travel

Good Morning, Vietnam! (Ho Chi Minh City August 2016)

We wanted a short getaway with our friends and after a check on airfares and other considerations we decided to go to HCMC, which I have not been to for a few years. Airfares on SQ cost us around S$230, and a similar length journey on Silkair to other destinations were going for $500 onwards (Lombok was $700!), so it wasn’t a difficult decision.

In my lifetime, I have been to HCMC many times, but it was a good 10 years ago since the last worktrip, and we had only a one-night stay en route to Six Senses Con Dao the last time. This time, we came armed with a whole long list of recommendations as well as a local Singaporean working in HCMC who took us on a few meals. It was an epic trip!

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We arrived in the evening and immigration was quick but luggage took ages. Once we got our bags we bought SIM cards for VND100,000 (approximately S$6) for just data, (from shop #1, on the far left of the above photo) which was enough since we were only going to be there for 3 nights. We also changed money here since the exchange rate is much better than in Singapore. Because VND 1 million is S$60, do be careful to make sure you have not been shortchanged since all the zeros can be very confusing. It almost happened to us but luckily Hubbs was quick enough to notice.

We took our arranged transfer to Park Hyatt Saigon, and decided to head out for some supper. We didn’t want to go too far so we walked to a nearby Pho 24 for some (you guessed it) pho. There is also Pho 2000 and several other chains and a number of very famous local Pho places where you can get your pho fix.

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The next day, we used Uber to get to the Reunification or Independence Palace. It was very busy and rather warm, but it was packed. The rooms were interesting in that much of it hadn’t been changed since the 70’s, and the highlight for me was the bunker in the basement. For people like us who have never had to go through any warfare, it’s really hard to fathom what it’s like.

The other main highlight of our trip was a half day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. To be honest we were not sure what to expect, but I was game to try something between meal times. I was told there would be some walking in the “jungle”, but it was easy lah.

As there were 6 adults, we hired a private tour from Buffalo Tours with a young guide who was very passionate and organised – he had a whole curriculum about what he wanted to tell us about the history, the wars, and even had video clips to show us en route. It was really interesting!

First we started on a boat ride up the Saigon River, all the way to the Cu Chi Tunnels on a small speedboat. There were fruits and beer and diet coke. We didn’t have any drinks because it was a little too early for beer and I only drink fat coke. (I rather more sugar than aspartame right?)

After buying some tickets and seeing some real weaponry, it was time for a short show to explain more about the historical significance of the Cu Chi tunnels.

Then we got to try some escape routes. Pretty clever, I must say!

 

They had an area showing all the different traps.

Cu Chi Tunnels

They showed how shoes were made out of discarded tyres and made to make footprints that appeared to be travelling backwards. Ingenious!

cu chi tunnel AK47

The highlight of the trip for my husband was that now they would get to try real AK-47s. The guns were super loud!

 

To climb into the tunnels, there is a guide to go ahead of the group, it was well ventilated.

Cu Chi Tunnel tapioca

After all the effort there was a small snack of tapioca and some tea. It was a little bit like the Thai dessert except no sweet coconut here. We then took the bus back to our hotel, stopping for lunch along the way at Cuc Gach Quan, which apparently is where Brangelina also stopped for lunch before, I think the tour guide mentioned they were in HCMC when they were adopting one of their 20 kids (whatever). It is very homely and doesn’t feel touristy, we loved the food and the vibes!

We were apprehensive about going to the Cu Chi Tunnels, but it was very intriguing and we really learnt a lot from our guide. We did not have our kids with us but I think I would only recommend those 8 years old and above, especially those who have learnt some history so that it would be more relevant to them. For the tour we started at around 9am and ended at around 1pm.

 

Here are a few other places we hit up for eats:

Pho Hoa is an institution for pho. I hear there are better places to go, but Pho Hoa hit the spot. OMG I am craving for some pho already.

Cafe Ruenam: a kind of TWG Salon for coffee, it’s more upscale than the (much more local) Phuc Long. Across from Cafe Ruenam is Amaï, a wonderful little shop selling ceramics and other household pieces you wouldn’t need but would want anyway 😀

Park Hyatt Saigon Banh Mi
Park Hyatt’s Banh Mi
Banh mi – We heard the local place Nhu Lan was where to go, but we really loved the ones at Park Hyatt instead. Maybe just a difference in local vs. touristy tastes?

La villa HCMC La Villa  – they describe themselves as a Michelin-level Gastronomy experience and we were suitably impressed. Especially for the prices, which are below SG prices. Definitely a must try!


Maison Morou -What a lovely dessert experience! They also have cacao beans processing in this shop – roasting, and er.. I forgot what other parts of the processes there were and forgot to take photos :p

 

chi hoa HCMC Chi Hoa – I loved the vibe here and the food as well!

Quan Bui – similar to Chi Hoa kind of feel (like a cafe style rather than restaurant), but the food is slightly different. STILL SO YUMMY THOUGH!

We also bought a whole load of cashew nuts from 

We definitely don’t mind coming back here again, and some others that will be on my to-do list for next time:

 

Disclaimer: This trip was totally ownselfsponsor and looks like we have to ownselfsponsor another trip up there soon!

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Good Morning, Vietnam! (Ho Chi Minh City August 2016)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I really saw HCMC in a new light this time round, although some of it was still quite familiar from years ago. I think it was the yummy food that really did it for me this time. And the company (not much fun when you’re alone!). 😀

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