Saigon seemed a bit overwhelming when I first got off the plane. It was hard to get my bearings, but today I got a chance to visit the the Bitexco Financial Tower, which isn’t impressive, but gives a very good 360 degree view of downtown Saigon. It’s filled with information which sometimes borders on propaganda. I’m still getting used to sorting out the information. Saigon feels in a lot of ways like the old west. 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. From here we went to the Post Office and while I realize that it doesn’t sound interesting, many things in Saigon occupy older buildings with an interesting history. This building in particular had massive maps of the way Vietnam used to look as well as a giant picture of “Uncle Ho”.
After a short tour, I got a chance to eat with the 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 are eating foods that aren’t the Vietnamese’s strongest dishes. I didn’t have that problem as the CEO speaks Vietnamese fluently and knew exactly what to order. The dishes were wonderfully prepared, very delicious and light. Unfortunately, there were so many choices in front of me that I just couldn’t eat it all. I somehow managed to still eat dessert: a sticky rice with coconut milk concoction 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. Normally 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.
I can live with that. 🙂