Walking Ho Chi Minh City
Despite the traffic mayhem on most days in Saigon, walking Ho Chi Minh City is still one of the best ways to experience the very best this vibrant city has to offer. My advice is to take on board the tips below; be at one with the chaos and soak up the excitement and buzz as much as you do the sights.
Tips for Walking Ho Chi Minh City
1. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. I really can’t stress this enough. The main sites in District 1 are within 10 minutes walking from one another if you choose your route well. However, that will still add up over the course of the day. Pavements are uneven and cluttered with all manner of obstacles. Curbs and steps quite often vary in height. Without the proper footware you might just end up with bigger problems than just sore feet.
2. Prepare yourself for the heat and humidity. Many of the streets in District 1 are shaded by buildings or even trees but it will still be reasonably warm and muggy. Unless you are used to exercising for long periods in this kind of climate, you could be affected by the heat reasonably quickly. Wear a hat, sunscreen, a cool long sleeve shirt and lightweight pants. Make sure you have a water bottle with you even if you intend to take regular drink breaks.
3. Secure your valuables. Ho Chi Minh City is relatively safe but you should still exercise caution. Make sure handbags and camera straps are secure across your body. Don’t wear flashy jewellry and wear passports, significant amounts of cash and cards in a money belt under your clothes. Always carry your bags on the opposite side of your body to the traffic. Drive by bag and camera snatchings are not unknown
3. Get yourself a decent map of the area you want to see. Choose the sights you really must see and give yourself plenty of time to get there and see them. Check out opening hours and try and visit out of peak times for a better experience.
4. Be mindful that some of your best memories might just be made while sitting in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s peaceful parks or from a streetside cafe watching the world go by. Unless you are on a crazy turbo tour of town, if you see a great little spot to sit and rest then do it. In the next post I will be suggesting a walking route with rest stops along the way but there are so many options it would take a month of Sundays to explore them all.
5. Take along a good dose of patience, good humour and a sense of adventure. Crossing streets while waking in Ho Chi Minh City may just be one of the biggest adrenaline rushes you’ll ever have. The number one thing to remember is to walk slowly but purposefully in the straightest line possible from one side to the other. Traffic is on the look out for pedestrians and will go around you with ease if you don’t make any sudden moves. The exception is local buses. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STEP OUT IN FRONT OF A MOVING LOCAL BUS. That might sound obvious but as you get into the flow of things you might start to feel invinsible.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STEP OUT IN FRONT OF A MOVING LOCAL BUS.
Here’s what I do…you can take it on board or choose your own path.
- 1. Look around you for a local crossing in the same direction.
- 2. Stand on the other side of them from the oncoming traffic. Many of the streets in District 1 are 1 way so that should make it easier.
- 3. Walk across the road keeping at the same pace and them in the firing ine.
Note: Use your peripheral vision to avoid traffic coming in the opposite direction. It is not unusual for a motorbike to ride the wrong way against the traffic. It’s not legal but it’s not unusual. As long as you know this you shouldn’t have too much of a surprise when it happens
In the absence of a local the 2nd Best Option is to:
- 1. Gauge a lull in the traffic. I’m more looking for a break in the cars,taxis and buses (See warning above). Motor bikes will go around you. Keep telling yourself…the motobikes WILL go around you.
- 2. Take a deep breath, step off the curb with your left arm raised above your head. Eyeball the traffic and walk steadily across the street. It’s almost poetic the way the traffic will flow around you. Almost a little “Matrix” style.
6. Start early or finish in the afternoon in one of Saigon’s many city parks. These are the hub of people’s activity at these times of day. Witness ballroom dancing, crazy aerobics moves, tai chi and other martial arts. I never cease to be amazed at the agility of the locals playing badminton and kicking around small, springy feathered objects. Learn how those medieval exercise machines work and rest in the shade while the joggers and power walkers sweat it out.
In the next couple of posts I’ll be detailing routes around the city that will take you past many of the interesting sights from both a historical and cultural perspectives as well as reveal some of the tours that will getyou off the usual tourist path.
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