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View Poll Results: Saigon/HCM or Hanoi?
HCMC 6 46.15%
Hanoi 7 53.85%
Voters: 13. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-25-2012, 04:25 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Which city do you prefer overall?

From what I'd heard, I went expect to prefer Hanoi...most people characterised Saigon as being too new, lacking in cultural and pretty buildings, and being too commercial. Upon first visiting Hanoi, I did feel that it had more charm, it felt more 'European' (I don't know why so many Europeans seem to see that as a huge attraction, especially the many French who still visit) and being further north it was actually quite cool in winter, everyone was wearing jackets.etc while HCM is always hot.

Anyway, my overall impressions: Saigon has a more 'open' feeling, is organised on more of a grid pattern and feels more spacious. The streets are wider, there are more tall office buildings, and it feels rather clean and sterile in parts. Outside most of District 1, however, you'll quickly see the Vietnamese grit.

City-scape/Architecture: Hanoi, by contrast, is full of winding narrow roads, lane-ways and dense historic neighbourhoods smack back in the middle. It has several 'CBD's' in a way: the French Quarter, the Old Quarter and the Newer District. The French Quarter has a lot of colonial buildings, but so does Saigon, including the impressive Notre Damme Cathedral and the most impressive Post Office i've seen.

Hanoi feels older, grittier...HCM feels newer, and includes more modern building. For the natural setting, Hanoi has the lake but Saigon has the Saigon river, a nice place to walk down at night. Hanoi has more historical buildings, including the old capital, lots of temples.etc. Saigon, being only 400 years old, lacks those really old buildings.

Traffic in both cities is chaotic and scary: crossing the road feels suicidal in both: in HCM the streets can be very wide and the traffic does not let up, in Hanoi the streets are narrower but more winding, so I had more close calls in Hanoi despite it not seeming as scary. Also, since it was at the end of my trip I'd had time to get used to it.

Food: Both offer excellent Vietnamese food, but I think I prefer Saigon a bit more, since the cuisine is a little spicier (both seem inferior to the central part of VN though) and the foreign cuisine is slightly better. The French food is great in Hanoi though. There are more weird delicacies in Hanoi like dog meat. Fresh fruit is found in abundance in both cities.

Markets: Saigon has two big markets - Ben Tay and Ben Tranh, which are pretty big and interesting. Hanoi has a big one, I forgot the name, but it was mostly clothing.

Nightlife/Entertainment: Both don't compare to Bangkok or Hong Kong, of course, but I think Hanoi is better for live music, including jazz, while HCM has more bars for ex-pats and clubs.

People: Not a great deal of difference, both had friendly and unfriendly people. The biggest difference was I wasn't hassled nearly as much by cyclos in Hanoi as Ho Chi Minh.

Quality of Life: Saigon is probably more comfortable to live in but Hanoi is more interesting/romantic.


Overall it's a lot closer than I would have thought before. In fact Saigon has it's good points, and it has more potential for growth than Hanoi. Neither feel like metropolises of 6 million or so each (Vietnamese cities don't have the towering skylines or big names as say Singapore or Bangkok) It feels a little more worldly. Hanoi actually didn't fascinate me, but it's an interesting mix of Asia meets France. Neither draws me back that strongly (my favourite place in Vietnam is Hoi An, central Vietnam), but I'd still pick Hanoi just.

 
Old 12-25-2012, 07:43 AM
 
Location: Macao
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I've been to both.

First time through, I really liked Saigon, but found Hanoi more charming. So much so, that I decided I wanted to go back to Vietnam again, and spent significant time in Hanoi. Second time around, it wore thin fast. It seemed smaller, if you spend too much time there, and the people more insular.

In retrospect, I found the Saigon people more engaging, more enthusiastic, more open to everytihing, and found the Hanoi people more suspicious in nature, more conservative, and more insular.

In short, Hanoi is probably the more intriguing one on a short visit, but Saigon has more to offer for a more long-term stay.
 
Old 12-25-2012, 08:28 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
I've been to both.

First time through, I really liked Saigon, but found Hanoi more charming. So much so, that I decided I wanted to go back to Vietnam again, and spent significant time in Hanoi. Second time around, it wore thin fast. It seemed smaller, if you spend too much time there, and the people more insular.

In retrospect, I found the Saigon people more engaging, more enthusiastic, more open to everytihing, and found the Hanoi people more suspicious in nature, more conservative, and more insular.

In short, Hanoi is probably the more intriguing one on a short visit, but Saigon has more to offer for a more long-term stay.
I spent 5 nights in Saigon and about the same in Hanoi, so I got a reasonable feel for each city. Engaging is probably true for Saigon, but it has it's downsides, there's a lot of opportunistic cheats out on the streets and I got sick of them trying to take me to hookers. I got a lot less of that in Hanoi. I wanted to explore a lot of Saigon on foot but ended up hardly doing any of that since I was always taking motorbikes. Some are good, but others try to over-charge you, and try to use the sympathy card.

In my 5 day stay one day was spent going to Cu Chi and one to the Mekong Delta. As a base to see Southern Vietnam it's good but if I were to spend that long in just the city I'd get pretty bored. Both cities get kind of boring, quick, and what's more, the tourist infrastructure still isn't very good. For example, I went to the war remnants museum and what little English signage there was was in bad English. The country has a very young tourist industry, I think hardly any Westerners were visiting until 15 years ago.

For me the highlights in Vietnam were Hoi An, Sapa, and to a lesser extent, Hue and Halong Bay. Including My Son. I would have probably included Phong Nha and Bach Ma had I a chance to actually see those two (I couldn't because of the rains). I also wanted to see Dalat but opted for Nha Trang instead.

