Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh

I visited Ho Chi Minh in mid May and the deal we got was a freakin cheap one! 5 Days 4 nights in Ho Chi Minh, flights + 3 star hotel accommodation was only Rm500+ per person! No tours included of course but it's really easy to explore Ho Chi Minh on your own and it's less tiring than if you book a guided tour for your entire trip.

However, if you really want to book a tour to, say, Cu Chi Tunnels or Mekong Delta like we did for 2 days of our trip, you can always book at the hotel or at the numerous travel agencies in the city. Each day tour cost us around Rm30+.

Boring details aside, I decided to write a post on the 5 things you should do when in Ho Chi Minh..

NUMBER 1: Cross the road fearlessly.
Note: fearlessly. This is VERY important in Ho Chi Minh. In a small city with a population of 13 million people and 8 million motorcycles, if you wanna cross the road, just do it, don't hesitate. Of course I don't mean dash across the road even though there are 100 motorcycles speeding towards you like you're the prize at the finish line. It's just that if you're too dependent on pedestrian traffic lights from wherever you come from, or if you've only crossed roads when the oncoming vehicle is 1 mile away, then you can just camp out on the side of the road cos in Ho Chi Minh, that's never gonna happen.

Here's a tip when crossing roads:DO NOT DASH ACROSS. Walk at a constant pace so motorcyclists can estimate their distance/speed/time..haha sounds nerdy..but it's true! I was looking at some motorcyclists when crossing the road and I realised that they just glanced at me, then continued on because they already know I'm there. Imagine if I suddenly hesitated and turned back! I might've been hit by a bike!

The motorcyclists won't sound their horns at you if they know they can avoid you cos they're all really good at swerving around cos traffic in Ho Chi Minh involves lots of swerving around and non-stop beeping of cars. If you ride on a taxi while you're there, your first experience might be kinda scary. Trust me. No one wanted to sit at the front.

On main roads, just wait for the traffic lights.

NUMBER 2: Drink Coffee.
I was never a fan of coffee but Vietnam is famous for its coffee and not drinking coffee in Vietnam is equivalent to not gargling after you brush your teeth. Ok bad example but you get what I mean.

We met up with a close friend of a relative in Ho Chi Minh. He's actually a Vietnamese tour guide and his hospitality was fabulous. Oh did I mention that service in Vietnam is really good? Anyway, he treated us like family when we were there and brought us to try local food at places that the typical tourist wouldn't go.  We had this awesome seafood hotpot on our first night there and it was great even though we felt like melting in the restaurant.
Anything to do with soup in Vietnam tastes really good. In my opinion of course.

Then he brought us to this coffee house which was hiding somewhere behind some old shops. I'm sorry the only thing I remember about the location is that it is near a railway track where vehicles can pass when no train is near. So old skool..we don't have that in Malaysia. :( 

Had previously only seen something like this in the movies. Cue: thought of trapped car in the middle of train tracks with oncoming train.

So this is the name of the place. I think. Unless it says something like "No Smoking Please", I'm pretty sure this is the name of the place. You could try your luck and show this to your taxi driver. It's really worth visiting.

Cafe. Mien Dong Thao should be the name.

Why is this place so awesome? It is a really large area with small sections in every corner giving you a cosy feeling. You'll have lots of privacy too and won't feel that 50 people are eavesdropping behind you and 20 people are staring at your laptop screen. Oh how I wish there was a place like this near where I live!

Oh did I mention that there is a pond in the middle of the cafe?

This is not under-aged drinking. Everyone gets a bottomless iced tea.

I know, I know, this point should be speaking of drinking coffee and why am I going on and on about the cafe?! You should just visit it for its atmosphere. I don't know about the price and taste of food though. I hope you find this place with the little information I give you. Also, this is the place where I changed my opinion on coffee. This is where I tasted the best coffee in my life! Ok my statement is not very credible cos I'm not a coffee drinker but there were a few coffee drinkers who said the same. hah!

Vietnamese coffee with their coffee dripper. It has to be this way. Not good if you're impatient. 

I don't mean that the best coffee can only be found in this cafe but also in other coffee shops in the city. Just like this place in District 1 with it's tiny table and chairs (We didn't find out why many restaurants use short tables and chairs).

Small tables/chairs.


The complimentary iced tea.

NUMBER 3: Eat Vietnam "Subway"
No not the subway sandwich you're thinking about but their Vietnamese sandwich which looks like a subway sandwich. Not sure what their called. Their made with French loaves. I heard that the reason they eat French bread is because they were once occupied by the French a long long time ago. Don't know if that's true but they taste really good. You can't choose flavours though and you just tell them how many you want. It has minced meat, veggies, sauce etc in it. Honestly, I don't know what meat is used. It could very well be dog meat and I wouldn't know. Hahaha 
The sandwich from some stalls taste better than others but that's where all the fun in trying new food is. :D

This is what I call the Vietnamese "Subway".

NUMBER 4: Eat Pho everywhere you go.
I love soup. That's why I love Pho. Pho is practically everywhere in Ho Chi Minh. It's actually noodles in soup with beef/chicken..The soup is the most important part of Pho and every Pho I've tasted in Ho Chi Minh tastes good! There are many Pho restaurants around like Pho 2000, Pho(insert no. here), etc.

We tried Pho at the market, Pho at Pho 2000, etc and I loved it each time! Apparently Pho 2000 is where Bill Clinton once visited...One thing funny about Pho 2000 is if you need your dose of Malaysian slang you can definitely find it in Pho 2000. It surprised me to find so many Malaysians eating there! If you're Malaysian, you can identify them once you hear them speak. Hahaha..

Pho 2000 menu.

Big bowl of Pho.

Chicken Pho.

Beef Pho.

Trying to eat the bowl.

NUMBER 5: Bargain!!
If you visit Ho Chi Minh, I'm pretty sure you'll visit Ben Thanh market. There are MANY things sold there like clothes, bags, souvenirs, shoes, etc. and they are cheap! However, you must BARGAIN! If they refuse to lower down the price for you, WALK AWAY. They'll most probably call out to you with a lower price and the further you walk, the lower the price goes. If it doesn't go to as low as you want it to be, or they still refuse to give you a better offer, don't worry. They're like 100 other stalls selling the exact same things.

There is a night market outside the Ben Thanh market every night when the day market closes. Tip: The night market sells the same things sold in the day market and are generally 3 TIMES more EXPENSIVE!

We had shopped the whole day in Ben Thanh market during the day and went to check out the prices in the night market. The price of almost everything was 3 times higher!

However, do go to the night market as it would be a good place for you to explore and get an idea of the price of things you wanna buy the next day at the day market.

For example, I asked for the price of a pair of batik pants. The girl said 300,000 Dong. I walked away because it was too expensive(and wasn't really interested in the designs she had anyway). At every step I took, her price kept going down. The last price she shouted to me was 120, 000 Dong. I still didn't buy it. I went to the Ben Thanh day market the next day and told the salesgirl from another stall selling the same pants that I would buy it for 100,000 Dong. She gave in after I started walking away.

Haha I think I sound very cheapskate telling people how I bargained but that's how you make your shopping money stretch!

Some pics of the Ben Thanh market:

If you wanna buy bags, head to stall number 627. The lady is really nice and her price is really good.

If you don't like to shop, The Ben Thanh market is a good place to admire all the colourful stalls and take awesome pictures.

Plastic Bag.

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