Ho Chi Minh City first glimpse of light and shadow

And so we arrived in Sài Gòn. Saigon is now unofficially called only the central part of  Ho Chi Minh City. A bit of history: under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china, later after it was captured by the communists Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was officially renamed Hồ Chí Minh City after Hồ Chí Minh.

Ho Chi Minh City by night
Pham Ngu Lao - Saigon our first night

We arrived late evening in Pham Ngu Lao which is one of the main streets streets leading to central bus station. We booked first night in advance choosing location in walking distance from main market in Quan 1. The girls came with us. We figured we were staying they might have room for some more guests. Of course as soon as we stepped out of the bus were approached by a couple of touts trying to “help us” out in finding accommodation. Most of them were gone in a second as soon as we told them we already booked a place. One stayed though. After showing him the booking he offered to show us the way – the hostel was his brothers place. Lucky us.

As we entered the narrow labyrinth of tall buildings (most of them looking exactly the same) we felt lost after a few turns. Imagine enormous orient city bustling with night life, shouting people walking in every direction with a lot of traffic and moppets, where at every point somebody wants to sell you something. And then you enter dark and narrow labyrinth of dogy looking buildings where from every corner a pair of eyes is looking at you. Or at least it feels this way.

Park Le Loi Ho Chi Minh City
Park Le Lai Ho Chi Minh City

Some doors are open and show interiors of poor flats with small tv sets and kitchens, lying bamboo mats on concrete floors with their owners sitting there, resting. Cockroaches and cats coming from dark corners in between your feet. And the way is never straight, you take right then left then again right and you are lost. Was it first right or maybe second?

When we arrived at our hotel after a long discussion in English/Vietnamese  thanks to  the help of our guide we established that our rooms were taken by people who decided to stay for one more night. Luckily there was another hostel in “the family” where we could stay. It was just freshly opened. Three minutes later we could unpack and take a hot shower. So did the girls.

Phurong Pham Ngu Lao
Labyrinth during the day

I can honestly recommend it. Check out: My Home, 241 / 43 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Ho Chi Minh City 70000. It was clean with air conditioning and Internet access. It also has a laundry area and drying roof. The woman that was taking care of the hostel did not speak much English but we could arrange for everything we needed at that time. On the picture on the right in the background you can see  guys playing Jianzi – Hacky Sack. We brought one of these home.


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