© Ronald Tan

A Day in Ho Chi Minh City

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Hey all! It’s been a while since I last updated my blog as I have been mulling over some plans for work. Now that it’s been sorted out, it’s back to blogging again! So here I am at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1 for my flight on JetStar to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. It was an early morning flight at 0725, which means that I reached around 6am. Anyway, while waiting for boarding, I went to Burger King to have breakfast – purely for the caffeine (coffee) to keep me awake. Zzzzz…!

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Journey from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City was pretty short, reached in less than 2hours. Timing in Ho Chi Minh City is earlier by 1 hour so I gained another hour. Once I passed through the customs, I went to exchange some Vietnamese Dong taking taxi to hotel as I only have US Dollar. Please note that there are some money changers who charge a commission on top of the exchange rate. Go for those that do not have such practices!

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At the outside of Tan Son Nhat International Airport. It is the largest airport in Vietnam and operates from two terminal buildings – Domestic Terminal 1 and International Terminal 2. Towards the far right end (photo) of the airport is where you can take taxis. I was advised not to take any taxis which do not go by meter as they charge exorbitant prices. Even those that have meters in their taxi, make sure they on it before the journey starts. Safest bet is to go for reputable taxis like Vinasun or Mai Linh. You can approach the taxi wardens for help to get taxis – Mai Linh wardens are in green shirt green tie and Vinasun warden are in dark green shirt maroon tie.

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On a Vinasun taxi going to our hotel which is located at Pham Ngu Lao street, which is known for it’s affordable guest houses, mini-hotels, tourist agencies, bars and cafes. The journey took around half hour and costs VND 120,000. Actually, it was around VND 110,000 but normally taxi drivers do not return change so make sure you have small notes on hand.

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Reached Elios Hotel and was lucky that we are able to check-in despite it’s way too early from the usual check-in timing. I made the reservations at S$58 per night for 01 Standard Double Bed room (inclusive of daily buffet breakfast and all taxes) through a contact in Vietnam. The rates are reasonable and rooms are clean. Wifey is satisfied with it! Hehe!

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Elios Hotel – TV (many channels available) and wardrobe area. There is free in-room WIFI (WEP-secured) available too!

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Elios Hotel – Shower area. Very clean!

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Elios Hotel – Wash basin area. Toiletries such as shampoo, shower gel, toothbrush, etc are all available.

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Elios Hotel – Toilet area. Comes with a note – Cleaned and Disinfected!

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After putting our stuffs in the hotel and rested for a short while, we walk over to TheSinhTourist (established since 1993 and formerly known as SinhCafe) to make bookings for our tours for the next 2 days. You can also book over the internet but I prefer to check it out in person since it’s nearby πŸ™‚

The SinhTouristOffice 1 is at 246 – 248 De Tham St., Dist. 1, HCMC which is less than 5mins walk from Elios Hotel. It have to be near our hotel as the tours departs early in the morning (around 8am) and you have to be there at least 15mins prior to departure.

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Walking around Ho Chi Minh City towards our next destination.

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Petrolimex gas station.

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Passing by Ben Thanh Market.

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Fruits for sale nearby to Ben Thanh Market.

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Cobbler peddling his wares along the pavement.

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Looks like a nice place to relax and hang around in the afternoon. πŸ™‚

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Walking around Reunification Palace (on the right), wherer you can enter from 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. It is open daily 7:30AM-11:00AM, 1PM-4PM and also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). Entry VND 15,000. Love this stretch of road as there isn’t much people around. Hehe!

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At the entrance of War Remnants Museum at 28 Vo Van Tan Street. Open daily 7:30AM-12PM, 1:30PM-5PM, last admission 4:30PM. Admission fee is VND 15,000 per person.

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Facade of War Remnants Museum.

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In the War Remnants Museum, it was mentioned that U.S. military sprayed many of Vietnam areas with Agent Orange (defoliants) during the Vietnam War.

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Effects of Agent Orange – deaths, disabilities and children born with birth defects. Sigh….

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Weapons used during Vietnam War.

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Bomb shell casing used during Vietnam War.

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On the 2nd floor, there is a room which showcase the collection of documentary photos by Japanese photographers – Ishikawa Bunyo and Goro Nakamura.

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U.S. OUT OF S.E.ASIA NOW – One of the many posters which are framed-up.

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U.S. Air Force fighter plane that was recovered from Vietnam War.

