down at a cafe that was full of Vietnamese people on wooden chairs that appeared meant for kindergarten. There were tables available inside, but we waited to sit on the outside and get a view of the city life. Everyone seemed to be drinking iced coffee with condensed milk so we copied. Each drink is also served with a glass of refreshing green tea which is customary at Vietnamese cafe’s. While sitting there, a few guys with shoe shining boxes walked by and one told us he would fix Danny’s shoe, which had a hole on the side, for about $1.5. We were going to throw the sneakers out anyway, so we figured what the hell.
Danny sat there drinking coffee in the slippers the shoe shiner brings around and waited for his shoes to be fixed. When the guy handed back the shoes, fixed and shined, he demanded more money because his initial price didn’t include shining. It didn’t amount to much money,but we agreed on a price and did not want to be cheated. Luckily, two Vietnamese men sitting next to us intervened and settled the issue for us. We thanked them and wound up chatting with them for the next two hours. They told us about growing up together, their families, and the positives and negatives of life in Vietnam. Despite our little run in, we had a great introduction to Vietnam at that coffee shop.
In Saigon, we visited the Vietnam War Museum, which they refer to as the American War. The mount of damage inflicted on Vietnam by the war is not really taught in American history books. The use of chemical weapons and massive bombings still haunts the country today. However, the museum we visited was truly propaganda against America and did not really give an alternative perspective to complicated events. All the exhibits are extremely moving, but we took some of the captions with a grain of salt.
The day after, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels which are an elaborate maze of underground tunnels built by the Vietcong during the war to hide.
The Vietcong were South Vietnam inhabitants who supported and fought for the communist North. We were lucky to have a tour guide who actually fought for South Vietnam during the war.
The next few days we spent walking the streets of Saigon. Enjoying the food and visiting sites.
We already found our favorite coffee, but we also found great smoothies, pho noodle soup, banh mi sandwiches, and corn pudding dessert. Overall, our visit to Saigon was a great balance of food, culture, and history.