Monthly Archives: March 2012

Indochina 2012: Saigon, Vietnam

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As mentioned 3 blogs ago, I was going to go on a trip to Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand this year. It wasn’t a backpacking trip at all; more like flashpacking. I brought along a hard case luggage that I feared it would crack or break after all the plane rides and bus transfers. Thankfully, it didn’t. I don’t know if the Pacsafe luggage strap helped at all, but I bought it to keep my luggage secure in case my suitcase fell apart.

The first part of my trip was spent with a couple of friends, one from work and one from college. The first stop coming from a red-eye flight from the Philippines was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or as the locals call it, Saigon. We stayed at the Hoang Hai Long 2 which was a minute away from Ben Thanh Market on foot. This was the second time I’ve been in the city, and since my officemate and I have been there before, we decided to take my college friend on a walking tour on our own.

First things first, we went to my favorite sidewalk vendor for a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee beside Pho 2000, across Ben Thanh Market for 20,000 VND (1 USD). In case you didn’t now, Pho 2000 is the restaurant that former US President Bill Clinton once visited, and I don’t know if that matters, but I just felt like sharing that. I had gone there before and they have good food, just that pho isn’t for me (blame it on the coriander), so we didn’t go eat there this time.

Next was to get bus tickets to Cambodia, so we walked all the way from Ben Thanh Market, through Pham Ngu Lao St., down to De Tham St. (a backpacker’s district), and walked into The Sinh Tourist (http://www.thesinhtourist.vn) office and booked for the next day’s trip to Cambodia. From Saigon to Siem Reap, it costs $17 (and since our flight to Bangkok was from Phnom Penh, we also had to get Siem Reap to Phnom Penh bus tickets at $7). Not bad.

We took a cab to Vo Van Tan St. to get to the War Remnants Museum which cost about 100,000 VND (5 USD). I had been there before although I didn’t get the chance to visit the inside of the building. This time around, I did. Remnants from the war are displayed all over the museum: guns, missiles, soldiers’ uniforms, grenades. Photographs and extensive documentation of the massacre and torture hang on the walls, bringing us back to Vietnam’s tragic past. In my opinion, the most horrible of them all was the massive effect of the orange agent which left the succeeding generations mutated.

Then we took a walk along the length of Vo Van Tan St. to 103 so we can have some yummy ice cream at Snowee Creamery for 60,000 VND (3 USD).

After which, we went on a walking tour of city sights such as the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the uptown Dong Khoi. We had late lunch of pizza and cake at the New York Dessert Cafe (NYDC) which was an artsy fartsy place that (get this!) had Philippe Starck Ghost Chairs (or imitations of it).

The rest of the afternoon was spent haggling at the Ben Thanh Market, and we had dinner at Wrap & Roll where you could order a set of fillings and leafy veggies to make your own fresh spring rolls.

Tip: If you wish to remain connected with your Facebook friends, you cannot access Facebook from Vietnam without rigging the Internet settings or going through a proxy which is super slow. A waitress at NYDC tipped us that we can do so using the Opera Mini app, and we were able to! Just download it for free from the AppStore! 😉

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