Folks, the third round is drawing to an end here on ‘City Rumble’, with the final match of said round today’s featuring the city on the Nile, Cairo and the city not too far from the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City (or MCMC for short!).
What a ride we’ve had so far and now we are getting down to the nitty gritty, as today we find out just which city will take the final Quarter-Final Spot in the ultimate City Rumble Smackdown. I apologise for all these Pro-Wrestling references. Okay, all in all I’ve made maybe two. I genuinely have no idea what they mean.
So it’s down to a town in Asia and a town in the Middle East/Africa to snare that final spot. Who will they join? Well, we’ve had NYC, St Petersburg, Tokyo, Dhaka, Mumbai, Melbourne and London. Which means to make four quarter finals we need just the ONE more. And yes, it’s going to be a city famous for being the former Saigon and sadly people often think of the “war”, the other for, well, principally before anything else the pyramids.
The Road to Round Three
As I like to do, I again am going to start off here by looking at how the two cities lining up against each other made it to this stage in the… let’s call it a ‘tournament’ today, shall we? So, let’s look at Cairo, steeped in ancient history, but also one of the biggest cities in the world. In the first round Cairo was up against another Middle Eastern city in neighbouring Jordan, which it cleaned up easily – see City Rumble – Cairo versus Amman. Then in the second round Cairo found stiffer opposition but still managed to hold off Prague. City Rumble – Cairo versus Prague.
As for Ho Chi Minh City, well it came through the second part of the second round draw, and so was lucky enough to skip the first round. It fought off Bangkok to make it through to the second round, and you can check out that encounter here – City Rumble – Bangkok versus Ho Chi Minh City.
So without further ado…. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!
Well. We have two cities here which I think are quite different and in many ways hard to compare – but I’ve dealt with other cities even more different in the past and managed to wrangle out a winner so here goes!
One thing that we can compare is the population. I said Cairo is one of the biggest cities in the world – the greater metro area population is a tick under 21 million. More than enough for any city in my book! In fact Ho Chi Minh City’s greater metro as far as I can tell is less than half that – it’s a bit over 8 million. Still a pretty big city but not a population level that rivals that of Cairo.
The climates are very different, although both could give you heatstroke! Cairo’s is cool in the winter and hot in the summer and by hot we are talking over 40 degrees. It’s a pretty dry city. Okay, that’s an understatement! It gets somewhere between 18 and 25 mm of rain per YEAR. That’s a seriously dry city. That’s less than the lowest MONTH of rainfall in Melbourne, easily!
In contrast, Ho Chi Minh City sees a little more rainfall. How much more? Well, it’s somewhere between 1700mm and 2300mm! Yes, that’s a hellova a lot! It never gets particularly cool because, as one can guess, it experiences a very tropical climate. The river closest to the centre of the city is the Saigon River, further out is the Dong Nai River. Despite being built on these two rivers and many of their tributaries, it’s the river that flows through Cairo that is far more famous, and that would be the Nile.
Both cities have a chance for the visitor to touch the religion of the country. There are many many MANY Buddhist temples all dotted around Mo Chi Minh City, and Cairo boasts a couple of amazing, inspiring mosques not least of which is Muhammad Ali Mosque which towers over the neighbourhoods and is somewhat magnificent.
Transport and Getting there
Both countries have good connections. Egypt Air is one of the biggest airlines in Africa and is often used for connections to Europe, Middle East and obviously the African continent and they go through Cairo – so perhaps Cairo might be a place for a stopover? I hadn’t considered it before today but you could take three nights and see yourself some history! Loads of European airlines fly to Cairo as well. Cairo is a seriously chaotic city and buses cover it most comprehensively in terms of public transport. There’s a metro there now which I don’t think was open when I was there in 1999 (actually it was opened in 1987), or if it was there was only one line. But it looks like it might connect you around the city all right. Taking a public bus out to Giza was quite an experience. Very cheap too!
