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Vietnam forum

HCMC or Hanoi?

Posted by sea_newcomer on 23/7/2009 at 20:03

Hi there,
I would be interested to find out what people's thoughts are on whether HCMC or Hanoi is a better place to visit. I will be spending a few months in Thailand this winter, but plan to fly to one of these two destinations for a few days. Which would people recommend and why? Thanks in advance for your advice.

#1 sea_newcomer has been a member since 23/7/2009. Posts: 1

Posted by BruceMoon on 23/7/2009 at 21:43


May I turn the tables...

How about you go read about HaNoi (here) and HCMC (SiaGon) (here here on Travelfish, and tell us what you think may be better (and why so for you).

That way, we'd have some measure as to your thinking before we tried to assist.


#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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Posted by MADMAC on 24/7/2009 at 01:02

Bruce is right. Without some sort of orientation point, how do we tell you which one is better? We don't know your preferences. If you asked me, for example (Oh, you did), I would go to Hanoi , because it has a larger salsa scene and Mai, one of the dancers there, is exceptional. So I recommend Hanoi over Saigon.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by chrispyrolls on 24/7/2009 at 02:39

i prefer Hanoi for the Old Quarter, and general less hectic pace ... saying that it's not exactly quiet! I find HCMC more built up ...

#4 chrispyrolls has been a member since 2/11/2006. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 197
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Posted by Tweet22 on 24/7/2009 at 09:06

HCM City is a lot more westernised. It's alot more expensive. Expect to pay western prices. Even clubbing with friends could rack up a few hundred dollars. The bar staff handing out fresh cool towels (like wet wipes) expect a 50,000 dong tip! (about $3)
For this time of year, it's can be unbearably hot in both cities. However, the streets of HCM City tend to feel cleaner since it's appears roomier (wider streets, bigger shops).
The biggest difference between the 2 places is the cost, but if you're only going for a few days, what the heck? Depends on your preference. HCM City has people regularly wearing mini skirts and '2 string tops' as they call it in Viet Nam. The north is much more authentic.

#5 Tweet22 has been a member since 24/7/2009. Posts: 8

Posted by MADMAC on 24/7/2009 at 12:45

"HCM City has people regularly wearing mini skirts and '2 string tops' as they call it in Viet Nam. The north is much more authentic."

Learn something new every day - this scores a big point in Saigon's favor.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by DLuek on 24/7/2009 at 14:16 TF writer

If I had to pick one or the other, I'd do Ha Noi. It's the capital, and historical cradle of Vietnamese civilization, so if you're only going to make one stop to get a feel for Vietnam, Ha Noi is a good bet. If you're into sightseeing, I'd say Ha Noi is better than Saigon overall, and much easier to navigate/get your bearings in.

Funny the price comparison from Tweet22. I spent about a week in each city and I thought Ha Noi was the expensive one. Also the streets seemed wider to me in Ha Noi overall (at least outside of the Old Quarter). Some parts of Ha Noi feel something like a European city, with colonial buildings and big wide streets lined with threes. My impression of Saigon is that it is head-spinning and developing so fast that it feels almost "thrown together" in places.

Both are great cities though, this is just one guy's opinion.

#7 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,298
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Posted by Tweet22 on 26/7/2009 at 06:13

Visiting family in the north, I was able to sample life as a resident of VN. Sitting on my doorstep selling duck eggs and tofu at morning and afternoon market, whilst being eaten by the mosquitoes. Taking my nephew for breakfast across the road and taking him to school. It seems you're never far away from anything you need.
My 2nd trip to VN involved visiting HCMC and it was almost like a culture shock. It didn't feel like VN anymore if that makes sense. A lot of people seem more well off down south, with their fancy sports cars and designer gear (and cars are extremely expensive over there with around 200% on car tax). It's so modern, and that term can and is used to describe the people too. If I'm hot, I don't wear much - a strappy top and shorts, and in the north EVERYONE stares at you. I've been told by my cousin's colleague when I went to visit her in her office out of hours, that what I wore attracted alot of attention, and really should avoid wearing things like that. In the south, meh, no biggie - boob tubes and hot pants (!)
Perhaps it's because I experienced the south as a tourist that I found it more expensive, but every relative and friend in VN warned me to go there was more expensive. Obviously things like accommodation, would be more expensive - being a popular tourist spot, but even the food. I went for Korean one night and the same starter costs more there than here in London! (Their KFCs are much cheaper though!)
Other warnings for the south was that it was notorious for people who wore expensive looking jewellery; to be mugged. I was forbidden to travel there without leaving my 24 carat gold pendant behind. "They can see from that glow that it's 24ct and you're going to have that ripped from your neck even whilst riding the motorbike." Ok, well it's best to be safe and not wear stuff like that on holiday anyways.

#8 Tweet22 has been a member since 24/7/2009. Posts: 8

Posted by amazon_blonde on 26/7/2009 at 07:12

I agree that it's nearly impossible to tell someone what's better to vist, HCMC or Ha Noi, as they are so different. I have a soft spot for Saigon. I feel really comfortable in the city and I like shopping there and I dig the food scene (although the street food isn't renowned like Ha Noi, there are good eats to be had). I also found Ha Noi to be more expensive for comparable things (hotels, transit) but the street food is so cheap and plentiful that it compensates. Overall, I find HCMC more "livable" and less stressful for me.
That's not to say that I don't like Ha Noi. I do. I'm very glad I've been, but I might not go back. The street food is by far the biggest single draw for me. I could just eat and walk, eat and walk. The souvenir shopping is great, but otherwise, I didn't find the shopping up to par with HCMC. The historical sites are more significant, but I really liked Saigon's museums.
Overall, I think people really need to visit both. If you read about both cities and don't have a clear favourite, perhaps plane ticket schedules/prices will be a factor. You can't really go wrong with either.

#9 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116

Posted by MissJanie on 27/7/2009 at 18:38

If you will travel on winter. So I think Hanoi is a good choice. HCMC is alike Thailand as I know.

#10 MissJanie has been a member since 10/6/2009. Posts: 7

Posted by MADMAC on 28/7/2009 at 00:28

"HCMC is alike Thailand as I know."

Well I like Thailand, so maybe I should check Saigon out.

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Posted by violets on 29/7/2009 at 09:53

I preferred Hanoi the first few times I went there, but am learning to love Saigon too, though I don't really like the backpacker area. I think probably Hanoi is better for a first trip. I think it's probably easier to get around and there are lots of old buildings and great museums.

#12 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 153

Posted by BruceMoon on 29/7/2009 at 10:38


Notice that sea_newcomer hasn't responded...

Somtam, this is again another example of why the person making the original post MUST NOT be left with the option to check a box for replies.

We have a dozen contributors offering advice to someone who appears uninterested in what has been suggested.

Please make it compulsory for the original 'poster' to have automatic replies. If they seek to close the reply attribute off, they can do it on their 'members' page.


#13 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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