Someone recently asked me what the differences between Sài Gòn and Hà Nội are.
The following is strictly from my personal experience.
Your own vantage points and conditions might vary.
Like the rest of this blog everything is subjective to me and me only.
Keep in mind that no matter how unbiased I try to be, there will always be a sense of bias.
I have spent far more days in Sài Gòn and I am culturally and ethnically Southern Vietnamese if such a thing even exists.
The Sword Lake and the Notre-Dame Cathedrale in Hà Nội and Sài Gòn
Lets get one thing straight- both places rain and both places rain suddenly and painfully.
Sài Gòn is typically very warm and humid all year round.
The “winter” months offer some relief from the bustling heat, but the sun can still be rather strong.
From time to time and especially if you stay away from the congested areas of the city, you can catch a strong breeze or two to blow away those beads of sweat.
Even on chillier days, air conditioning is required all year round for comfort purposes.
Hà Nội on the hand, actually has seasons of extremity.
Its summers are scorching while its winters can be rather frigid.
I would imagine that autumn and spring would be rather comfortable.
Having been to Hà Nội during the summer and the winter time, I have to say that the winters there were comparable to a brisk December day in Southern California.
The only downside was that central heating did not seem apparent.
Most people own space heaters which aren’t always safe to leave on all night long.
Morning strolls in the were more pleasant though because I was allowed to wear a jacket with a retro scarf while sipping on a cup of hot coffee.
So cosmopolitan of me.
For the most part I don’t think Vietnamese food is all that good.
Healthy consciously wise it is almost as sickening as its Chinese counterpart in terms of fats and lard.
Food in Sài Gòn is more varied in terms of international flares.
You can eat food pretty much every country here and there’s no shortages of Indian, Korean, Italian, Japanese, and mainstream American offerings.
I am down the street from a Carl’s Jr. In Hà Nội, getting a decent hamburger might be a challenge.
Aside from variety, I have reason to believe that food in the south is higher quality.
Despite being in a colder climate, food in Hà Nội felt like it would moulder a lot more quickly.
Some of the worst meals of my life were in the north.
I found myself swallowing and just gulping down water because the food was either too salty or too full of MSG.
The phở in the north is also rather upsetting if you’re accustomed to pho in the south.
Imagine how much more eyebrow raising it was for me when I grew up on Little Sài Gòn phở.
They don’t put any sprouts or veggies in their pho in the north and the variety of beef parts were rather limited.
I also believe that food costs are generally more expensive up north too.
Seafood was hefty and some fruits, especially coconuts were huge rips due to transportation costs.
Some parts of Sài Gòn are insanely modern.
It’s commodious, no doubt, especially with so much lush greenery and construction cranes over looking the horizon.
The transitions from the ghetto to the posh happens within a matter of foot steps here.
There are definitely more taller buildings and sky-rise apartments.
In just size alone, Sài Gòn takes home the cake.
Things are pretty far apart and spaced out. It’s starting to really feel like a big city with a downtown.
Hà Nội on the other hand feels cozy and intimate.
The narrow streets with tight bends and cluttered historic homes adds a unique charm that is rather rare in Sài Gòn.
The aspect of culture and history surrounds you when you’re in Hà Nội.
Traffic isn’t as bad and life just appears more relaxed at times, especially with its many lakes.
What is it about just staring into a big body of water that releases one’s inner trepidation and anxieties?
The bottom line is there is a different feel between the two cities.
For those of you who haven’t been to Hà Nội, you should consider at least visiting because Hà Nội won’t feel like a lesser Sài Gòn.
It’s a different animal.
Nothing beats a Vietnamese girl from Eastern Europe, but if I was forced to marry a Vietnamese girl, I would prefer a girl from the north much to my parent’s dismay.
Girls from Hà Nội might be more related to Chinese girls and so most of them just look far cuter than their southern counterparts.
It also has something to do with clothes and make up.
Winter allows these girls to dress up in coats, which hide their likely underwhelming bodies and the cold allows their make up to not run so much.
Trust me, you ain’t gonna see nobody wear an áo bà ba in Hà Nội in January.
There’s definitely more fashion up there.
Long sexy boots sure beats sandals any day in my books.
Girls in the south don’t necessarily know how to dress.
Most girls in Sài Gòn are from the countryside anyways.
However, northern girls are known for having difficult personalities, but then again, that might be more subjective than anything else.
There’s no doubt, there are individuals living in both spheres that would make an awesome wife or mistress.
It’s funny how a friend from the north told me how Sài Gòn girls were so much hotter.
I think he’s crazy.
The travel potential
Saigon is pretty close to some pretty spectacular beaches.
Vũng Tàu and Mũi Né are possible weekend trips while Nha Trang and Phú Quốc aren’t that far away.
The Mekong Delta offers some nice rural experiences as well.
Đà Lạt is an easy way to escape the heat and during the winter months, hardly any locals go there, making it rather peaceful.
The surrounding area of Hà Nội has many wonderful day trip potentials, such as Ninh Bình and Mai Châu.
Don’t forget about Hạ Long Bay, Hải Phòng, and Sapa.
Hà Nội has its mountains and I’m more of a mountain guy.
If you enjoy beaches and jungle then Sài Gòn is better.
If you’re into mountains and forest then Hà Nội is better.
The livability factor
As stated previously, having a Southern Vietnamese dialect and vocabulary bank makes life as an American Việt kiều in Sài Gòn far easier than if I was in the north.
The factor of getting ripped off would likely be more apparent.
It seems like Sài Gòn is a host to Vietnamese people from all different regions.
It’s not too uncommon to hear a Huế dialect or a Hà Nội dialect here.
It was far less common to wear a southern dialect up north.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- there are plenty of jackasses everywhere and some of the nicest people I’ve met are from the north while I also met a fair share of shady ass mofos as well.
The “friendliness” of the people is another subjective topic.
I’ve had my mixed results.
Did I feel any war related tensions?
I’m too young for them to fault me for matters that were out of my control.
In terms of livability as an expat, I really believe that Sài Gòn is easier in general.
Aside from the variety of food, there are already expat communities in District 7- Phú Mỹ Hưng and District 2- Thảo Điền / An Phú.
Sure, Hà Nội has its Mỹ Đình, but it’s still lagging the accessibility, centralization, and name recognition.
People I met in Hải Phòng knew what Phú Mỹ Hưng was.
Another thing to consider is that Sài Gòn stays awake longer.
Clubs, restaurants, and other vices are open later.
There are also more international schools and language centers in the south.
More job opportunities for western losers, I guess.
I think that pretty much covers it.
I like Hà Nội a lot, but Sài Gòn is still more favorable for me.
There’s a girl I know who moved up to Hà Nội after things went sour between us and I’ve been wanting to come visit her in an attempt to reignite a fire that was never lit.
Maybe I am just looking for more drama?
In the end, don’t judge Hà Nội if you haven’t been there.
Tell your parents to shut their traps and come visit for a few days and come in with an open mind.
By KYLE LE