A trip booked on the spur of the moment when one of my friends mentioned in the office that JetStar were doing a flash sale over the long weekend in June and that she would be going for two days. Two days was a bit too short for us for a holiday that entailed a 9 hour flight, so we opted to go for 5 days, which gave us a little more time to explore.
On the first day we headed straight to the tailors to get measured at Pham Minh. We found Pham Minh after some research into the best tailors to use. James ordered a suit and a few shirts and I opted for a new pair of tailored trousers. We would then go and enjoy the city for the next 5 days whilst our clothing was made.
We then spent the afternoon wandering around the city exploring and in search of some good Pho for lunch, which wasn’t hard to find.
There are millions of motorcycles in Ho Chi Minh and crossing the road is sometimes like taking on an obstacle course of motorcycles - yet, it seems to work.
Once we’d had enough of the heat we headed to the Bitexco tower for some cocktails with a view.
That evening we walked over to the backpacker area (Pham Ngu Lao) before dinner at Secret Garden restaurant (a rooftop restaurant) on a recommendation, which didn’t disappoint. We then went for a stroll around Turtle lake, where the locals spend their evenings eating street food and socialising.
This was one of my favourite buildings we came across in the city. An old ugly city building that has been revamped with each balcony housing a small cafe or shop.
On the second day, our friends arrived. We knew they only had two days so would be pretty keen to get exploring as soon as possible. We had an early start that day to pack it all in. First stop was the post office, a beautiful colonial building and still an operating post office, next was the Cathedral of Notre Dam (a replica of the French Notre Dam), followed by the War Remnants Museum and Independent Palace. The War Remnants museum as you would Imagine was focused on the Vietnam war, or war of American aggression as they call it. It was possibly one of the most depressing museums I have encountered, however, it was educational and eye opening, if not somewhat confronting, particularly the exhibitions of all the Agent Orange victims. Independence Palace was fascinating to see, with many of the rooms remaining, or at least restored, to how they were back in the 1960s - 70s. We also enjoyed the tanks in the grounds which were the same as those that stormed the palace gates in the last days of the war.
Statue of Ho Chi Minh himself in the background - photo-bombing
After a lunch of Pho in the markets, some coffee and cake we headed back to the hotel. But not before a downpour of epic proportions. I felt pretty smug at the beginning as I’d bought an umbrella but the rain preceded to become heavier by the minute until it was coming from all angles and there was nothing we could do to keep dry. We arrived back at the hotel completed soaked through. That evening it continued to rain so we holed up at a beer garden with shelter near by until we became too hungry and had to venture out again.
The following day the rain had cleared and the weather improved. We took a taxi to the Jade Pagoda, a tranquil temple just out of District One where the taoists come to worship their various gods. We headed back into the city and stumbled across the Ho Chi Minh city museum. Whilst the museum its self left a little, if not a lot, to be desired the building is beautiful and it was interesting to walk around for an hour or so.
When in Vietnam, you can’t not visit a few temples so we went to a Hindu temple - the Sri Marianman, before going to the Bitexco tower again. Vietnam is a great place for roof top bars and we definitely made the most of these.
That evening we had tickets to a show at the Opera House. The show was Teh Dar. It is a cirque de solei type show. The Opera House was much smaller than those we’ve been used to, and we had seats in the second row. The acrobatics during the show were amazing and at the end the whole cast are in lobby singing whilst the audience leaves the venue. It was an early show, so we went for dinner after and still had time before our friends were due to fly out. The restaurant we tried that evening, again on a recommendation, was Propaganda, and it was delicious.
The following day, we were on our own again, so we’d booked a trip to the Chu Chi tunnels. The Chu Chi tunnels were the underground headquarters of the Viet cong. They built an amazing amount of inter linked tunnels and rooms underground where they could disappear and fight from as well as live. The trip began with a boat trip to the tunnels down the Saigon River.
The tunnels are tiny only just big enough to carry the small frame of the Vietnamese so luckily we didn’t have to crawl through them - in fact, even if we had tried it wouldn’t have been possible. The site have built a number of larger tunnels for the tourists to crawl through, and most of them you can pretty much walk through if you bend down.
This is an actual entrance to a tunel, which we could just about fit in.
James crawling through the much larger tunnel made for tourists.
Oh, and they also have a shooting range on site, which was unexpected, but as we were there we decided to have a go with an AK47.
That afternoon we sought out the Pasteur Street Brewing company before heading back to Pham Ngu Lao to visit what is apparently the cheapest rooftop bar in Ho Chi Minh. The View Rooftop Bar, at the top of Duc Vuong Hotel. It was indeed one of the cheapest we visited and the views were spectacular.
On the final day in Ho Chi Minh we got involved at the Ben Tham market and did some shopping. Despite being hassled at EVERY single store (there are hundreds) in the market it is a fun experience and if you’re not afraid to haggle, and you have to haggle, hard, you can pick up a bargain. We found some more Pho for lunch and treated ourselves to a foot massage after all the shopping stress.
That evening we went for drinks at the famous Caravel Hotel (where all the journalists reporting the Vietnam war would stay) in the Saigon Saigon bar before a delicious dinner and a taxi to the airport before it started to rain again. James’ suit and my trousers arrived just in the nick of time after being delivered to the hotel because they had forgotten my trousers and left them at the warehouse. Suit and trousers were the perfect fit and they did a fantastic job.