Howdy all! Okay so now we are onto our second set of 16 cities which will go head to head and toe to toe against each other to qualify to face one of the eight cities already through to the next round. So I will call this Round 2B. Which now makes the total number of cities involved in the ‘second’ round 32. This will be a mixture of second chances for some cities mixed in with some winners than I couldn’t squeeze into the first 16 and then some completely new cities that I haven’t done a ‘City Rumble’ for before.
Today our destinations are two cities that have not previously featured in City Rumble, and we’re heading for a South-East Asian showdown as the Thai capital, which has seen quite a bit of upheaval in the last 6-9 months. up against the former Saigon, the once capital of Vietnam now, still the biggest city there and queen of the south – Ho Chi Minh City! So let’s get ready to rumble!
Both cities are not short on people, there are over 8 million in Bangkok proper and over 14 million in the metro area. Ho Chi Minh City has just under 9 million and over 21 million in the metro area. So they are not small cities by any standards and both are a microcosm of south-east Asian life in some ways.
Bangkok has been THE backpacker Mecca for so many years now. I mean, we are talking decades. It’s the jumping off point not just for those heading to other parts of Thailand, but also for those heading to other countries in the region be it Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or south to Malaysia. And even those heading via another country or by flight to Vietnam.
More on Bangkok – Bangkok – Through My Lens
When I first started travelling it was 1999, and Bangkok was the first stop. I couldn’t have imagined it really, although I had tried. Just coming in from the airport by taxi I sat agog looking at the elevated roads (which we had very few of in Melbourne at the time, things have changed) and just the buzz of traffic, people on their bikes, the tuk-tuks, the atmosphere, the haze, I was in a foreign city and it was strangely exciting.
Then I went to the backpacker area, you may know it, it centres around Khao San Road. And wow I was blown away by… well it was pretty dirty and basic to be honest, but the pulse of the backpacker scene was like… ‘oh my god, I am finally here’.
Bangkok can be difficult to get around because tuk tuk drivers drive a hard bargain to say the least. There is a metro system though these days which is modern and efficient but doesn’t reach all the areas you might want to go. Taxis are like tuk tuks but more expensive. And safer. And I guess you’re more likely they will turn their meter on for you so you get a fair price.
As far as attractions go, well you can take your pic of temples. It’s actually not a city that is big on major sights to see to be fair, although get out a bit and day trips beckon. You have Ayutthaya with its historic ruins – palaces and temples, and there’s also the famous train that goes through the market – that’s the Maeklong Railway Market. The market is over the train tracks. When the train approaches, they move stalls and make way for it. Once it’s passed, they open up again it’s really cool. But also something every tourist goes to see. It’s I guess an outer suburb sort of place.
The floating markets and waterways are great too, whether in Bangkok or near the outskirts. Again popular. And probably the number one attraction is the Golden Palace – or Grand Palace as it is better known. A complex with beautiful gold temples and somewhere in there, the Emerald Buddha.
Let’s go east of Bangkok, across Cambodia, some 748km through the Mekong Delta to the southern Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh City. This is an impressive city, full of bicycles and scooters, a little mad, a lot of parks, a bit special too in its own way without a doubt!
The ‘attractions’ of Ho Chi Minh City perhaps are even less than Bangkok in terms of ‘must-sees’. The Saigon Central Post Office is pretty epic – for a post office, and again you will find any number of temples that you can visit.
Other posts to check on Ho Chi Minh City – First Taste Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City
The one museum it’s common to visit is the War Remnants Museum, a museum telling the history of the war form the 1960s-70s from a clearly Vietnamese side. Which, as you’re in Vietnam, is fair enough. It’s a little confronting and you may feel, especially if you are American, there’s a lot of propaganda in there but in war there are always two sides to the story.
HCMC is a base for interesting day trips to places like the Cu Chi tunnels where you can clamber through a tunnel used by the Vietcong. It makes for an interesting day out. You can also springboard from HCMC to the Mekong Delta for overnight or usually a couple of nights plus trips.
But HCMC is, in my humble opinion, a CHARMING city. It’s great to walk around, despite the heat and humidity, the people are friendly there is so much local life to absorb. If you like to people watch, surely you will love HCMC. For example you head to one of the main parks – I think it’s Tao Dan Park, where you will see life going on and people playing games such as hacky sack, and there if you sit down (as a foreigner) almost for sure people will come up to you to practice English. It’s not a scam! They are genuinely curious, and in fact I got asked to karaoke one day there!
A couple of other things – pricewise they are both decent value destinations these days, and I’m not sure as a traveller which city I would rate as cheaper, so in my eyes they are pretty even. Bangkok has more high end options for hotels and dining though. Transport in HCMC still leaves a bit to be desired, but there are public buses and taxis, and you may be able to hop a ride on the back of a motor bike – if you feel up to it! There is a metro system under construction though as I type!
It’s just an amazing place, I love the vibe, the atmosphere, the people, and that’s why I give the win today to Ho Chi Minh City. I would go back in a heart beat. It’s a special city! Thanks for popping by today, take care, and May the Journey Never End!