Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

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.”

Wow, mind-blown.
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.

IMG_5058

 

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.

 

3761f-img_5063.jpg

Food: GREAT
Price: A little pricey for Vietnam standards
Owner: Soooo charismatic. French~

The cafe sells macaroons, the hippiest food on instagram right now.
Sadly, I’m not a big fan and I can’t judge what’s a good macaroon. At une journey a paris, the macaroon on a whole was not too sweet. The biscuit portion was crunchy and the cream inside feels soft, naturally. We ordered 2 flavours, lemon and berries. All their bread was amazing. We would definitely come back again.
141008-hcm-une-petit-02.jpg
 141008 HCM Un Petit 04
Address:
234 Le Thanh Ton, 
District 1Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Telephone:
+84 8 3827 7723
Website:


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.

141008 HCM Ban Tanh 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.

8cc9d-img_5101

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.

71284-img_5076

64e77-img_5094

82cf9-img_5093

372bb-img_5090

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.

4735a-img_5080

———————————————————————————————————————————-

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.

2322f-img_5149

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.

f6ac2-img_5128

If you fall into one of the traps… good luck.

13352-img_5132

 The original size of the entrance into the tunnels. Our guide is holding onto the cover, which is camouflaged with dried leaves.

1008d-img_5135

 

First, you fit YT into the hole.

141008 HCM Tunnel 01

And she emerges to attack the enemies!

141008 HCM Tunnel 03To 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.

70c5f-img_5151

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.

141008 HCM Pho 02

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.

184e9-img_5217

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.

d1a7d-img_5232

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!

10452941_10153505510242388_6303377425360707971_o

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.

141008 HCM Spring Roll5fc1c-img_5153

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.

IMG_5152

 

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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s