HCMC isn’t quite as well connected by air as Cairo, but it’s certainly well connected nonetheless. All South-East Asian airlines, most Asian airlines fly there, and the national carrier Vietnam Airlines actually has a reasonable reputation as a decent airline. Many airlines from other countries too service HCMC.
Getting around HCMC you may be best to take a taxi. They have a metro system due to be completed this year but with the events of the last year and a half in regards to the pandemic who knows if it’s still happening. Buses are you cheapest bet. Enjoy the incredible amount of bicycles in the city that move around in it almost seems like swarms.
Ho Chi Minh City is actually a pretty good place to meet people – and not just other travellers! The locals are really very friendly and the are places – Cong Vien 23 thang 9 for example – where locals play hacky sack and will come up to foreigners to practice English which is great – it’s all very genuine. I ended up at Karaoke after sitting down in that park!
As for Cairo, well it is a big city, and as such I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the people who live there – although I did get my bum pinched by a couple of girls walking by the Nile one day! (no honestly I did) However I also tend to meet people more when I’m on my own. And in the Middle East in general I have found people to be super friendly. I definitely give this point to HCMC, but I think there’s more to the soul and people of Cairo than one might initially think.
Money & Places to Stay
Well. Firstly both are reasonably cheap cities. The Egyptian Pound is one of the less-stable currencies you’ll find, and at the time of writing one US Dollar got you just under 16 Egyptian Pounds. It was around half that back in 1999 when I was last in Egypt. The Vietnamese Dong is one of those currencies which is very hard to convert in your head due to the number of zeroes. The USD is just if not more accepted in Vietnam as the local currencies. Currently one USD gets you around 23,000 Dong.
Hotels well, I stayed in budget digs in both. But Vietnam is full of these wonderful ‘mini-hotels’ where you get a nice, clean, air conditioned room for under $20USD a night – and naturally that includes Ho Chi Minh City. In Cairo I visited with a friend and we had a room for less than $5AUD each per night. It was, well, it wasn’t very clean and part of a sort of a hostel. It was memorable I guess, but I wouldn’t stay again in my ‘old age’. I think all in all as far as hotels go, Ho Chi Minh City represents better value for money than Cairo.
So it’s pretty obvious that if you want amazing sights, the winner is going to be the city which has the incredible Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There are few sights in the world that rival the pyramids in their power and ability to just ‘wow’ the visitor. Cairo has the Nile as well, the mosque mentioned above (Muhammed Ali), and of course the incredible Ehyptian Museum where you will be blown away by the ancient relics it has behind it’s doors (still it’s no British Museum lol)
Ho Chi Minh City is not as mind-blowing as far as sights go it has to be said. You have loads of temples, the War Remnants Museum which is extremely sobering as a visitor, a couple of cathedrals actually, a famous post office, but you have to go beyond the city to see places like the Cu Chi Tunnels and even further for the Mekong Delta.
To Visit or to Live?
However, considering the immediately above section, there’s no doubt that if you were looking for a city to live in for any period of time over a week or two, well I have no doubt I would pick Ho Chi Minh City. It’s got to be more liveable despite the humidity and rainfall, to a city where there is so much dust and dryness… And it’s just so busy!
I think HCMC would be a great place to live because the people are so friendly there as well. And Cairo just never gave me that vibe. But people do move to Cairo, and they do like it there. So what do I know? If you’re looking for a place to land and spend a few days seeing the sights, Cairo is the better bet!
And so I have to pick a winner. And again, it’s a really close decision. And I’m going with Cairo. Why exactly? Well, because I base the decision principally on a city to visit and what it offers for the tourist rather than the potential ex-pat. If I did base it on what it offers the ex-pat, it would be a clear win to HCMC. But for the tourist, the allure of the Pyramids and the history of Egypt and its capital is just too great to look past.
What do you think? Which would you choose? Okay – well we have our eight cities for the quarter finals which will start a little later in the year, it’s time for a break from City Rumble. Of course, Thursday will still bring you something awesome! Thanks as always, take care – and May the Journey Never End!