Commonly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a bundle of chaos, tradition and modernism thrown together with no instructions. Ruled by motorbikes, you will be charmed by the friendliness of locals and satisfied with the variety and price of the street food. The City is changing rapidly and malls, design shops and international restaurant chains are lapping up prime time real estate. It will leave you wanting more!
With over 10 million motorbikes on the road, you really need to have your wits about you when exploring this noisy, hot and energetic City. It is unbelievably chaotic to an outsider. Bikes parked on pavements, a family of four without helmets driving the wrong way down the street, bikes turning when the traffic lights are on red….BUT there is a rhythm and a flow that you need to embrace if you want to explore all this place has to offer.
There is plenty to see and do, buildings range from the traditional (in desperate need of a facelift), to staggering skyscrapers to iconic french architecture. Every turn down one of the thousand endless maze of side streets and will lead you to discover something new and different. Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and Jade Emperor Pagoda just a few places that command attention.
The bustling City is bursting with flavours cooked and served on the ancient streets. With vendors selling speciality dishes daily on every corner, you don’t stay hungry for long and it won’t break the bank. A banh-mi will set you back one dollar or two and is a French-Asian fusion sandwich – one of the nation’s favourite snack. Stop and get yourself a cold drink and fresh fruit from one of the make shift restaurants on the street. Vietnamese is full of entrepreneurs!
Head down to Ben Thanh markets to barter and purchase handmade trinkets, branded goods, food and other Vietnamese novelty items. Some vendors have signs on display stating that they are not open to negotiate, so make sure you head inside the market to grab yourself a bargain. The vendors were friendly and will try any means possible to keep you at their stall. BEWARE the aisles are very narrow and it isn’t easy to move around with a pram. If you head here I would suggest wearing a baby carrier.
Many of the malls and restaurants are pram and baby friendly, in terms of accessibility and space within the premises. But many of the pavements in HCMC are in serious need of some TLC and you will need a strong set of arms to help push through or carry your pram across rather large potholes. Some places have lifts or you may need to carry your pram up a small series of steps. And of course you will have to manoeuvre around the motorbikes on the pavement also! The malls have very good nappy changing facilities.
You will not find many nappy changes facilities or feeding rooms. Many cafes, restaurants do not have a disabled toilet either so be prepared to change your precious one on the floor of a tiny toilet. Even international chains (such as Burger King) did not have changing facilities and many places do not use or provide toilet roll. So make sure that you have a good changing mat in your nursing bag, hand sanitiser and tissues. One place that does have good feeding and nappy change facilities tend to be the nail/massage palours because the women who work there tend to live there also so the places are immaculate. Kills two birds with one stone I say!
That being said, Ho Chi Minh is one my favourites places on earth. I fell in love with the chaos when i first visited in 2015 and was thrilled to return with my 13 week old son. It was exactly as I remembered and being there with a baby didn’t change many of the plans we had. Other than not being able to go out drinking in the evening (I am now enjoy a drink in the day), I would still highly recommend visiting – your money goes a long way and the people are some of the friendliest on the planet.
If you get hot and tired, take a seat and watch the world go by. Stare in amazement at the array of items the Vietnamese can carry on the bike of a motorbike! Enjoy the heat and soak up the rays. Stumble in one of many breweries hidden among the city by travellers who came for a week and are still here five years later. You have to see it to believe it and it is worth seeing.