Melancholy and modernity coalesce in Vietnam’s largest city to offer up a conflicting farewell to the country.

I’m only happy when it rains, I’m only happy when it’s complicated…

Our late night landing into Tan Son Nhat International Airport was a rather unpleasant, if not very hilarious, experience. Let’s just say that the sight of our hotel lobby torn apart and under construction at 1am in the morning with a young man passed out on a cot isn’t the most reassuring of feelings when arriving in a foreign city. Exhausted and hungry, we reluctantly booked rooms covered in thin layers of sawdust on the express understanding of finding new accommodations the following day.

Rain Rain Go Away

Eclectic interior of Propaganda Restaurant.

After hunkering down at an airbnb the following day for some familiar western creature comforts– Netflix, Domino’s Pizza and Saigon Special beers, we decided to check out the sights of Ho Chi Minh City. Having just missed the morning viewing of the War Remnants Museum, we slogged through the rain and navigated to the nearby Propaganda Restaurant to escape the sudden downpour.

Local Brews with Ex-Pat Views

Nitro Imperial Coffee Brown Ale on tap at the Pasteur Street Brewing Company.

With the rain slowing down to a trickle, we casually strolled a few blocks down to Pasteur Street Brewing Company to sample the beers on tap. Located in a nondescript alleyway, save for a very hip looking sign, the bar offers many local brews such as the very refreshing coffee brown ale pictured above. The brewery is pretty popular with foreigners and ex-pats, as evidenced in the near perfect English spoken by the friendly and helpful staff.

A Look Into Vietnam’s Somber Past

Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum.

It was then off to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum a few minutes away to take in some of the arts and history of the country that was home for almost three weeks. The museum’s collections are housed within a gorgeous French colonial-era building and is a sight in and of itself with its original stained glass windows and balconies. Fun fact: Vietnam’s oldest elevator, albeit non-functioning, is located in the entrance hall of the museum at the center of its main stairwell.

Sky line view from one of the museum’s many balconies.

Many of the works on view are studies into the country’s conflicted past. It’s a very sobering experience roaming the dimly lit halls and reflecting on the various artist interpretations of Vietnam’s history. Quiet breaks between collections were spent gazing from balconies into panoramic skyline views, quiet residential streets and busy traffic intersections.

A Not-So-Fond Farewell

Ho Chi Minh City Hall Square.

All in all, Vietnam has been an amazing experience even with the many ups and downs along the way. Its stunning vistas, complex history, and unparalleled street food scene is tempered by its proud locals, lack of some basic infrastructure, and daunting language barrier. Vietnam is a challenging but rewarding country that demands closer examination from its many curious, intrepid visitors and I’m grateful to have had the chance to explore it.