Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon. District 1. Land of backpackers. It’s hot and we’re boring so we head across town to see another movie.

We see finding Dory in an empty movie theater next to what looks like a failed urban planner’s utopia. Big, sterile buildings. Not much in them. The ghost of a food court in the basement. Or maybe a food court past a concrete wall that we just don’t see. We find one open Pho shop, not entirely empty. The food is good and cheap

And so we end up seeing the city mainly through the backseat of a cab. And it’s a sprawling, crazy city. The old town streets of Hanoi, writ large across 19 districts. Skyscrapers off in the distance.

One street glows neon — karaoke and voodoo-themed bars. Another street is covered in run-down buildings and dark DIY storefronts. Inside children run around while men and women sit in plastic chairs, hawking cigarettes and dusty cans of food. Another block over, chic boutiques. Further down generic buildings as if in any city, anywhere. And then the river, one boat decked out in neon to resemble a fish. Of course there’s a giant market. Several markets. Indoor markets. Outdoor markets. Markets in the middle of the highway. A street of flower vendors turned empty, shuttered stalls in the darkness.

Our hotel is up a small pedestrian-only alley, past the main street where everything caters to Westerners, bars and a Circle K on every corner. Walking back children play and people chat, one girl sitting in what looks like a discarded wheelchair. Doorways are open. It’s not clear if they are houses, stores, restaurants, or some combination of the three.

The next day we walk past dead fish heads in the market that’s sprung up in the street by the hotel. A jogger stops and warns me to put my phone away so I don’t get robbed. We forget to take a green cab, the only kind you’re supposed to take in Vietnam and get ripped off by a taxi driver with his meter is rigged to cost 10X the normal price. We decide it’s time to continue on to Cambodia.