Vrooooom, beep beep!
Ho Chi Minh, the city of motor bikes.
How do you cross the road?
My friend said,”close your eyes and trust me.”
More amazingly, it worked.
Travel tip #1: Do your research.
Transport: My friends did some good footwork and the internet told us to look for “Vinasun” or “Mailinh” taxi. Remember the names because most of their taxis look somewhat similar (in green) so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If your brain juice simply couldn’t work, then just make sure you confirm with the driver to charge by meter.
Travel tip #2: Do more research.
Accommodations: Decent price, great space, and comfort at the Cap Town Hotel.
Travel tip #3: To survive, research good food.
First up: BÁNH MÌ!!!
Bánh mì stores close pretty early. We’re thinking it’s probably a breakfast food. You know what? We’re not too sure. No time to research, just want to eat!!!
———————————————————————————————————————————-Next choice: French cuisine/food
We found a French bakery place–une journee a paris (a journey in Paris), near our hotel.
Price: A little pricey for Vietnam standards
Owner: Soooo charismatic. French~
234 Le Thanh Ton, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Travel tip #3: Don’t waste your time, plan!
District 1 is one of the most popular tourist areas in Ho Chi Minh. It has activity and great food. It is also home to the Ben Thanh market place.
The market place operates indoor by day and outdoors by night.
It is generally a one-floor building surrounded by roads, as with all buildings. So in the day the vendors operate from their stores, and as evening approaches, the stores and the building close while some vendors start moving onto the streets. #asianshardatwork
The place is massive. They typically have handicrafts, textiles and house ware. Just look at the map of the market.
Vietnamese people are generally kind hearted but watch out for pickpockets. It even says so on the map! They also have some rules/guidelines for visitors to follow.
When in Vietnam, do what the locals tell you to.
The Independence Palace exhibits the Vietnam war and the then president’s living quarters. Some people say it is a creepy place because it houses a lot of death. Enter if you dare.
Crossing a small park along Le Duan street, you’ll arrive at Saigon Central Post Office and Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.
The Saigon Central Post Office–quaint but busy with tourists. I really like how they kept its original architecture, both the exterior and interior. You’ll be surprised because the vintage phone booths actually still work.
The office called, let me take the call.
The post office is situated right next to the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Vietnam used to be a French colony so you can find a lot of french influence here.
For the adventurous, book a trip to the Củ Chi tunnel.
Yes, the tunnel is really cramp.
Yes, it’s going to be dirty.
Still, I’ll recommend you talk a walk through the cramp tunnel.
You can only experience the fake one anyway. The locals built a tunnel that is slightly bigger for the fat asses that we are today. Story has it that a tourist got himself stuck so they had to improvise. They call it the “European Size”, as a joke (I hope). Still, most of us had to go through it hunched back.
If you combine the last 2 spots I have introduced, you’ll get… Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Did you get it, did you get it? Please don’t leave me.
Here, our guide is explaining how people used to live underground. There is lesser oxygen underground (naturally) so the people dug holes on the surface for ventilation. To avoid being detected, they hide these ventilation points real well.
If you fall into one of the traps… good luck.
The original size of the entrance into the tunnels. Our guide is holding onto the cover, which is camouflaged with dried leaves.
First, you fit YT into the hole.
And she emerges to attack the enemies!
To be frank, it wasn’t scary because I knew I was getting out and it was only going to be a few seconds. But can you imagine the people at war? They had to live inside for months, never seeing the sun. And the moment they put the lid on, it was PITCH DARK.
After they torture you in the tunnels, they feed you this. I’m kidding, let’s be sensitive for a moment now. This is what people ate during wartimes. Don’t complain. Be thankful when you get peanut bits for seasoning.
War is horrible.
We need comfort food. I never thought highly of Vietnamese food (I AM SORRY!) because they just look so bland. Their national dish, Pho, is just some rice noodles, grass and chunks. Visuals are very important for enhancing your taste buds. I mean, just look at this.
BUT YOU TASTE SO GOOD! And so we had it every day in our 3-day trip. We even learnt how to say it right. It’s not “foe” or “four”. It’s more like “fur” with an accent.
What’s more amazing is you can customise it. In Japan, chefs hate it when you add seasoning to their food. Not their lunch or dinner that they are about to eat. The food that they had meticulously prepared for you.
In Vietnam, ADD ALL YOU WANT! Your order always comes with an array of basil, lime, onions, chilli, bean sprouts, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, chilli sauce etc. I personally like it with basil, chilli padi, bean sprouts and fish sauce.
Pho 2000 and Pho 24 are famous Pho restaurants in Ho Chi Minh. They have many branches and many of them open till late. Great choice for supper 🙂
Vietnamese seem to like using numbers when naming things.
E.g., “333′ a Vietnamese Beer
My other favourite food is Bánh Mì. I love bread and even more so, a good baguette. Bánh Mì is an excellent fusion of French and Asian — pâté (pah-teh) and fish sauce. It’s sweet, salty, sour, spicy all in one!!!
*pâté is disgusting chicken stuff mashed together but it’s good.
I love street food! And don’t expect your food to be clean. Actually, we have a horror story on this one but I’d say you should try unless you have a weak stomach.
Finally, my own!
And the last Vietnamese-must-have, Bánh cuốn. This is the Vietnamese version of a spring roll. Non-fried and deep fried versions available. Anything deep fried is good. Even insects.
We also tried bánh xèo, which didn’t turn out impressive as I thought it would be.
Know the moral of the story? Don’t put your expectations too high, people. It works with food as it works with your life, your partner, your job etc.
Vietnam also serves great french food at a pocket friendly price! We also found other cafes that serve something other than plain bread. Put your hands together for the croque madame. It’s basically toast with ham, cheese and egg. Just sounds fancy. If you are anti-feminism, then opt for croque monsieur, the same toast without the egg.
———————————————————————————————————————————-Finally, learn some simple Vietnamese phrases to help make your trip smoother! (it will help if you know Mandarin as some words/sounds are similar)
Hello — Chào (sounds like “jao“, 早)
Thank you — Cảm ơn. (kam errhn, 感恩)
I’m sorry — Xin lỗi. (seen lo-ee)
*A lot of photos are credits to my friend, Mr. Wong.