Saigon seemed a bit overwhelming when I first got off the plane. It was hard to get my bearings, but I managed to find my way to the Bitexco Financial Tower. It gives you an unparalleled view of downtown, even if the information inside felt a little bit like propaganda at times. Saigon reminded me, in a lot of ways, like those old western movies my grandfather watched. A bit lawless at times, chaotic, crazy, exciting, dangerous, and intoxicating.
It’s surreal. Old against the new, modern against the jungle, Safe against the absolutely dangerous: Saigon is beautiful in a way that I think is slowly disappearing from this world. Our next stop was the Post Office. While I realize it doesn’t sound as interesting, many things in Saigon occupy older buildings with a fascinating history. This building, in particular, had massive maps of the way Vietnam used to look and a giant picture of “Uncle Ho.”
After a short tour, I got a chance to eat with my new CEO. He took me to Quan An Ngon.
Imagine different street vendors making their food side by side. You walk up and down, around corners and through pillars feasting with your eyes. Inside, outside and above, you can sit almost anywhere and take in the restaurant’s ambiance. While some reviews have panned this place, I believe it’s because the people coming here eat foods that aren’t featuring the country’s strongest cuisine. I didn’t have that problem as the CEO spoke Vietnamese fluently and knew exactly what to order. The dishes were wonderfully prepared, very delicious, and so light! Unfortunately, there were so many choices in front of me that I just couldn’t eat it all. Not to worry, I somehow managed to eat dessert: a bowl of sticky rice with coconut milk that was too yummy for words.
After lunch, it was back to work for a few hours, and then it was time to head home. Usually, a taxi ride costs $2.50 when I’m with a co-worker. On my own, it costs $5.00. No matter where you go, a cab will always try to rip you off. This is true in Saigon as it is in San Francisco, Madrid, London, and Paris. The difference here? The doubling of the price won’t even dent your budget, and the drivers are actually patient and polite.
Hey, I can live with that!