Touchdown Vietnam specifically Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Coming from sunny Cebu, we were kinda bummed about the weather – rain and gusts of wind. Nonetheless our spirits were starting to lift up when we travel from the airport to our hostel and saw the roads filled with motorcycles and motorcycles. Truly Vietnam!
We are staying in Ho Chi Minh City for just a couple of days before going to Cambodia. Hence no time to be wasted on staying in because of the bed weather. So how do we go about experiencing Vietnam in that little amount of time? Here’s how you do it.
1. Pho, Banh Mi and more
Food always comes first. Trying authentic Pho is on top of the list. We arrived around two o’ clock in the afternoon and the first itinerary is to get lunch. We walked around our hostel and found this newly opened restaurant that serves Pho, all kinds of Pho.
Walking around Ben Than market can make you hungry after all those haggling. Good thing it is also filled with food stalls. What caught our attention and probably our stomachs was this piping hot colorful sticky rice.
Any time of the day these Banh Mi stalls are everywhere. They are up for any local or tourist looking for food. Banh Mi is bread packed with meat usually cold cuts and greens. Would definitely love to come back and stuff myself with all the Banh Mi I could get.
After our city tour, we asked our guide for affordable and delicious restaurant and he recommended Ngon Restaurant. Aside from the ambiance; indoor fish pond, foliage and extravagant set-up; the food is great. That’s right, that is rice on our table. Finally!
2. Saigon destinations
We either booked a tour from Klook where we get to see the museums and infrastructures of Ho Chi Minh City or DIY-ed and walk around the city armed with a map and trust that we can still find our way back to the hostel.
Our first stop for our city tour is the Reunification Palace. As early as seven o’ clock in the morning it was already packed with tourists. The guides walked us through the palace from the offices, banquet chamber, conference rooms and even to the old war room while telling us of the palace history during the World War and Vietnam War.
The War Remnants Museum or Bảo Tàng Chứng Tích Chiến Tranh exhibits the war years of Vietnam. With tanks, air craft, missiles, bombs, pictures of war crimes and even the live victims of the war working in the museum; this museum could easily break your hearts.
We stopped by Tân Định Catholic Church and it is the first pink church I have ever seen. Too bad we were not able to get inside because there was a wedding going on.
Next stop is the Notre Dame Cathedral which was bustling with people. We arrived just in time the mass has ended.
A little walk from the cathedral is the Saigon Central Post office. Tourists and locals were also taking pictures.
3. Night Market and Night Life
No trip is ever complete without a little shopping and a sneak peek of their night life. From our hostel, we braved the streets to reach Ben Than Night Market. For two nights, we were hanging out in the night market to buy some Vietnamese finds and eat some street food. There are affordable finds and you can get it for less if you know how to haggle.
Our last night in Vietnam, we went to Bui Vien Walking Street after buying some stuff in the night market. Seriously, this is just a five-minute walk from our hostel. It is an entire block where in pubs and bars filled the each side of the street. There is no sidewalk because it is filled with chairs and tables of patrons.
With all the food, history, destinations and shopping, let me share some advice when you go to Vietnam for the first time.
1. When crossing the street, keep your eyes straight and just walk like you normally would. The drivers of the motorcycles will just avoid you.
2. Do not haggle unless you are 100% sure that you are buying or even try to ask the price. You will end up getting an earful from these vendors. By the way, they accept Vietnamese Dong and US Dollars.
3. Upon arriving, you will be informed of not using your mobile phones on the streets because of snatchers. But also be careful of tourist traps, some vendors will try to engage with you and let you pay for goods.
It would have been great to have another day to eat more Pho and experience night life in Ho Chi Minh City without carrying too many shopping bags. But who am I kidding, just eating Pho would be enough for me.