Monday, 6 July 2015

My mini guide to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

After my mini guide to Beijing, I am now sharing my mini tips to Ho Chi Minh. Again this is based on my personal experience after visiting Ho Chi Minh for the second time, 6 months apart.



To be honest, even though it is only 6 months since I visited in December 2014, so much have change. I feel like the city is losing it's charm. I remember when I first visited in December 2014, the things I like most is how the city is different from most major cities in the world. Instead of having Starbucks, they have their local coffee joint (Trung Nguyen and Highland Coffee), they only have ONE McD in the city and most of the shops around are pretty localised, their traffic is congested and messy in a sense yet they have their way of getting around it.

However, during my recent visits, Starbucks started to sprout in the city (huge big shops), a few McD, lots of newly opened French Bakery and a number of new foreign coffee shops. Slowly, I think the city will transform and probably Ho Chi Minh will just be like another major city in the world. Of course one could say that change is inevitable and many would love their city to advance in the sense but i just feel that it is losing its quaint rustic charm of a DIFFERENT city which I love to enjoy in this hectic world. 

Well, enough said of that.... Just some rambling of my part...

So, if you are planning a trip to the city. 

Where to stay?

Personally, I ADORE Somerset Chancellor Court. For those travelling with families, this is probably one of your choice as well. You get an apartment with washing machine cum dryer (washing powder included), a fully equipped kitchen (fridge, microwave, oven, toaster, kettle, hot stove, cutlery, knife etc), dining area, living room area and balcony.

Master Bedroom

Living room and study table

Dining area

Kitchen area

Washer cum Dryer

Prices are pretty reasonable and it is located in District 1 just next to the Embassy of France and Embassy of USA. Pretty safe I must say. Well, I do feel safe walking around at night.

By the way, I love the breakfast cause you get to choose from a menu (western breakfast set, panini bread with chicken, ramen, or pancake) with Cappuccino or Latter or Vietnam coffee. On top of that, you get unlimited buffet style of cereal, toasted bread, fruits, vegetable and brewed coffee/tea/milk or juice. After a hearty breakfast, I could definitely skip lunch or have something light for lunch. Goes easy on the pocket though food in Vietnam can be really cheap depending on where you eat.

Where to eat?

1. Pho24 for a bowl of Pho, rice noodle in crystal clear soup based. Top with choice of chicken, slices of beef or beef ball. Eat on its own or top with some fresh vegetables or chilli provided. Goes easy on the pocket too. Set pho with drinks comes to around VND 45,000-69,000.

Pho with slices of beef and beef ball

2. Trung Nguyen for a cup of authentic Vietnam Coffee. One of the most traditional coffee joint in Vietnam, this must not be missed when one is in Vietnam.

A cup of traditional drip Vietnam Coffee must not be missed especially for coffee lover
Selection of different roast of coffee can be found on the menu and you will be spoilt for choice. Try ordering one cup each of the traditional drip coffee, they have 6 types in total. Time to spoil yourself with a coffee tasting session.

At the end of the coffee session, coffee lover will definitely bring back some coffee to re-create the taste at the comfort of one's home. Great selection of coffee available from instant coffee, 3 in 1 coffee and coffee powder. Prices are really reasonable too! Don't forget to get a can of Brother's Condensed Milk to go with the drip coffee (available at their bigger outlet or you can get one from local supermarket)

2. Highland Coffee for an alternative Vietnamese Drip Coffee. I personally like their blended green tea with jelly beverage. Drip coffee is pretty good as well. Laze around and enjoy a lazy afternoon here with a good book.

3. HoaVien Microbrewary for local brew beer. Pair it with their cheese, you will be surprise when it is served. Very different from usual cheese that we eat.

Home brewed beer with cheese. Perfect combination!


Address: 18/BIS ally off Nguyen Thi Minh Khai District 1

This place is hidden in an alley with a small sign board at the main road so do keep a lookout. It is about 5 minutes walk from Somerset Chancellor Court. If you are around the area, then you are in the correct direction.

4. Nah Hang Ngon for authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Get a Com Tan (broken rice with grilled pork chop) , Vietnamese spring roll and pair with a glass of beer. Great meal to end the night!

Com Tan-broken rice with grilled pork chop

Vietnamese Spring Roll (Fried Version)

What to see?

1. Notre Dame Church



A similar one to the one in Paris. One can spot many groom and bride-to-be taking wedding photo here.

2. Central Post office




Situated just across the road from Notre Dame Church, love the architecture of the post office. It is a working post office so just walk in, get a postcard and send it back to your loved ones.

P/S: Souvenir can be bought here as well at reasonable pricing without the need to bargain. Everything is of fixed price and no one will bug you to buy if you would just like to browse.

3. A trip to HCM is never complete without a visit to Cu Chi Tunnel. Discover the history of the underground tunnel dug during the war. I would recommend a tour with The Sinh Tourist (https://www.thesinhtourist.vn/landscapes/sg/1/sai-gon). Tour is organised and ticket can be purchased online or at their office at least one day before the tour.

4. Another highly recommended tour is full day Mekong Delta tour that comes with a lunch and visit to village at Mekong Delta. This tour can be booked with The Sinh Tourist as well.

Other tips

1. Taxi is abundant in Vietnam and fare are really cheap as well. Basically I travel everywhere with taxi, just get in and you will reach your destination in comfort.

For reliable taxi, go for Vinasun or Mai Linh. Definitely go by the meter and so far I had no issues with the cabbie :)

2. For great massage session, I highly recommand  Foot Massage Salon 137 near Ben Thanh Market.

For VND 325K, you get a 90 minutes full body massage with hot stone and cucumber facial in private room. Staff are professional and massage is really good as well. You get to change into their clothes and will be given a locker for own clothes. Personal belonging stays with you all the time.

Tipping is optional but if you like the massage, do tip the masseur before you leave the room. Payment is done at the reception and they do accept credit card as well.

Location:
https://www.google.com/maps/place/137,+Quynh+Nhu,+Dịch+Vụ+Massage+Chân/@10.7708015,106.7003645,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x203e44647edfb1ff

3. Ben Thanh Market is one of the MUST GO to see see look look. They sell everything from dried food (cashew nut, lotus nut, etc) , souvenirs to clothes.

If you are getting clothes, I do recommend the  fixed priced stall. It will be obvious as the fixed priced stall have price tag on each of their clothing and a sign saying fixed price, no bargain can be seen hanging from the ceiling. I felt that it is less hassle to bargain and sometimes the asking price can be rather ridiculous as first. I could reduce prices up to 70-80% at time which is just plain ridiculous. 

It is only opened till 5pm and after which, stalls will start to set up at area around the market. Things sold are pretty similar but most of them no price so your bargain skill has to be put to good use here. 

4. If you really want to get cheaper stuff, go to An Dong Market. Things sold here are really similar to Ben Thanh but at a lower price. Depending where you stay, this market might be slightly out of the way as it is not in District 1. 

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