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Another U.S. Air Force plane.

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Tanks used during Vietnam War.

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Of course, not forgetting heavy artillery!

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Nam Phan Vietnamese Cuisine – A very nice and expensive looking building. Haha!

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Another building, it caught my attention due to the “Shanghai” word. πŸ™‚

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One of the numerous lunch time spots for that the locals usually go to.

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Passing by Water Puppet Show at Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre (nearby to Reunification Palace).

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Having our lunch at Pho 24, a Vietnamese noodle restaurant chain which can be found easily around Ho Chi Minh City and other areas. It serves quality Pho and also air-conditioned; the perfect place to hide from the sunny weather. πŸ™‚

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Beef Pho (VND 42,000) at Pho 24, which comes with garnishes for such as culantro, basil, lime, bean sprouts and onions. The broth is very fragrant and tasty. Yummy!

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Beef Meat Ball Pho (VND 45,000) at Pho 24.

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Dwarf Sugar Cane VND 12,000. Very refreshing!

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Notre Dame Cathedral, constructed between 1863 and 1880.

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Virgin Mary statue with Notre Dame Cathedral at the back.

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The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral. As a tourist, you are only allow as far as where I take the photos from, unless you are going in to pray.

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Just beside Notre Dame Cathedral, you can also visit the French colonial styled Saigon Central Post Office which is constructed between 1886 and 1891.

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The elegant interior Saigon Central Post Office. We took a rest here for a while, to escape from the scorching afternoon sun. πŸ™‚

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Row of ATMs hidden within old phone booths. There are also stamps and souvenirs are from the counters as well as currency exchange.

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Feeling thirsty, we went to nearby Lavazza to have some drinks and tt was quite empty. πŸ™‚

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Actually I wanted to have soft drinks, but went for Saigon Beer instead. My first beer in Ho Chi Minh City and it was at one of the more expensive places to have it! ^_^”

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Next, we went shopping around at Diamond Plaza (nearby to Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Saigon Central Post Office).

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There seem to be quite a number of Lotteria around in Ho Chi Minh City. I managed to chance upon one inside Diamond Plaza and decided to stop for a snack as I didn’t have enough during lunch. The last time I ate Lotteria was about 2 years back when I visited South Korea and had the delicious Hanwoo Bulgogi Burger (made with Korean beef). Oh man, I am salivating as I am typing this! Haha!

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Can’t really remember how much is the set above but it’s somewhere around VND 53,000 and it comes with 1 ice-cream cone which was delivered to us automatically after we finish the meal. Excellent service!

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Normal beef burger. Nice but can’t compare to the superb Hanwoo Bulgogi Burger! πŸ˜›

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We had a long walk around Ho Chi Minh City and was feeling tired so decided to head back to hotel to rest. Probably, it’s due to the early waking at 4.30am to catch our flight and also the hot weather. Passing by Ben Thanh Market on our way back and bought a few T-Shirts (haggling is a definite must!). Also, we bought 6 big bottles of mineral water from a shop nearby our hotel for VND 30,000. Need to stay hydrated!

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After watching TV in the hotel for 1 hour, it’s time for dinner and we went to nearby Allez Boo at 197 Pham Ngu Lao. Allez Boo is one of Ho Chi Minh City‘s most popular cafe and bar (open 24 hours). The most interesting feature is that the exterior as well as the inside of the bar is made from bamboo. I am seated at 3rd floor (roof) and have a fantastic view of watching the crazy traffic as well as people go by. Prices at Allez Boo are relatively higher, it’s the premium to pay for the ambiance, music and view!

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Allez Boo – Trying out 333 beer at VND 40,000.

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Allez Boo – Fish Fillet at VND 107,000.

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Allez Boo – Chicken Cordon Bleu at VND 107,000.

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Allez Boo – Wanted to try Hanoi Beer but it was out of stock. So I went for BGI at VND 40,000.

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Allez Boo – Banana shake for wifey at VND 20,000. Overall experience at Allez Boo was good, food was tasty and we had our dinner with a great view. As a tourist, I think you just have to try it once! We didn’t stay out too late as we need to wake up around 6.30am to freshen up, have breakfast and then walk to TheSinhTourist for our 1 Day Cao Dai Temple & Cu Chi Tunnels tour which departs at 8.15am. Look out for the next blog post on the coverage!

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