2019 have been a pretty good year for me. My yearly goal is to travel to a new city every year and I have been very lucky this year to strike Ho Chi Minh City off the list.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon -as what the locals called it, was like a pack of Bean Boozled for me. From the start, I was planning to do this solo but M thought that it was pretty unsafe so he decided to join.
We arrived in Saigon on a rainy day, which turns out to be the only weather option available. Which of course, was pretty sad because I specifically booked a place with a pool.
We stayed at the Airbnb in Riverside Residences. While the host Anna was pretty nice – she was responsive, accommodating and when M fell ill one day, she told me to keep her updated. Grateful as I am, her house was not in a good condition and I did not enjoy my stay.
Things To Note :
Getting Your Money Back: It happened a few times and I realise that the cashiers do not really return change. Usually, it’s for the amount between VND 1k to VND 5K. I have trailed some forums and learnt that usually, they don’t return change to foreigners. While I am sympathetic towards the lower income, I am not very happy about people “forcefully” taking my money.
Traffic: The traffic situation in Saigon is crazy. No one abides by the traffic lights and the traffic lights do not work. While in the car, there were a lot of weaving, between bikes and near accidents. Thinking about the traffic here gives me anxiety all over again.
Vibe: I came to Vietnam thinking that the people will be really laidback and cheery, very similar to Thailand. Turns out, the people have a could not care less attitude and are definitely not the friendliest bunch.
Places to Go
The Cafe Apartment: The Cafe Apartment along the Nguyen Hue Street is a unique concept of a building that merges commercial and residences. Mostly cafes that serves cake and coffee, a good place to while the time away.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street: It’s a stretch of avenue with street food hawkers and randomly dressed character nudging you to take a photo together and then pay for it. A lot of options for food and drinks on the 2 sides.
Hello Weekend Market: The Hello Weekend Market is a move-around market similar to the Artbox in Bangkok. But a lot lesser scale and with fewer things to do. We came during the Mid-Autumn Festival period, so there were people making mooncakes and also lantern display for those looking for the perfect Instagram backdrop.
Saigon Book Street: If you are like me, you get stressed out by the fast pace and the non-stop momentum of the Saigon traffic, the Saigon Book Street will definitely help you regain your footing. The whole stretch feels as though it has been forgotten by time and is definitely a good place to while away some time.
Saigon Central Post Office: The post office retains its beautiful colonial French architecture and is probably the grandest of all Post Office I have visited. The inside of the post office is mostly catered to shopping rather than just the post office businesses.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon: The cathedral is just a stone throw away from the post office (literally opposite). It was under repairs and retrofitting when we visited which was really a pity.
Independence Palace aka Reunification Palace: The palace is a landmark in Saigon where the president used to live during the Vietnam War era. We reached a little close to 5pm and by then, the sightseeing time for the palace was already closed.
Ben Thanh Market: For the full Viet experience, the Ben Thanh Market is a must-go. Take in the fragrance of the coffee and indulge in the chaos of the vendor vs customers’ haggling with the soft rumbling of the coffee machine in the background. Arm yourself with some bargain skill to get the best price. Although I will not say that I am a fan of the market, definitely not with attitude throwing vendors who try to intimidate nor random people grabbing my arms. I still think that the market is worth a visit.
And when the nightfall and the market closes, some of the vendors will wheel their goods outdoor to the road at the 2 sides to form a little night market. Prices drop even lower but at least it is more comfortable to shop. Imitation Nike, Under Amour, and Top Activewear Brands goes for VND70k and up.
Tulev Studio: I went to Saigon with the idea of getting inked by the talented Namlee but unfortunate for me, Chun Hack Studio was closed for renovation. M decided to get a tatts too and found Tulev on Instagram and really like his works.
Against the tune of Lose My Mind by Jai Wolf and some Viet hip-hop, Tulev took his time sketching and revising his work to the request of M’s. I marvelled at his talent of freestyle drawing and line precision skills. The whole process took him 2 hours and cost around VND 2mil with M adding a 10% as tip.
Places To Eat
5KU Station: Easily a tourist hot favourite. Open top with chill vibes and definitely unique experience sitting on stool and BBQ-ing. But don’t expect any queue systems, the unruly get serves first. Prices tend to be a little higher. We blew VND 1,026,300 (SGD 60) for 2 that night.
Hello Weekend Market: The market dedicated a whole stretch of stalls to just food alone. Although there were about 10 stalls, at least a number of them sold the same thing – fried/BBQ skewers. M had the som tum (papaya salad) while we shared a Pho Thai.
Juicy: We chanced upon Juicy on the way to the Saigon Central Post Office. It was the best decision ever to make a pitstop at the cafe. I got the Egg Bahn Mi (VND 25k) while M got the BOOM Bahn Mi (VND 77k). I swear to God, this was the best meal I had in Vietnam and totally changed my perception of sandwiches. It was juicy and loaded full with ingredients and the contrast of the warm and soft filling against the nicely toasted baguette was just so damn perfect.
Amazing Coffee: To escape the rain (can you believe it rained every day when we there?), we decided to seek respite at Amazing Coffee. I got the Red Latte while M got the Iced Vietnamese Coffee. I thought Red Latte will be something along the line of Thai Red Ruby. Turns out it is probably rooibos and cinnamon (i highly dislike cinnamon btw). M’s caffeine intolerant hits pretty high that night so, just a warning everyone. Viet coffee is real.
Mcdonalds: I like trying the Mcdonalds of each country. I like how there is a constant but also a variation. I tried their fried chicken rice which I thought was pretty good. The chicken was well-fried and it goes well with the garlicky sauce. M had the McRoyale Cheeseburger with Fried Chicken. No complains I would say.
Vietnamese Pizza: Before coming, I was very hyped up about trying this. I heard many good reviews but was a little disappointed because they weren’t as rampantly available. We finally found one and I tried the meat one while M had the vegetarian one (because he just got his tattoo and he is trying to abstain). M declared this one of the best food he has had on this trip. I thought it was really interesting, it’s like having tacos but with rice paper instead.
Bep Me In: Overrated restaurant with sub-standard service. Starting from the non-existing queue system to the seats that are uncomfortably placed with the gentlemen listening in to our conversation. Adding on, the food was mediocre and definitely way overpriced. Pretty sure you can get better standard at 50% of the price at any traditional Viet eatery you pass by. The only pros? English Menu with adequate English speaking staffs.
Overall, Saigon was not what I had in mind. The country definitely lacks the chill holiday vibe I was hoping and I felt like I needed another holiday to offset this current one. Will I be back again? Work, yes. Vacation? Maybe to Mui Ne, but I don’t know.
Till then (maybe many years later) again,