Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Heat is On in Saigon

I fell in love with Saigon this weekend. I went knowing I’d like it but was surprised how quickly I fell under its spell. There are some cities that, when walking around, I feel completely comfortable, at ease, and that moving there would be a seamless transition. Saigon is one of those cities (London and San Francisco are the others)

Saigon manages to possess the perfect blend of western modern while maintaining an exotic Asian feel. The city has an energy to it that is infectious, and the kind of beauty that brings you back in history while never letting you feel out of touch.

I had a discussion with a friend a while back about our idea of the perfect place to live. We both expressed the desire to live in a bustling city with a mild climate that was close to the beach. We, at the time, agreed that it was very difficult to find a city like that, so concessions are usually made. Coincidentally, the same friend was in Saigon and it didn’t take long for us to conclude that Saigon, in fact, could claim many of the ideal qualities we were seeking.

The city itself is stunning, very easy to navigate and has the luxury of real pavements. You can wander around daydreaming without worrying about getting hit by a motorbike. The people, from what I saw, seemed more open-minded and friendly, and it’s a more accessible city, both from within in Vietnam, or to other parts of the world.

Saigon isn't perfect. Obviously. In fact, when I was there I had a nasty experience of someone trying to steal my bag (which contained my passport, camera, wallet etc) around 5pm in the afternoon. They made way with some useless item that was at the top of my bag and proceeded to rip it in the process (jerks) but even this doesn't dissuade me from loving this city. I would also say that food in Saigon is not as good as the food in Hanoi. Saigon's food is too sweet, and would take some getting used to.

I in no way want to disparage Hanoi, as I have a special relationship with this place. I have had many happy memories here, have been enchanted by the people I met, have loved the arts scene and found the city to be chaotic frenzy with a charming small town feel at the same time. It’s not that I don’t adore Hanoi, it’s just that I think I’m in love with Saigon.

It’s only a matter of time before I’m a Saigonian.

(on an unrelated note, people are always asking me for recommendations and what’s on my playlist-which is weird because my music taste is questionable, but here’s what on repeat on my itunes) :
Bob Dylan-Emotionally Yours*** and Tangled Up in Blue
Sister Hazel-Beautiful Thing****
Jay Z-Young Forever
Julian Perretta-anything and everything (not the name of a song. just mean that I love everything by him)
Passion Pit-Moth’s wings
Phoenix-Long Distance Call
Ok Go-White Knuckles (I am beyond obsessed)*********
Charlie Mars-Close to Home
Maroon Five-If you only knew***
Jewel-Stay Here Forever***

*** marks especially overplayed

1 comment:

  1. It's always interesting to get other people's opinions of places and things, and of course these are always tempered by their personal experiences and where they went.

    I was fascinated by your statement "The city itself is stunning, very easy to navigate and has the luxury of real pavements. You can wander around daydreaming without worrying about getting hit by a motorbike".

    Makes me wonder what part of Saigon you were in. Most foreigners only hang around District 1, and that's not really indicative of the city. Stunning is not the right word unless you mean that your senses were stunned by the sheer noise, chaos & madness. Having said that, I find it an absolutely amazing, fascinating and unforgettable city.
    (For visually stunning in a place you don't expect it - have you been to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap yet?)

    As far as walking around on footpaths, and daydreaming without worrying about being hit by motorbikes - are you kidding? I suspect you spent most of your time on Dong Khoi or in that vicinity. Come back down and let one of us show you around the real Saigon.