Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), or formerly known as Saigon.
I didn’t really have the slightest idea on what to expect when Filyn suggested that the 3 of us should go to HCMC together. As bimbo as it sounds, I was only aware of Halong Bay and it is not even in HCMC!
So we bought our return tickets via AirAsia (now everybody can fly, thanks AA), and only started planning 3 weeks before the trip.
Cu Chi Tunnel, Saigon Central Post Office, Mekong Delta, are among the few names that are synonym to HCMC.
We booked the airport taxi for VND 200 000 to Pullman Saigon not long after we landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Our hotel was just a walk (or a crazy chicken run) away from Bui Vien street.
At noon, we walked to the Sinh Tourist to book a half-day trip to Cu Chi Tunnel (VND 59 000 each) excluding the entrance fee which would cost another VND 110 000 each.The Mekong Delta Tour seemed interesting as well but as time wasn’t a luxury for us, we decided to not book it. Probably next time.
We then had lunch at a Vietnamese cuisine branch, which I personally found bland but it wasn’t pricey though. After lunch, we headed to the infamous Ben Thanh market to buy some souvenirs. The tip I would offer is to bargain, or walk away if you find the price is unreasonable. We encountered an awkward situation whereby a vendor was making fun of another vendor by spitting a-not-so-nice remark only ‘cos she was offering her items at a better price than him.
We moved on with our lives and walked as far as the body could carry ’til we reached Saigon’s People Committee Building nearby the riverside with a statue of Ho Chi Minh saying hi:
There was another thing we noticed! The parks here had a very inviting aura, which was not the case in our place (sadly), and there were plenty of short-legged dogs just like this cutie:
(Location: The park near Bitexco building and Ngan Hang Nha Nuoc building.)
That night, we didn’t have dinner and ate Sabrina’s bread, which she bought at Tous Les Jours. Filyn and I went to La Salsa Club at 9 pm meanwhile Sabrina called the day off and headed to bed early.
La Salsa Club was a 15 minutes drive from our hotel. The place looked a little worn out but the energy in the club was anything but that! I had a dance with this American guy, but it was not fun honestly as he was more interested in showcasing his Ricky Martin skill. I managed to have a dance with another Vietnamese but it was average probably because I wasn’t a good Salsera. Feeling a little bit disappointed, Filyn and I left the club early.
We reached the Sinh Tourist office around 7.15 am to wait for our bus to Cu Chi Tunnel. When the bus pulled over, we got into the bus and sat accordingly (as advised by the tour guide). We made friends with this Aussie lady, who was telling us about her journey in other parts of Vietnam and suggested us to visit Hoi An.
Not long after, I fell asleep throughout the journey to Cu Chi Tunnel as I was still tired from yesterday. Once we reached Cu Chi Tunnel, we were directed to an underground room to watch a video on the history of Cu Chi Tunnel.
Later, the tour guide led us and explained briefly on the tiny hiding place that was used back then during the war. We were then given the opportunity to squeeze into the hiding place.
The highlight of the trip was us entering the tunnel which was only a 5 minutes’ length. Having said that, we were still sweating like a pig due to the low ceiling and lack of air. There were certain areas that were not lit which caused me a head to butt collision. Yikes.
The tunnel actually had a few deviations, and the deviated paths looked smaller and darker. However, we passed the opportunity as the short tunnel was tiring enough. We were served with tapioca and grounded nuts dip with pandan leaves tea at the end of our trip.
We went back to HCMC and had lunch at a halal restaurant nearby Ben Thanh before going back to the hotel via Bui Vien street. Bui Vien street is famous for its bars, coffee shops and restaurants. The Vietnamese would sit outside on little stools at the bars or coffee shops, sipping their drinks while watching street walkers and vehicles passing by and the foreigners would follow the trend just to have a feel of how the locals hang out. It was actually pretty interesting to watch.
For dinner, we chose Five Oysters Restaurant as it has a rooftop area to dine and watch the lively view of Bui Vien street. Sabrina’s dinner and Filyn’s were more appetising than mine, probably because I ordered grilled fish. There was not much to expect out of grilled fish anyway.
(Location: Five Oysters Restaurant’s rooftop view)
As we couldn’t find the right way to spend our night after the dinner, we headed back to Pullman and slept early.
City Tour! After reading positive reviews on Au Parc, we decided to have our breakfast there. However, the taxi guy did not seem to know where it was even after we mentioned it was nearby Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. After struggling to get him to understand, we stopped by the roadside and got someone local to explain where it was. (Apparently the locals called Notre-Dame Basilica by a different name here, which was odd as he was a taxi driver and he should know places of interest at least the word Notre Dame?).
Au Parc was a lovely French restaurant situated just next to another restaurant called Propaganda (which was painted with colourful murals). It was just opposite the park, thus the name. We ordered French and Swiss breakfast with a cuppa tea for Sabrina and I, meanwhile Filyn had ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee). The breakfast was inclusive of Au Parc’s own chocolate spread (yummy) and 4 other spread.
After the meal, Filyn occupied herself by writing some postcards for her friends meanwhile Sabrina and I pranced around the restaurant for photo shots.
We left Au Parc after that and headed to Saigon Central Post Office which was just around the corner. It was hard to miss because the building was bright yellow with Vietnam flag waving proudly on top of it. Opposite the post office was the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.
We LOVE how pretty Saigon Central Post Office was! It was like a scene from backdated movies. The high rise curved ceiling created a perspective that would look great in pictures! But then again, a number of the buildings in HCMC are French inspired, so it gave me that feeling of being somewhere that is not exactly Asia.
Then we set foot at Independence Palace (VND 30 000 each), a 5 minutes walk from Saigon Central Post Office. The palace had a number of rooms, whereby each room was designed differently. However, we only liked the room designed by the Lady. Overall, the palace for us was just an alright experience.
We wanted to visit the National Museum and the Pagoda, but when we arrived at the museum, it was closed as it was a Monday. The Pagoda search was to no avail either even after some directions from the locals. When we reached at this particular temple, the lady was convincing us that it was the Pagoda we were looking for. Since it was late and almost raining, we took a quick tour around the temple and left.
We had late lunch at Baba’s restaurant after that as we were tired and famished. Baba’s restaurant provided halal Indian cuisine. I had to say, the food was good! The plain water was bottomless as well.
Since it was our last night, we decided to check out the jazz club. The jazz club was called “Sax and Art Jazz Club”. The music was definitely relaxing especially after a tiring day out. I enjoyed watching the guest singer sang a few renditions of the oldies compared to the local singer. I thought he had more soul. The drinks were a bit pricey though. I had iced lemon tea for VND 110 000 inclusive of tax. Since we were first timers, they waived the entrance fee for us. Phew!
Next we headed to Lush, but it was empty because it was a Monday night. In the end, we headed back to Bui Vien for people-watching and a little unwinding at Go2.
Dreaded going back time! Sabrina was lucky as she continued her journey to other parts of Vietnam. Apparently we had to get our boarding passes verified at AirAsia counter even though it wasn’t stated there as we were initially denied entry at the departure hall.
Overall, it was a lovely lovely trip but 4 days and 3 nights were definitely not sufficient. I am more keen now to visit Vietnam and see what it has to offer!
Vietnam, I am definitely going back there!