Luck was on my side when my ex-school mate cum former roommate told me that she was interested to visit the country and would be free on the dates proposed. Yayyyyy!!! Finally I found someone to go together!!! We immediately purchased the tickets and booked the hotel room. I was asking my friend for advice and recommendation too on where to stay and place to eat. And just a week before departure, my hubby decided to join us too after knowing that his sister and her friends would be going too. So, after a long waiting, we were finally there!!! :)
Ho Chi Minh is the largest and busiest city in Vietnam located at the southeastern part of the region. It has more than 9 million people. It covers up to Cu Chi District and down to Can Gio, eastern to Long Binh ward, District 9, and west to Binh Chanh District. District 1 is the city’s central district. Many consulates and historical sights are located here. And that is where we stayed most of the time.
|Landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
January is a good month for traveling as the weather is not so hot and most importantly, dry. We flew using a morning flight and took us about 1.5 hours from Singapore to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The airport was opened in 2007, still looked new and bright.
|Vinasun - 5 and 7 seater available - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
We took ‘Vinasun’ cab traveling within the city. It’s the more reliable and recommended cab that used meter all the time. However, some drivers were not so honest bringing us to longer journey although we could actually take the shorter ones. But the fare was rather affordable (short journey cost about 25,000 to 40,000 VND or US$1-2 and longer one – just like from Airport to our hotel in District 1 – was about 150,000 VND or US$7.5).
Once we checked in and left our luggage there, we booked some tour from our hotel’s tour representative. It’s kind of tricky that there wasn’t price tag on their tour package list. As first-timer we just took whatever prices that the lady offered to us and only days later we found out that we were overcharged.
Once settled, we were all quite hungry and took cab to our first destination for lunch: Quán Nem at 15E Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, P. Bến Nghé, Quận 1. Oh, btw, the number of the shop/house there was followed by alphabet from A to don’t know what, e.g. 15A, 15B to 15H, etc. So, make sure you get the right address with exact number when locate the place to your Taxi driver. Luckily I did a vast research before going there by finding out the location, printing the map out, locating the places we wanted to go on the map, getting the exact address, and so on, which made us easier to go around :)
Back to Quán Nem, this restaurant was rated by CNN as a place that served the best spring roll – a square shape deep fried spring roll filled with crab meat. We were shocked when looked at their menu. They only served two types of food: Cha Gio, the Crab meat spring roll, and Bun Chan, the vermicelli eaten with grilled pork and veggies, topped with Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce). We only ordered one each as we had no idea how big the spring roll is and how much pork and vermicelli served per portion. Also, we wanted to save our stomach for other kind of food :D
|Our first lunch at Quan Nem - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
My friend, Arlene, recommended me this place. The place was quite packed with lunch crowd. We started our meal with Bun Chan. Three of us were quite unfamiliar with Vietnamese food, and seldom had a chance to eat other varieties than the common ones like Pho (beef kway teow soup) and spring roll. So, before starting, we turned our heads left and right spying around on how we supposed to eat it. Hehehe… Very suaku lah!!! :P
We finalized the steps as per follow: First, pinch some vermicelli using chop stick into the small bowl. Add some vegetable – since there are so many varieties of vegetables, just added whatever you like. Add the piece of pork meat and pour some sauce with pickles onto it. Voila!!! Ready to eat!!!
The spring roll came quite late as it had to be served fresh from the deep fryer. The server came to our table and cut it into four. Quite a challenge to eat it for three of us hahaha… Hm.. the square shape was quite special though as I imagined the spring roll to be a slim and long cylinder shape. It’s quite oily and the taste was okay only. However the pork served in Bun Chan was delicious!!! And we were kind of regret for only ordering one portion because after looking around, we realized that 1 person supposed to eat one portion and not one portion for 3 hungry persons like us hehehe… :D
We left the place with full stomach though (thanks to the Vermicelli) and decided to start browsing the Reunification Palace. Walking around would be great no? To digest the food faster hehe…
|The Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
Once we stepped out from our Taxi in front of the Reunification Palace, we found out that the place was closed. No one was inside. That’s how the cheating story happened right on our first day there. Read the story here
So, while waiting for it to be opened, I remembered that there was a nice recommended Café nearby the area. We walked there, located just beside the park in front of the Reunification Palace and very close to Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral.
|At the Park opposite the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
It’s a great place to chill and relax. We sat outdoor enjoying the greeneries in front of us, at the same time looking out for the passing by street vendors, while some people came offering my hubby to polish his sandals. Sandals?? Polish?? :P
|Creperie and Cafe - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Coffee break at Creperie and Cafe - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Vietnamese Hot Coffee - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
The journey to Vietnam would never complete without drinking its coffee!!! It’s a MUST HAVE thing when you travel there. So we ordered Vietnam Coffee to our liking. Hubby loves hot coffee with no milk. My friend, MG loves iced coffee with no milk, and as for myself, I prefer iced coffee with milk. So, through our journey we chose these three types of coffee for three of us :)
|Banana Flambe Crepe @Creperie and Cafe - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
We ordered a plate of Banana flambé crepe too as a dessert. Although I expected there would be flame on my banana crepe (like what we did during school time serving our guest in front of us), unfortunately there wasn’t any. It’s just a normal crepes served with banana, syrup, and ice cream.
