Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City 101

UPDATE: Here's a short video of the trip! :-) Hope you guys enjoy it~

HCM city from Ashley Ho on Vimeo.

I must say first off, that I'm not a professional and I've only been to HCM city once, so whatever I recommend or enjoyed is purely my own personal experience as well as my friends'. I just want to share with you guys what we did in the city for 6 days and if those of you who are reading this are going to HCM city soon and chanced upon this post during your research, I hope I enlightened you a bit or at least gave you some suggestions :-)

Day 1: Flying off

We took JetStar Airlines and upon reaching HCM city, a bad incident happened. Wei Ling's money inside her luggage was stolen.......... We were super disappointed with the baggage handlers and it really ruined our mood for the first day. It was kind of a dumb move, we know :(

TIP: Don't ever put something valuable inside your luggage ESPECIALLY if your luggage cannot be locked. This must be the most basic knowledge about travelling but yeah, we made that mistake so be careful!

We then took a cab over to our hotel which was only 5 mins walk away from Ben Thanh Market. We stayed in Lavender Hotel, District 1.

TIP: For cabs, take only Vinasun and Mailinh. Those two are the only cabs we took around the city. Actually, if you live in District 1, you can walk around quite easily because most of the
popular areas are in District 1 like Crazy Buffalo, Saigon Square etc, which is within walking distance. But if you are a lazy bum like us, cabs are only 15,000-30,000 dong (SGD$1-2). CHEAP RIGHT?!

(typical tourist shot)

We went to visit Ben Thanh Market after settling down in our hotel. Then we walked around and had dinner at a place that was not very far from our hotel. The pork noodles there were heavenly! I don't know the location very well but if you decided to stay in Lavender hotel, I can roughly tell you the directions.

From the hotel, turn left twice, then walk straight, you will see a restaurant selling Singapore food, walking further up you will be able to see this uncle cooking noodles and inside the 'restaurant' there are small metal chairs and it's filled with locals and that's the place you are looking for! All you have to do is point the items you want. They don't really know how to speak English so sign language is important hahaha

Night Life

To celebrate my birthday, we went to Pandora Sky Lounge. Their service is impeccable! Even though it's a bit expensive, but the price is definitely worth it. It's located above a Hotel (if i'm not wrong) and the view is stunning! Very much like Ku De Ta back in Singapore. We ordered their own specialty drink which is quite similar to a cocktail but served in shot glasses. Despite tasting so good, it is actually quite strong. It will get you high after about 8 shot glasses!

If your budget is not tight, you can buy a bottle inside and drink, enjoy the music and party. If not, then perhaps Apocalypse Now is more suitable for you. The drink prices there are slightly cheaper. The crowd at Pandora Sky Lounge and Apocalypse Now is also different. Rich local businessmen dominates Pandora while Apocalypse Now holds lots of tourists as well as locals.

(Apocalypse Now)

Our last stop was at Crazy Buffalo which had practically no one! We were the only one at the second floor of Crazy Buffalo which is their club (with the dance floor and club music). So I guess Wednesday night isn't their ladies night unlike Singapore... Also, I searched online that Crazy Buffalo is famous for for HCM city's nightlife but either we went on a wrong day or it wasn't really that good? We preferred Apocalypse Now though.

Day 2: Explore

After partying, we slept at around 5am-6am? So we woke up pretty late... Left the hotel at 130pm and we were all starving! We decided to go to Ben Thanh Market to have our brunch. However, the prices there were not cheap, 50.000 dong (SGD$3) for a bowl of beef noodles and 25,000 dong (SGD$1.50) for an avocado shake. Ok, to be honest, compared to the prices in Singapore it is definitely cheaper but compared to other places, their one bowl of noodles is about 20,000 dong (SGD$1+)!!! It is definitely a spot for tourists. You can buy their famous coffee in the market but it will definitely not be cheap. So it's actually better if you managed to make friends with some of the locals to recommend some other places that sells coffee.

We went to Saigon Square for shopping and it wasn't cheap at all..... For one apparel it's like SGD$30 , it's so expensive... We also went to Diamond Plaza but there's really nothing much sigh but we chanced upon the Notre Dame Cathedral! You will definitely know what I'm talking about as it is one of HCM city's tourist spot.

TIP: If you're walking around to explore the city and you spot the street vendors selling spring rolls and other food that you feel like you might wanna try, go ahead! We only bought spring rolls and fruit juices so the other food I can't say for sure that it won't upset your tummy!

We also dined at Pho 24 and it was really delicious. They have a lot of outlets so be sure to check them out, they have really cheap and good pho as well as spring rolls!!

We booked our tour packages for the next 2 days at Rainbow Tours.

TIP: I recommend you guys to check out the prices in different agencies before you settle on one! This ensures that you get the cheapest and better tour packages. Also, be sure to make friends with the staff! You'll know why later ;)

For dinner, we went to district 3, a local area to have seafood! It was based on recommendation from the staff where we booked the tours. This is why making friends with the staff is important! Let the locals guide you to great places :-)

They do not speak English there though, so it was rather hard trying to communicate to them. So we just pointed randomly in the menu hahaha! The seafood was heavenly! It was my first time trying escargot and even though I don't really like exotic food like frog meat, pigeon meat etc.... it was really nice! The way that they cooked it, i think it was barbecued? yes omg super luvin' it!!!

