What are the things that cross you mind when you hear Vietnam? For me, Vietnamese food and coffee. I know it’s pretty shallow, and some people might have a horrible memory of Vietnamese war. Vietnam is a place with a long history, ancient traditions, and historic attractions. When people plan a trip to Vietnam, they either have to choose between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) since they are at the northern and southern of the super long country. Many people will choose Hanoi since they can go to other places like Ha Long Bay and Sapa. That’s what I did in 2012, my first trip to Vietnam. When I went to Hanoi in 2012, it was really fun. I traveled with 2 of my very good friends and it was really fun. The highlight of the trip was its amazing food and coffee. Since then, every time I hear Vietnam, Vietnamese food and coffee come to my mind every time I hear Vietnam. But overall I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw and experienced in Hanoi. Since then I said, I would go back to Vietnam to eat Vietnamese food.A week ago, I went to Saigon and I didn’t have that much of high expectation. After all, I went to Vietnam to eat. But, it was a sweet surprise, I absolutely fell in love with Saigon.
So, which one should you go to? Well, it’s totally your choice and don’t rely on this blog. But I’m bias; I’m team Saigon.
Vietnam has its strong coffee culture and there are thousands of great cafes. But busy and modern Saigon has more modern style cafes. They don’t typically serve food so we usually ate first and then headed to a café to relax. I usually have my coffee with fresh milk and I don’t like my coffee sweet. Also in the morning, I like my hot coffee, not iced coffee. But I tried Vietnamese iced coffee and they were pretty good. Typical Vietnamese drip coffee is served with condensed milk and when I asked for fresh milk instead of condensed milk, they looked at me like I was an alien and gave me a why-would-you- order- coffee –with- fresh- milk look. But I got my hot coffee with fresh milk in some of the cafes in Saigon.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and you will get to see traditional Vietnamese culture. People there are intense and conservative.
People in Saigon are definitely friendlier than people from the north. Most people I met went above and beyond to help us. Our guides when we went to Cu Chi tunnels were great, friendly, knowledgeable, and well prepared. The people from the hotel we stayed were very helpful and friendly. While walking and exploring places in District 1, some Vietnamese women stopped me and warned me to be careful of bag snatchers. In Saigon, when I asked for coffee with fresh milk, although it sounded ridiculous for them, they did it for me anyway. I bought 2kg coffee beans at Phuc Long coffee shop, the electricity was out but one of the employees went out of his way and offered to take the coffee beans to another branch of Phuc Long to ground them.
To be continued