Thursday, June 25, 2015

#Vietnamazing : Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

*Our trip was divided into three legs: Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap.

The first leg of our journey was a visit to the beautiful city of Saigon. We arrived at midnight so there wasn't much to see yet. Our first impression of Saigon was that it was clean (at least cleaner than Manila), we did not see much trash nor were there any beggars sleeping along the roads. After days of touring the city, our impression did not waver. In fact, we even loved the city even more with its luscious gardens found in almost every block and roads lined with tall trees that made walking in the pedestrian lanes much more tolerable (not that we have a choice hehe no tuktuks here, its either you walk or you ride the taxi). However the the roads were filled with countless motorcycles (I think ratio of motorcycle to car is 10:1), which made crossing the street an adventure itself.

We stayed at The Townhouse 50 in District 1. Just upon entering, the hotel will give you 'chill vibes' with its very quirky interiors and very friendly staff like Mr. Johnny.
Disclaimer: Photo from
The rooms were very clean, the mattresses were thick and soft enough not to give me back aches, the air conditioning was cool, and the bathrooms were very spacious. Each room in the hotel looks different and have different amenities. So make sure to let them know which ones you need. 
Our breakfast was a choice of bread with peanut butter/jam/egg or instant noodles along with a mini buffet of salad, fruits, siopao, sausage, and our favorite spring rolls. 
My friends thought that the scrambled egg is too bland until we realized (upon seeing the foreigners) that after all we did not know how to eat it, apparently the salad bar was meant as not salad only but as condiments for the sandwich.

On our first day, we took a two-hour bus ride to the Mekong Delta River, a river that produces a very fertile soil that makes agriculture prosper in Vietnam. There are several tours being offered. We took the My Tho/Ben Tre tour which was the more popular option among tourists as it shows you a glimpse of how the Vietnamese live and work.
 I thought that the traditional cone shaped hats were available during the ride but you need to buy them pala :(
I had no high expectations with our lunch since it was only included in the tour. But boy, I did eat a lot! The food was better than expected and probably one of the best Vietnamese tom yum-like soup I had tasted.

 We initially ate the fried fish like our usual fried tilapia but the waitress came up to us and offered to prepare the fish which was actually the meat for the fish roll.
 Eat all you want coconut candies!

The tour consists of fruit tasting (mango, langka, banana), coconut candy making, and horse ride which are widely available here in the Philippines... Except for the boat ride along the mangroves and the free lunch, I will not recommend this tour to Asians like us unless you have a day to spare.
We had our dinner in Pho 2000 where the former President Bill Clinton dined during his state visit. I realized how appreciative he was for ordering a second bowl because this is the worse pho I ever tasted! EVER! Even the wet wipes and ice for water were for a fee! And why don't I have photos of the food? Because we dined in the dark!! Now you would probably know how disappointed I am with Pho 2000. So do yourself a favor and eat somewhere else. 

Next day, we had a very informative Cu Chi Tunnel tour. This is where the Vietnamese defeated the Americans during the war. Its amazing how bamboo sticks are stronger than bombs.
Some of the traps they made and used during the war
Towards the end of the tour, they'll allow you to duck walk along the tunnels which were narrow enough to prohibit the bigger American soldiers to fit through. (The tunnels we passed in were made to be wider and higher than originally made for the benefit of the tourists.)
This place has got me thinking if we, Filipinos, devised strategies like the Vietnamese did, will we be able to win against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese? How many lives could we have saved from the cruelty of these colonizations?... For history junks, I would definitely recommend this tour.
Tam Hao Hand Pull Noodles.
I ordered the roast duck in dry noodles (which was my favorite, the sweet sauce in the noodles complemented the salty duck) and spicy beef pho (which had the right kick of spiciness that made every spoon of soup heaven-sent).
 L'usine Cafe.
The meals were quite expensive but we couldn't pass our stay without trying this quaint cafe that serves one of the best chocolate cakes. The cafe was well lit and was not too busy- we all imagined ourselves doing our review sessions here.

We originally wanted to do the city tour after the Cu Chi Tunnels however, heavy rain poured so we opted to do it the following morning. We made use of google maps to get from one place to another and everything was near each other so its wasn't much of a hassle.
Tao Dan Park
War Remnants Museum
Notre Dame Cathedral.  
Did you know that all materials used to construct this Church came from France?
Saigon Post Office
And.. for our last lunch in Vietnam, Carl's Jr. When my eyes laid upon this establishment, all childhood memories in this joint came back and I had to persuade everyone to eat here.

I recommend for one to do the city tour first to get you acquainted with the city, a half day walking tour made us hurry a lot but walking allowed us to appreciate Vietnam a little more... I'm certainly hoping that I can go back to Vietnam really really soon. Two and a half days in Vietnam does not suffice. Vietnam is truly #VietnAMAZING.

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