A Versus A: Saigon or Hoi An?

Yes, sometimes we can't stand the sight of each other...

Ankit and I are two rather opinionated people (you should hear our arguments). While we agree on many, many things, when we disagree we REALLY disagree. So we’ve decided to bring that entertainment to our blog in the form of a monthly ‘debate.’ Each month, we will write about something we disagree on, giving our side of the argument, and you guys will have the chance to weigh in on the debate.

This month, we are looking at our favourite place in Vietnam, which is something we heavily disagree on. I’m championing Hoi An, while Ankit insists Saigon was the highlight for him (give it up, Rawat). 

Him: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

If you want to experience almost everything that Vietnam has to offer without really stepping out of your comfort zone by a mile, Saigon is for you. By Saigon, I refer to Ho Chi Minh City.

Bright lights, big city

Bright lights, big city

Saigon is the commercial capital of Vietnam, and features an amalgamation of French, old Vietnamese and modern day architecture. Most expats who settle down in Vietnam choose Saigon for not one but many reasons. I shall list some in my argument.

– When in Saigon, you can experience Vietnam as per your comfort level. You have almost everything here, starting from the major hotel chains to a backpackers’ district filled with cheap accommodation. You have the option to cycle around or tour in luxury cars that are available to rent with a chauffer.

xxxx

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

– Food is something that Vietnam is known for all around the world. Just like the number of countless dishes in the Vietnamese cuisine, Saigon offers a billion restaurants to choose from. If you are a fine dining person, you got it. If you want to experience street food, you have it. If you are traveling on a budget and still want your food to be served in a decent setting, you have that too.

Café culture in Saigon

Café culture in Saigon

– Architecture and history. Vietnam has a very rich history. Apart from their own old buildings, they have the influence of the Chinese and Hindus; they also have various colonial structures as Vietnam once used to be a French colony. Saigon has the best of them all, be it the Opera House, the Central Post Office, the Municipal Theatre, the Phung Song Pagoda or the Notre Dame Cathedral. Museums in Saigon are also the best in the country by far. For exmaple, the War Remnants Museum made Andrea cry, as it’s so detailed and well put together. You start developing a soft spot for the Vietnamese once you’ve visited

Culture

Culture all around

– Bars, clubs, shisha, fancy cafés, name it and they have it in Saigon.

Well, I know now that I’ve won the argument. Trust me, Saigon will not let you down and you will have a blast.

Her: Hoi An

I don’t understand why anyone would love any other place in Vietnam more than Hoi An (unless you’re my rather arrogant other half). When we first visited earlier this year, I instantly fell for its mustard coloured buildings and thriving alleyways.

xxx

So, so pretty

Hoi An is a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to 19th century. During this time, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indian settlers all left their mark on the town, which is evidenced from architectural features such as the Japanese Covered Bridge.

When the river silted up, most trade ceased and Hoi An’s importance waned, which resulted in it essentially freezing in time until it started to become a tourist attraction in the 1990s.

The result? Well, take a look at the pictures.

xxx

Hoi An by dusk

Purple nights

Purple nights

xxxx

No shortage of colour here

The phrase ‘as pretty as a postcard’ is so ridiculously clichéd, and yet it suits Hoi An so well. Every time we walked around the Ancient Town at night, with the streets all lit up with colourful lanterns, I’d exclaim to Ankit about how romantic it all is. As a writer, I found the setting so magical. I think it would be the perfect place for an author to settle down in for six months while they work on a book.

So beautiful setting, check.

Then we have the food. Hoi An has given us specialties such as White Rose and Cao Lau, and we have already sung their praises in our 12 Vietnamese Dishes You Must Try post. These really are two of the most delicious things to try while in Vietnam, and you can only have them in Hoi An.

Amazing food, check.

It’s also the only town in Vietnam that has banned motorbikes from the centre of town. This is a GOD SEND. If you have been to Vietnam, you’ll know just how menacing these bikes are. At any given time, regardless of whether you’re on a pavement or not, you’ll have one coming towards you. That’s no exaggeration. Hoi An is the one place where you can walk around and completely enjoy your surroundings as a pedestrian. It is, as a result, the most relaxing town I visited in Vietnam.

XXX

It was all a dream…

So you have a beautiful setting, amazing food, friendly locals and a beach just ten minutes away from the centre of town. What more do you want? While I also really like Saigon, it’s just any other big city to me. But Hoi An. Ah Hoi An. There’s no other place like it, and that’s why it’s my favourite place in Vietnam.

What do you think? Hoi An or Saigon? Or are we both completely wrong? Let us know!

  • Zara Quiroga @ Backpack ME

    Hoi An is charming… but it is kept that way because of tourism. Ho Chi Minh is raw and real… I’d stick with it! 😉

    • Andrea

      Booooooooo! 🙂 Jokes aside, I do like Saigon, but Hoi An has a character of its own – one which I adore.

  • Hi! New reader to your blog :). I haven’t been to Vietnam yet (soon in Jan 2015!), but i have to say Hoi An seems more like my place! It looks sooooo charming. But I’m also excited to experience the real Vietnam city life in Saigon. We only planned to go to Saigon and Hanoi, but now I feel like we’re missing out on not going to Hoi An!

    • Andrea

      Hello! 🙂 Hoi An is definitely very charming. If you can try and add it to your itinerary you really should – you won’t regret it! How long are you going to be here for?