If I ever go back to VN it'll probably be just to Saigon to see a friend, Cat Tien NP, then quickly up to Dalat, Kontum and the Central Highlands like Yok Don NP, Phong Nha and Hoi An again. There are also some remote areas in the north like Ba be and Mai Chau which would be worth checking out.
 
Old 12-26-2012, 09:15 PM
 
Location: Macao
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
I spent 5 nights in Saigon and about the same in Hanoi, so I got a reasonable feel for each city. Engaging is probably true for Saigon, but it has it's downsides, there's a lot of opportunistic cheats out on the streets and I got sick of them trying to take me to hookers. I got a lot less of that in Hanoi. I wanted to explore a lot of Saigon on foot but ended up hardly doing any of that since I was always taking motorbikes. Some are good, but others try to over-charge you, and try to use the sympathy card.
The constant overcharging and opportunistic cheats summed up my entire experiences both times throughout Vietnam. I think I was more accepting of it the first time throughout Vietnam, as I was constantly on the move, and enjoying the novelty of the country.

When I went back to Vietnam the second time, I focused on Hanoi, and the day-to-day grind of constant 'cyclo cyclo' every 2 seconds really grinded on me.

No plans to go back to Vietnam. Although I'd love to see it again another day if it became a Korea economically, as loved the food, architecture and culture.
 
Old 06-21-2014, 07:33 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
The constant overcharging and opportunistic cheats summed up my entire experiences both times throughout Vietnam. I think I was more accepting of it the first time throughout Vietnam, as I was constantly on the move, and enjoying the novelty of the country.

When I went back to Vietnam the second time, I focused on Hanoi, and the day-to-day grind of constant 'cyclo cyclo' every 2 seconds really grinded on me.

No plans to go back to Vietnam. Although I'd love to see it again another day if it became a Korea economically, as loved the food, architecture and culture.
Yeah I think architecture-wise, the fact you can see the same in China, makes it less unique, but the combination of French colonial, traditional Chinese-influenced architecture and some weird interpretation of modern architecture is interesting. Hoi An is probably the most unique/interesting town in Vietnam, while the caves would be nice. The northern mountains with their hilltribes are interesting, although you can see the same in Laos or Yunnan.
 
Old 06-21-2014, 11:18 PM
JL
 
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I like the hustle and bustle of Saigon, but Hanoi is a nice change of pace. Overall, i still prefer Saigon with more things to do. The traffic is unreal though. I never drove when i was there, but it would take quite some time to learn and get used to the habits there. This one Australian-Vietnamese expat has it down pat. He has been living there for a couple of years. He rides around town with a Go Pro helmet cam and narrates topics that viewers have emailed him. This one is just riding through traffic. One thing i learned is that there is always someone going the wrong way so you have to watch out...also some pedestrian can be crossing in the middle of the road, so you have to vigilant when riding your bike. Check it out...some close calls...Some amazing stuff.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2jlAOnZSGU
 
Old 06-22-2014, 03:19 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Hanoi is just as bustling and stressful, but the streets are just more winding and narrow. I actually had more genuine close calls in Hanoi than HCM, because of the blind spots and corners. But yeah as a pedestrian or on two wheels HCMC is pretty hairy at times.

Didn't feel there was particularly all that much to do in Saigon, I guess not the type of stuff that enthuses me a lot.
 
Old 06-22-2014, 06:03 AM
 
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
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Saigon for me! seems more modern and vibrant, not that interested in Vietnamese culture anyway.
 
Old 06-22-2014, 06:21 AM
 
Location: American Expat
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Default 1.5 years...

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Postman View Post
Yeah I think architecture-wise, the fact you can see the same in China, makes it less unique, but the combination of French colonial, traditional Chinese-influenced architecture and some weird interpretation of modern architecture is interesting. Hoi An is probably the most unique/interesting town in Vietnam, while the caves would be nice. The northern mountains with their hilltribes are interesting, although you can see the same in Laos or Yunnan.
Took you a while to respond?



Sai Gon hands down.. The ngoui bac are not as friendly anyway.

Sai Gon has Pham Ngu Lao, which is basically a cluster for everything related to tourism and tourists. Ha Noi does not have anything similar. Also, they shut down the clubs and bars in Ha Noi at midnight or sometimes even earlier. Sometimes you even ahve a couple of Communists coming in making sure it's being closed. What a joke.
There's plenty to do if you rent a xe may.

Besides, they rip you off anywhere in Asia. The only country I was not constantly ripped off was Myanmar. As a matter of fact, I had people running after me TWICE to give me the correct change.
 
Old 06-22-2014, 06:26 AM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,244,676 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glucorious View Post
Took you a while to respond?



Sai Gon hands down.. The ngoui bac are not as friendly anyway.

Sai Gon has Pham Ngu Lao, which is basically a cluster for everything related to tourism and tourists. Ha Noi does not have anything similar. Also, they shut down the clubs and bars in Ha Noi at midnight or sometimes even earlier. Sometimes you even ahve a couple of Communists coming in making sure it's being closed. What a joke.
There's plenty to do if you rent a xe may.

Besides, they rip you off anywhere in Asia. The only country I was not constantly ripped off was Myanmar. As a matter of fact, I had people running after me TWICE to give me the correct change.
I don't really want to be among all the tourists. I felt Hanoi was more touristy, especially the Old Quarter, District 1 where I stayed actually felt kind of quiet at times. Saigon is no Bangkok, I don't really go to Vietnam to go to clubs and bars. I went to a few, but not in Saigon, and at one felt sort of awkward because of the language barrier.

Well less so the more developed countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan.etc.
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