August 15, 2014

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam: When the City Became our Playground

We had hours left before our next flight so we decided to tour the city by ourselves. It was pretty interesting to see, try and taste anything local. Plus, crossing the streets of Ho Chi Minh was no biggie to us anymore.

Chasing Pigeons
Kai and I woke up at 7AM and decided to try the recommended local Pho restaurant by our host. Comparing it with the Pho stall we tried at Ben Tanh, this was way better. By that I mean, it was cleaner, cheaper, and more choices to choose from. One of them was the iced tea with milk that locals from the other table were drinking.

Kai ordered chicken Pho, while I had beef.

After our satisfying meal, we walked along the park and noticed that it wasn't crowded, so we decided to goof around with the machines. After passing by the Market, we embarked on a long march to see the city's famous landmarks.

Our tour guide
1. Our first stop was at the Reunification Palace. 

This used to be the home and workplace of the President during the Vietnam War. According to Wikipedia, It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

2. Next was the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Since we time was on our hands, Kai and I decided to have a little fun by including couples doing pre-nups in our touristy photos. :p

Joking aside, this is the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was built by French colonialists during the 1800s. 

Before heading on to the next landmark, Kai and I chased some pigeons and stopped by this super cool bookstore. It looked small from the outside, but the inside looked insanely huge. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take a photo of it. 

3. After spending almost a million Dong on posters, we walked another 5 blocks and finally reached the Saigon Opera House, another French colonial piece of Architecture.

Right across the street, we saw this park with an outdoor exhibit. Kai and I rested for a bit on the benches, then took another photo on the fountain.

4. As we played along without looking at our map, we stumbled across the Ho Chi Minh City Hall or the People's Committee Head Office. We didn't go further because it wasn't opened to the public.

We were walking slowly under the heat of the sun, drenched, tired, and tempted to hail a cab. But, good thing we saw Ben Tanh Market. After buying some last minute shopping for Kai's mom. Oh! You should definitely buy your linens here. You can get a queen-sized bedding set for only 550k Dong = 1,100 Pesos! This is where you get your bargain skill's worth. 

And make sure to bring home a bag of Blue Mountain coffee beans. Look for this stand and ask for a discount! They can even recommend you fellow tenants that can give you what you want at a really good price. :D
Kai, happy with her Shopping
We went back to the Hostel at 2pm, slept for a bit, packed our belongings, and we were ready to go. Almost. That's when we realized that we haven't eaten yet! So we headed out to Bui Vien St. (Where we got our North Face bags at a good price) and had late lunch at this small Tex Mex restaurant. 

We went back to the hostel thru the small alleys, got our bags, and waited at Park 23rd.

Ms. Vy got us a good cab and said something to the driver that made us feel secured because of the scam incident we experienced when we arrived. We said our goodbyes and thanked her for her hospitality and made sure to recommend her to our friends.

With the lovely Ms. Vy of Vy Khanh Guesthouse!
It rained hard when we arrived at the airport. We had problems with our check-in bags so Kai and I had to rearrange everything just to make it through. After some serious shopping for our friends (ehem Patricia), our 18kg bags now weighed to this:

Our boarding time was at 6:10PM but was postponed because of the bad weather.

Riding VietJet was a pain. 
Thus, we were able to ride at 9PM. By the time we arrived at Hanoi, Kai and I looked like zombies. It was a good thing that we were able to score a great deal on Groupon. We had airport transfers, stayed in a 3-star hotel, and were able to schedule a last-minute massage for the both of us. 

If I were to describe Ho Chi Minh City in one word, busy would be an understatement. We've experienced a lot of things in Ho Chi Minh: nostalgia, scams, killer motorcycles, palatable dishes, and amazing bargains. And whether we regret it or embrace it. I must admit... The city gave us something that we will never forget: The taste of Adventure. :)