Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vietnam 2012: Ho Chi Minh City

Finally, the last of my Vietnam 2012 photos are up. I just HAD to finish them...cos I'm actually flying off for a holiday in Taipei tonight! :D

New trip = new photos. I couldn't afford to procrastinate any longer or I'll just combust from the backlog of photos to be uploaded after my return. I can't wait for the trip. It's been almost six (?) years since my last visit to Taipei and I believe there's been many changes to the city. I'll be visiting places I didn't went the last time round (Hualian, Danshui, Jiufen, Xinbeitou...) and of course, Sadaharu Aoki!!!

I'm rushing to head out for a quick dinner before my midnight flight, thus the limited captions for this post. Bear with me. If you're curious about anything I might not have captioned, drop a note, I'll reply when I can! :)

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

I really liked the place (I find such things interesting - erm, not museums as in arts per se, but stuff about war and all) and my girlfriend and I spent some time here just exploring the different sections. I recommend that this is a must visit if one should visit HCMH.

It's after school, a Vietnamese schoolboy buying a snack outside his school
Reunification Hall
Notre Dam Cathedral
HCMC Post Office

HCMC is a pretty small place (just like Hanoi), and luckily, most of the famous attractions were all situated in the same location - District 1. So we pretty much took a map and walked from one attraction to the next. Under the sun. Sigh, the weather in HCMC was really hot compared to Hanoi, it was akin to being back in Singapore.

Our hotel

My girlfriend managed to snagged us free accommodation at this great (Japanese?) hotel - Hotel Nikko Saigon. The place was really lovely, the room service was tops (they placed mini chocolates by the bedside when they come in to turn down your bed covers - yes, that's how great service was), the breakfast buffet spread was absolutely amazing and delicious that we dined there every morning before we head out.

Dinner at Cuc Gach Quan
The menu - English version

One of the nights, I googled for a place for dinner, and happened to find this place (that Angelina Jolie visited when she went HCMC!) that seemed pretty popular. So we hopped onto a cab and went to this pretty ulu and residential like area, where the restaurant was located.

I love the charming decor of the place and don't think I managed to capture all the lovely details.

Coconut juice to start things off

Dinner was fantastic. It was a great meal (nothing was bad) in a great atmosphere. Totally recommend this place for dinner. I happened to drop my camera lens cap into the pond in the backyard when I was making my way down the rickety stairs from the second level where we had our dinner. The service staff had to maneuver to retrieve it, and I was so thankful (and awfully embarrassed) to them for that as one of the waiters had to go into the pond, and got himself wet.

We popped by the roof top bar at Rex Hotel. Live music was not to our liking, we left after having a drink. :/

Ben Thanh Market
Bun Thit Nuong (Vermicelli with Vietnamese Grilled Pork) stall
Ice Vietnamese coffees to beat the heat

Bun thit nuong was another Vietnamese dish I had been craving so badly and was on my to-eat list, luckily I managed to get my hands on a bowl (it should be quite commonly found in Vietnam, just that I was working on a limited timeframe...). The sour, spicy, fresh flavours were certainly welcomed, it might not be the best bowl ever I reckon, but it certainly satisfied my craving (temporarily). One of these days, I think I'll attempt making a bowl of it from scratch. ;)

Vietnamese coffee 

Vietnam is famous for its coffee. The brew is strong, potent and smells fantastic. My coffee-holic Sis requested for a coupla bags of coffee powder. I bought quite a bit (~ bags of ground coffee in all). When the coffee stall dude was preparing my order, I jokingly asked for a phin (the Vietnamese filter used to brew the coffee) since I was buying so much. Initially he said no, but when he was packing it all up, he then threw in one for free (prob cos I really was buying quite a bit). So do try your luck if you are buying tons of coffee, you never know your coffee dude might just do the same for you! :)

Coffee bag sealing machine
Coffee beans grinder
Fresh Vietnamese coffee beans
Vegetables and fruits stalls in the market

Motorists are aplenty in HCMC too
Binh Tay Market

Binh Tay Market was another market in HCMC, one that is frequented more by the locals instead of the tourists. Indeed, when we popped by, there didn't seem to be many tourists around, and the market was mostly selling food and sundry items. We bought quite a bit of snacks from here, and I managed to snag a few baking molds too! :)

Birds nest anyone?

Snack shop

Pho dinner

The beef pho was pretty good. I ordered the beef and beef balls pho. Condiments were added according to your liking. I added tons of fresh mint, lime juice, a healthy squirt of chilli and beansprouts. The fresh vegetables served alongside weren't to girlfriend and my liking, so we barely touched it. ;)

Bánh mi stall

We visited the above Bánh mi stall during the day ( I found it from an online recommendation), but it was not yet opened for business. A Vietnamese local then told us to come back again at night. I was dying to get my hands on a fresh Bánh mi. So after dinner one night, while the girlfriend was in the gym, I walked to the stall (it is within walking distance - say about 15 minutes?) to get a Bánh mi.

I was a bit intimidated when I reached the stall. There was a queue, and all of them seemed to be Vietnamese. I was shy and didn't know how to proceed, except to join the queue, hoping for the best. Thankfully, when I was in front, I spotted a Caucasian dude who seem right at ease there (as though he was a regular), so I asked him how was the ordering system like. He was quite helpful (thank god he spoke English) and told me what to do.

The bread rolls were baking beside the fillings station, and I assume you point to what you want (and not want) and the lady will just spread the fillings onto the warm bread. I cabbed back to the hotel as it was quite dark then, and then sat down to try the Bánh mi. Wow. The bread was good - soft and fluffy, with a slightly crusty exterior. I can't exactly remember the filling, but I do remember there were spicy peppers (jalepeno? chilli?) in there that made the snack all the more appetizing. Delish!

Total coffee stash from Vietnam - grounds and instant packs

Vietnam is certainly a foodie place. If you are open to trying new things, I recommend sitting by the roadside and eating the street food. That said, be prepared to arm yourselves with plenty of medicine (for the just-in-case situations) as we all have different stomach thresholds. I mean, with majority of the food in Vietnam being street food, I reckon, it's a must to experience it all right? Just follow the crowds, it shouldn't go far too wrong. :) 

I'm done here. I still need to shower, pack and get ready for my midnight flight...


  1. Every mode of travel has its signature mental aberration.

  2. Thank Michelle
    I'm from Vietnam and i live in Ho CHi Minh city.

    The things you write for me it is normal. But when I finished reading your post it I felt how beautiful Vietnam in you and I also like. Just like I've lost something. Thank you again

    Nguyễn Huy


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