Pictures & Stories: Saigon & Nha Trang

The statue of Ho Chi Minh and the city hall of the town named after him.

Vietnam is a growing player on the tourist stage giving competition to other more established locations like Thailand and the Malay peninsula. Here I am adding a few more random photos that showed some of the things I observed a number of years ago as the country entered the new millenium, a full grown generation after the war that defined the second half of the last century for the people there. My other posts about the subject of Vietnam involved Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, and Hanoi.

This was clearly a decade past and from a tourist standpoint things have and haven’t changed. There are a few places added to the skyline and of course as everywhere there is more technology, but in comparison to many other places for those living in the west it is not as tourist established as places like Thailand or Hong Kong or Japan when it comes to travel destinations. This can in some places lead to a little less evolved touris infrastructure but in other ways leave more places that everyone you know has not overran leaving less to the imagination. Even though the entire world is Instagrammed!

Scenes of Saigon

The photo I took to open this piece above was not one of my more successful ones as I was learning still how to properly take a photo with my old Hp c945 point and shoot. In the background is the “city hall” or the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Head Office. It was built in the early 1900s in a French Colonial style. The statue in front is that of Ho Chi Minh, hero of the North Vietnamese. The old name of Saigon is stiill commonly used especially by locals, and the name of Saigon is also used to refer to the largest central district of the city. As recently as the 1600’s this city was a Khmer city of the traditional dominant Cambodian ethnic group before Vietnamese displacement.

Tran Hung Dao memorial statue in Saigon, Vietnam.
Memorial statue to a great military leader.

The above photo is the Tran Hung Dao memorial statue in the Saigon district. He is revered as a great military leader who successfully repelled at least 3 Mongol invasions from the Yuan Dynasty under the great and powerful warlord Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan). This is an easy 5-7 minute walk from the city hall location.

Le Van Tam Park in Ho Chi Minh City.
Le Van Tam Park.

At times it seems almost impossible the amount of motor bikes in the city as well as most South East Asian cities, but as you can see above, there is at least some organisation when it come to parking! Also park workers take pride in keeping the green spaces of this sprawling urban center attractive.

Motorbike traffic in Saigon.
Motorbike traffic in Saigon.

This pictue was taken as I was also riding on the back of a moto, the easiest way to get around the snarling roads.

Tôn Đức Thắng road.
Tôn Đức Thắng road/street.

Here in the Saigon district along the Saigon river snakes the Ton Duc Thng roadway. As you can see people take their chances walking in the road with cars, motos, and even Cyclos, the 3 wheeled taxis you can see in the background to the left, and in the middle (especially enlarging the photo on digital media). The tallest building in the background is the historic Majestic hotel, a local landmark since the 1920s.

A Buddhist pagoda in the old Pham Ngu Lao area of Saigon.
Chua Lam Te….Buddhist Pagoda.

Here we have the Chua Lam Te..literally Buddhist Pagoda. Just around the corner from the backpacker street of Pham Ngu Lao.

A Vietnamese lady using a "quang ganh" or shoulder pole in Saigon.
A Vietnamese lady using a “quang ganh” or shoulder pole.

This scene of a local using a bamboo shoulder pole is ubiquitous in every town in Vietnam.

A local lady in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
A local Vietnamese lady gracious enough to teach us much about Vietnam.

Scenes of Smaller Towns

Looking out of the train in Hue,Vietnam
Looking out of the train in Hue,Vietnam.
Backpackers soak in the sun in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Backpackers soak in the sun in Nha Trang.

One of the former small towns along the coast that is now a booming beach and tourism hub is the destination of Nha Trang. This seaport is on the South China Sea in the south east of Vienam. Its long wide beaches attract Vietnamese and regional tourists from across Asia, and while there I could feel the local people fighting to hold onto what was left of some local life. The tourism and population projections are exploading due to industrialisation. A new high rise seems to pop up every year.

Local workers play footbal on the sand in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Football as a respite in the early evening.
Locals watching sunrise on Nha Trang's long strip of sand.
Locals watching sunrise on Nha Trang’s long strip of sand.

What surprised me was how early the locals rise in order to start their day. At sun rise after 5:30 AM the beach had a number of folks as well as people walking the streets to get morning exercise. While westerners will take in the afternoon sun for a tan, many local Vietnameses have already had their fill, in the cooler climes of the early day.

Sunrise at Nha Trang, Vietnam.
Sunrise at Nha Trang.
A local Banh Mi (Vientnamese Sandwhich) vendor in Nha Trang, Vientam.
A nice local lady who kept me fed.

The former French colonists left a love of bread imprinted on the local Vietnamese and they do an incredible job with their Vietnamese sandwiches called Banh Mi. This lady smiles when she sees me as she knows one sandwich is not usually enough for a 250 lb American. She also didn’t need to convince me to eat when she saw me haha!

The local life away from the tourist beaches in Nha Trang, Vietnam.
The local life away from the tourist beaches.
An Amercantraveler with a local Vietnamese lady in Nha Trang.
My local fixer Hoa, who made sure I had things I needed at the hotel and around town.

The people in this town are kind of used to backpackers and travelers to their town. They are a bit more open than say, Hanoi, where people can be quite reserved. In the photo above is myself and a local hotel worker who made sure I got around with my motor bike and knew where I was going, where to get good food and many small details!

A cargo ship in Nha Trang's local port.
A cargo ship in Nha Trang’s local port.

A decade later I found this boat online still chugging along on the high seas!

Vietnam was quite an eye opener for me. Much of our exposure to this unique country involves war and negativity. There are millions of people who have grown up without that negative taint except the blight on history that they call the American war. Many of the older locals you meet will not have anything against you or any other westerner, as they are facing the future hoping that they are a place that the rest of the world sees as hopeful as they do.

Thanks for stopping by. Leave a message or comment below! ..Thomas.

6 Comments

  1. Vietnam is one of the countries I would love to visit. I am an old backpacker who has made quite a few long trips to India, Nepal, Thailand, etc. and whose journeying was interrupted in Mexico where I met my wife and my daughter was born. I lived in Mexico City for four years and in Morelia, Michoacan for another twelve. We decided to return to my native country, Greece where we currently reside, because of the increasing cartel wars and its lamentable effect it was taking among the civil population.

    Having said that, I would love to continue my journeys in Asia (and not only) in a few years, when my daughter begins her own journey into life, since she is now 15. It was a pleasure therefore, to read about your fairing in Vietnam. It reminded me of that air that somehow, backpacking gives you. Thank you for the post. I will be coming back!

    1. Thanks! That sounds so awesome! Love while traveling is always a romantic fantasy that for some does come true! I have a fews other posts of Vietnam and I also lived in Japan for over 5 years! Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea…these are all places that played a part in my Asia travels. I hope you can spread that passion to your daughter! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Wow, love the photos and stories, I lived in SE Asia a few years back and your website brings back a lot of memories. One place I never went though was Vietnam, when I had the opportunity the visa was going to be a wait that well, I couldn’t wait for! It’s still on my list of places, even more now!

    1. With your south east Asia experience you are ready for the Vietnam trip! Though you will be familiar with the feel of that part of the world, Vietnam is unique enough to be a new experience from Thailand and Malaysia for example. I hope you make it there! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I myself have never had the chance to travel outside the US. I have always hoped to be able to someday and after reading your post, Vietnam makes it on my list of places. Thanks for sharing you experience.

    1. Step one…get that passport! Once you have it it will burn a hole in your pocket to be used! I promise. As soon as you get one let me know. I would love to give you some tips on easy first time places!

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