HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A City of Contrasts

I've written in the past about the jarring contrasts evident in a city flooded with money that still sits inside a developing country. Saigon is home to countless luxury hotels and high-end restaurants, Ferraris and boutiques like Prada and Chanel. It is also home to a huge number of urban poor who eke out an existence on the margins of society: selling lottery tickets, collecting garbage, living in tin shacks along polluted canals. Even after over three years here I'm still occasionally blown away by an image: an old woman shitting in a storm drain in front of the Sheraton; a woman with no legs crawling along a sidewalk outside a dim sum restaurant while tables full of the young rich dine next to their Audis.

The other night I had dinner at a grilled chicken place on a cramped street in Binh Thanh district. While not the most shocking contrast, the scene was illustrative of what I'm talking about: my table sat next to a sewing machine cart, while the super-expensive City Garden apartments buildings lorded over the whole area. I wondered what the people looking down on the neighborhood thought, and what the vendors who are just scraping buy think when they look up at the blue lights atop the towers.


  1. Hi Mike, if you have time could you do a write-up on how much it would cost for an expat to live in Saigon. (rent, hydro, etc.)thanks

  2. I am on a fixed income of 1500 Us d a month, would this be enough to retire comfortably in Vietnam Mike?

    1. The short answer is yes - funnily enough the cover story in the magazine I work for this month was about retiring in Vietnam. You can read it here: http://www.asialifemagazine.com/vietnam/retiring-in-vietnam/

  3. As a vender, I'd probably be thinking that the purple mountain is where I want to go when I die.