So, we ate, drink, and ate, and enjoyed until the Reunification Palace was opened. The ticket cost us 30,000 VND per person. We browsed around the area ourselves. You can read more about it here.
|Conference Hall inside the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Presidential Reception Room inside the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Game Room inside the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Helipad at the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|My favorite collection from the Reunification Palace - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
The decorations, furniture, designs shown really reminisced us into the past. What used to be luxury things almost fifty years ago looked very outdated in modern world. However, it was still a great collections and worth to visit.
From there, we walked to Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, a famous and historical church constructed between 1877 and 1883 by French. There were visiting hours from Monday to Saturday: from 8am to 10.30am and from 3pm to 4pm. Therefore, we were very lucky when reaching the church at 3pm (we weren’t aware about the opening hour before visiting).
|Wedding ceremony going on inside Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
Moreover, there was a wedding ceremony going on so that we could see how it looked like :) The interior was very beautiful. The original building materials were imported from France. Reminded me a lot of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris ^^
|Surrounded by beautiful Vietnamese ladies :)|
When we were in front of the church, we also found a group of beautiful Vietnamese girls taking photos with flowers on their hands. We ended up taking photo together as a souvenir hehehe…
|Saigon Central Post Office - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
On the right side of the church, there was a very classic old building, yellow bright in color. At first my hubby thought it was a railway station, but later found out to be a Saigon Central Post Office. We went inside and found a beautiful architectural design. At the left and right after entrance, there were souvenir shops for you to browse. I loved the place so much! I bought few post cards and stamps to send to my loved ones :)
|Beautiful pictures on road side on our way to Hard Rock Cafe - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
Before going back to hotel, we passed by Hard Rock Café shop at 39 Lê Duẩn, Bến Nghé, Quận 1 –near Intercontinental Hotel, buying a souvenir for myself ^^
|Golden Dragon Theater - Vietnamese Water Puppetry - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
At 5pm we headed to Golden Dragon Theater at 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St., Dist. 1 to watch the Vietnamese cultural heritage art show, Water Puppetry. They have two shows per day: 5pm and 6.30pm. We were overcharged by the tour agent paying VND 160,000 per pax while my sister-in-law bought it only at VND 90,000.
|Inside the Golden Dragon Theater - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
The theater was not big and very old. Somehow I felt a bit eerie but tried hard to ignore. We were seated at the most back row and only three of us sitting there.
|Water Puppet Performance @Golden Dragon Theater - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
Despite those feelings, we felt grateful by being able to watch it ourselves there (not only in front of TV). In fact, we felt amazed by it! The colorful lightings, the live singing, sounding, and music played by multi-task players at both side of the water, the various puppets shown during the 50-minutes show and played by very talented artists behind the curtains, the money we paid for was so much worth it! Only too bad all the conversation and song was in Vietnamese language and we had no clue on what they were talking about. If there was a display of the translated words in English or Chinese (like what other theater/establishment do), it would be very much better!
We went back to hotel after the show. Oh oh, I started feeling hungry. We had a dinner appointment at 8 but it was only 6 pm plus. As the sky started turning into the dark, we decided to walk around our hotel looking for some food street seller. When we almost gave up, suddenly I saw many people sitting in a row on roadside holding a bowl of noodle, and ate happily. To their opposite, there was a lady sitting down and cooking her dish. I didn’t know how it was called but it looked delicious. We ordered one bowl to try. However, upon first few spoons of trying, my hubby and friend had already screamed asking for more. Hahaha… We ended up ordering the second bowl and sat using a small plastic stool near the seller, slurping all the soup and noodles out from the bowl satisfyingly: D
|Seafood Dinner at District 7 - Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
At 8pm, my sister-in-law and her friends fetched us by Taxi to Nha Hang Restaurant at 46/11 bis Nguyễn Văn Linh - District 7 to eat seafood for dinner. There, we met Lone for the first time. He ordered clay pot clam cooked with lemongrass, boiled vegetables dipped with pork oil and chili, steamed red snapper, fried chicken, and grilled prawns, ate it without rice, and accompanied with Bia Saigon, the local Saigon beer. We ate until very full and finished everything as it tasted delicious. That’s how our first day ended. Didn’t realize that we visited many places and tried so much food around. Ooh… that’s what travel should be!!! Stay tune for my Day 2 Itinerary and read about our trip to Cu Chi Tunnels plus our Ca Keo or Goby fish dinner…. ;)