After a decent night’s sleep and some surprisingly Western European breakfast we grabbed our Lonely Planet and made our way to the starting point of the guide book’s walking tour along the bustling Bui Vien street. The city comes alive pretty early with people having the traditional Pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup) for breakfast in the streets freshly prepared by small street vendors.
The first point of interest of the walking tour was Ben That market. My SO and I aren’t great market shoppers as we simply dislike the haggling process. Because of that we only spent a few minutes inside. Ben That is famous with locals and tourists alike – locals opting for the meat, fruit, veg and households sections whilst tourists and travellers try to haggle over the extortionate prices on souvenirs and clothes. Some with more success than others. Surprisingly the market stall owners aren’t as persistent as those we have come across in Bangkok and Beijing which will probably make your shopping experience a bit more pleasant.
Next our little guide book took us to the museum of fine arts which is located in a gorgeous French colonial style building. For an entrance fee of 10, 000 dong you get to see a good collection of art pieces including paintings and statues from different eras. If like us you love original features in older buildings look out for cornices and admire the old tiles which we were particularly fond of. They’d make a great feature in our new house!
The walk then took us to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Ho Chi Minh post office. There are some old maps of Vietnam painted on the walls inside the post office and the old telephone boxes still exist. Although some have been converted into ATMs. Nevertheless, they are still popular with tourists trying to take a traditional picture back home with them. Unfortunately, the cathedral was closed so we only managed to take a few shots from outside.
Quite fancying a drink by this time we went to Shri, a rooftop bar quite famous in Ho Chi Minh City for its amazing views over the city. Drinks are almost at European price levels here so we only stayed for one and then went on for lunch at Pho Hoa on D Pasteur. Absolutely loved the food here. I went for a chicken pho and my SO for the beef version. It’s served with fresh herbs that you can throw in to your liking, fresh chillies and your usual soy and chilli sauces as well as yummy fresh lime wedges. I would definitely recommend that you go out of your way to try and find this place as it’s as authentic an experience as you’re going to get. For two phos, two saigon beers, chinese bread and pork sausage wrapped in banana leaf we only paid 160, 000 dong which is just over £5. Try beat that you Tesco meal deal!
After lunch we made our way to the Reunification Palace. I’d really love to say that it is an amazing experience but it really isn’t that great. There are loads of reception rooms with massive tables and chairs and some private bedrooms. It’s a big part of Vietnamese history so you should go and see it to tick it off the “Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City” list.
The War Remnants museum, just a stone throw away, on the other hand is really worthwhile your time. Unfortunately, we only arrived an hour before closing time and got rudely chucked out ten minutes before the museum was supposed to shut.
In all honesty, the walking tour is exhausting. It’s not only hot at this time of the year but also extremely humid. It will take you a wee while to get used to the climate. Make sure you keep hydrated. Big bottles of water are available for as little as 10, 000 dong.
For dinner we went across the road from our hotel to an Indian restaurant called Mumtaz. The food is alright but not as good as some reviews on Trip Advisor claim. If you’re like us living in the UK you’re probably used to some amazing Indian food so don’t be too disappointed if you feel that the curry at home is of better quality. After all, I warned you.
After a really long day we decided to chill out on the rooftop terrace of our hotel. Once again breathing in the magnificient views and trying to relax before the next long day out – Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple await us.
You’ll hear from me soon 🙂