I prefer going to the South. Okay, that’s just my opinion. In fact, it does depend on what you expect for your trip as well as your travel style. I know many people who love Hanoi better than Saigon!
I want to call it Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh City because Saigon was actually the original name of Ho Chi Minh City’s downtown which was called the Pearl of the Far East during the French colonial period.
Even though I like Saigon better, I will try not to be too bias in this article.
Let me put my comparison into some different categories and grade them on the 10 point scale:
– Hanoi: 5/10
– Saigon: 3/10
To be really fair, Hanoi is much better for photo shooting, you can go to the Old Quarter and take plenty of interesting photos. Somehow it has a touch of the French colonial period so you will feel like looking at things and trying to understand them. With 4 seasons a year and many natural lakes, Hanoi also changes its look from time to time. But in my opinion, I prefer the weather in Saigon because it is more steady and healthier.
– Hanoi: 4/10
– Saigon: 7/10
Looking at the score, you might think Hanoian people are not good. Actually the Hanoian people are nice and cultured people but they make a small number in the total population here. I think 3 quarters of the population in Hanoi are not from Hanoi. But overall the Northen people are less open then the Southern people. Being a foreigner who only speaks English, you will find it much easier to stay in Saigon than in Hanoi. In my opinion, southern Vietnamese are more honest, fun and friendly therefore I feel more comfy with the people in Saigon. I do not like buying stuff in Hanoi because I’m always afraid that the stuff is fake and they mark up the price as if I was an idiot.
– Hanoi: 3/10
– Saigon: 3/10
Hanoi has less traffic jam than Saigon because the population per square kilometer is lower than that in Saigon. But people manage their vehicles better in Saigon. I am overwhelmed with people using horns in Hanoi. Overall, a tie. And I dislike the traffic both in Saigon and in Hanoi just like anywhere else in Vietnam.
– Hanoi: 2/10
– Saigon: 6/10
There is a vast difference in terms of the service industry between Hanoi and Saigon. I don’t know about how other people are treated but to me it’s very clear that Hanoi needs a lot of improvement vis-a-vis the service industry. The first reason is about the people’s characteristics noted in the 2nd section above. The other thing is the quality of the management, the training. They may not know well or may not care about the dresscodes, about how to serve wine, how to be polite, how to talk softly, how to decorate a restaurant, how to be hygenic… So you may feel very annoyed being in Hanoi if you are a strict person or if you expect too much as if you were in Singapore or Europe… In Saigon, you will feel more comfortable being a customer and the people are more friendly, thus more professional in the service industry.
Every bar/club/restaurant has to close down early in Hanoi where as in Saigon you can still find many places to hang out until morning. That’s the main reason I love Saigon because I cannot put myself to bed at midnight. That is totally not my lifestyle. So, you have to accept the fact that after midnight, being in Hanoi makes no difference from being in any bedroom because you can only lock yourself in a hotel room and probably watch some HBO.
Service cost is about the same both in Hanoi and Saigon. But since you get better service in Saigon, you can make an easy choice now.
5. To travel to other areas in Vietnam:
– Hanoi: 5/10
– Saigon: 5/10
It is both not so hard to travel to different attractions around Hanoi and Saigon.
There are as many different attractions in the North as there are in the South.
But because I prefer the Southern weather, especially the nice beaches in the South, Saigon is my choice for traveling in Vietnam.
Total score for
– Hanoi: 19/50 = 38%
– Saigon: 24/50 = 48%
If you think I’m too strict to grade these two cities, then I have to say that I didn’t compare them with other Asian countries. :). The fact is I looked at Vietnam from the top-end international standards that I’ve experienced. Here I’m not trying to be picky, I just want Vietnamese people look at it the same way so that they can see the truth, to put more improvements into action and help the country develop, especially for the Tourist/Service Industry.
And then in the end, I only hope this article is useful for you to have a look before you make a decision on your trip to Vietnam.