I’ve been in Saigon for two weeks now and these are a few things I’ve learnt…
1) There are motorbikes, and there are millions of them!
There’s an estimated two million motorbikes and scooters in Saigon. Everywhere you look and everywhere you walk there will be never-ending trails of people on motorbikes and scooters. From the morning rush hour with hundreds of bikes driving around the roundabout to quiet side streets where people are hanging up their washing – they’re everywhere!
2) Road safety is non-existent.
When it comes to road safety in Saigon, it’s hard to say whether there’s a complete absence of rules or whether the rule is ‘anything goes’. I’m going to go with the latter. Some regular sights I see on bikes include: whole families of four and their dog wedged onto one bike, people scrolling through Facebook as they’re driving round a roundabout, mothers carrying (helmetless) newborn babies and solid household furniture stacked onto the back of rickety old bikes that look like they’re about to pack in. I’m surprised by something outrageous everyday!
3) The safest way to cross the road is to close your eyes and hope for the best.
I heard that crossing the road in Saigon seems impossible at first and that the best way to do it is just walk. I can now confirm this is true. Despite hundreds of oncoming bikes, if you slowly make your way across the road the bikes will eventually swerve around you (just keep those fingers crossed).
3) Ordering food is often a bit of a gamble.
In district 1, the hub of Saigon, there’s loads of street food, cafes and restaurants – both Vietnamese and international. However, when you venture to more local districts the people rarely speak English and translated menus are few and far between. Beth and I went for dinner at a lovely restaurant the other night and thought it would be fun to order two vegetable dishes we’ve never heard of. It resulted in us feeling like we’d had lip fillers as one of the dishes was so spicy! And if menus are translated it can be quite funny…
5) Cafe Sua Da is the next best thing since sliced bread.
Strong coffee, full-fat condensed milk and ice. Even looking at this coffee makes me feel like I’ve gained weight but who cares when it tastes so good!
6) The street food vendor tunes will follow you around, day and night.
Street food is big in Saigon, with makeshift kitchens attached to bicycles all around the city. But they all play the same tune through a speaker and I swear I’m starting to hear it in my sleep! We live on a main road and I usually hear it just before I go to sleep and again when I wake up. I’ve got no idea what it says but I’m gonna have to get someone to translate it for me!