Special thanks to Journey’s Magazine for this great article on Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City
I am paralyzed with fear, standing on a sidewalk in Ho Chi Minh City, which the locals call Saigon. There is an endless stampede of motorbikes, but no traffic lights, stop signs or pedestrian crossways. Each time I step out to cross the street, another motorbike almost clips me.
A man pedaling a small three-wheeled tourist cyclo (a cycle rickshaw) pulls up in front of me. “Where you want to go? I take you. I am guide.”
“I have a guide coming to my hotel in ten minutes. I just want to cross the street,” I say.
“I take you on ten-minute tour,” the guide offers.
“I just want to cross the street,” I repeat.
“Okay,” he says. “Hold onto my bike.”
I grasp his bike and he kindly leads me safely across. He turns to me. “You either must cross very slow, or you put your hand here (he places his hand on his heart) and cross fast.”
Vietnam has five-star hotels, delicious food and some of the most exotic cultural attractions in the world, but Ho Chi Minh City has scary street-crossing problems. I look up at all the high rises of Ho Chi Minh City. In the last ten years, a new city has risen from old Saigon with nightclubs, bars, upscale air-conditioned shopping malls and luxury hotels, but there are still remnants of the old way of life.
A woman in a conical hat walks by, a pole balanced on her shoulders from which are tied two heavy baskets. A man stands behind a cart whose sign reads: “Bunhbao banh uo + hamberger.”
I head back to my hotel which is located in the French colonial heart of the city. I wait in the lobby for my guise, who will take me to the Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and to the 150-year-old Ben Thanh Market.
At the market, shoppers squeeze past each other in the narrow aisles. A woman arranges grapefruit pieces into lower flower petals. A vendor scoops handfuls of sticky rice into palm leaves. A man pulls fresh noodles and hangs them on a string.
That night, I stand on my balcony and gaze down at the shimmering Opera House.
Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back to the 15th century and is famous for its beautifully preserved houses, temples, and Japanese Covered Bridge. Hoi An is also known for its tailors who will create anything in 24 hours. The tailor takes my measurements and that evening arrives in my villa for a fitting.
My guide arrives by motorbike with an extra helmet. I jump on behind him and we zoom past cyclos, bicycles and tour vans. This is the way to see Vietnam! We ride along narrow dirt trails past water buffalo, rice paddies, to an organic garden and, finally, to Hoi An.
Later, I indulge in a four-handed treatment at the resort’s spa which seems to float above a lagoon filled with pink and white lotus flowers. I drift back to my room and the tailor arrives with my dress. It fits perfectly.
Ha Long Bay
No visit to Vietnam would be complete without an overnight boat trip to Ha Long Bay, possibly the most romantic place in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site where 2,000 limestone islets magically jut out of the emerald sea. I watch from the sun deck of the luxurious steamer, a 37-cabin replica paddle steamer which evokes colonial Indochina. At sunset, I am still there, sipping a cocktail and trying to memorize the beauty around me on my last perfect evening in Vietnam.
For more information or to book your memorable visit to Vietnam, contact your local Boscov’s Travel Specialist by calling 800-755-8020 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.