Not to mention the scallop and the prawns omg I really went all out and stuff my tummy with all the seafood yummy *slurps*

We ended our night quite early as we've to wake up early the next day for Cu Chi Tunnel!

Day 3: Cu Chi Tunnel

The tour bus came at 830am (if i'm not wrong) and we had a quick breakfast before our journey to the tourist spot.

The tour depicts the lives of the vietnamese soldiers and how they fight against the americans by using traps, hiding and living in tunnels and whatnots. It was quite an interesting experience as we get to do live shooting as well as crawl (or squat run) the 100m tunnel.

The tour ended at about 3pm and we continued our random walks around the district.

 (i don't remember what Elsent is laughing about but I know it's about Greg lol he's always the retard hahahahahahahaha we love you nonetheless)

We ended up at a french restaurant for dinner which wasn't recommendable. Can't remember the name of the french restaurant though oops!
- UPDATE: Greg told me it was Chef Lap :-)

Did roadside drinking at a dirt cheap price and had an early night as well as we had to wake up even earlier for a day trip to Mekong Delta.

TIP: If you're thinking of spending a long time drinking and you're only going to order one beer, that's not going to work if it's at one of those random street side drinking stalls because they will chase you away! We didn't really felt like drinking a lot so one beer each for us was enough and we sat there for like an hour before they started to chase us away..... So if you're only going to order one beer and sit down to chill, talk to your friends then perhaps you should try Crazy Buffalo or GoGo Bar because i don't think they will chase people away. The prices there are obviously more expensive as they're famous but they also provide cushions which is more comfortable.

Day 4: Mekong Delta

Woke up bright and early and super excited for the river trip! We even bought traditional "hats" to wear hahaha

It was about 2 hours journey to the jetty and we all caught up on some sleep. Our tour guide was massively entertaining and hilarious. (no pun intended - you'll get it once you see his picture)

(typical tourists super enthu)

(now you get what I mean hehe)
 (p/s these are real bees btw #daredevil level 100)
 (LOL Greg's eyes maintain plz)
 (Mekong Delta's very own traffic)
 (Can you believe she's 16 and working like this???? we should be grateful......)
(they actually provided more food like fried rice, kang kong, and what nots but I was too hungry to take another more photos as we had to make our own spring rolls (or at least try)
 (Greg forever being retarded hahahahaha)
 (photoshoot in the wild)

The best part of the trip is having to sit in those traditional rowing boats and cycling around the place. (I love cycling i love anything 2-wheeled) Our lunch was provided so that was pretty good as well. We learned how coconut sweets were made, explored and that was that. I wouldn't say it was fantastic but if you're going to HCM city, it's kind of a must-go because there really isn't much to do.

Settled for dinner at a seafood place we walked past several times and once again, the scallops really....... no words can describe how scrumptious they were.

We then chilled at GoGo Bar which is located just beside Crazy Buffalo. Shisha-ed, drink and played drinking games, laughing our night away. I like this kind of chill drinking where we play games and laugh and it really takes your worries away. Come for their happy hour!

(supper photo yumz)

Day 5: Motorbike

The day we all kinda just swayed between nervousness and excitement constantly. We rented bikes at Flamingo and a day rental is only USD$8! They had to take Greg's passport as usual, when you rent bicycle they take your IC same logic here. It was kind of a bad idea to give them his passport but we had no choice.... Maybe if you want to rent a bike, you should find those places that actually allow you to give them deposits instead. But luckily for us nothing happened :-) We didn't get conned or anything like that which was great!

The traffic in HCM city is crazy though, what with the amount of bikes around it's literally like hundreds of ants huddling.

We rode around the city and boy it was super dangerous and thrilling and wow, I loved it so much. There were hiccups in between like Elsent getting lost but I'm glad we managed to find him and cleared things out.

We went to L'usine cafe for dinner!

(the love of my life)

Rode to a random fruit juice stall for our daily fruit juices (mine is avocado shake all day errr day) and then went back to the hotel to prep for our final party night. We went back to Apocalypse Now and had a couple of drinks, danced a bit, had some HTHT and decided to ride out for supper. I know right, totally #yolo hahaha we were all intoxicated but not high la, so we were still able to function a motorbike well. Elsent so gung-ho he ask us to ride across the highway. That was the best choice ever because I really went all out and spam the throttle, vroom all the way and even rode bare-handed!! (cues the music "i can ride my bike with no handlebar~~~")

Had supper ($25,000 dong only!!) then rode back to the hotel to rest. Really best night ever!

Day 6: Home Sweet Home
(streets shot)
(breadtalk in HCM city lol)
(baguette eaters)
(Pho 2000 noodles!)

Finally tried the famous Pho 2000 which was overpriced and overrated....... We went rounding again just rode aimlessly around the districts and had our fruit juice again before bidding farewell to our motorbikes :(

We really just did nothing the whole afternoon, chilling, shitting at Lotte and finally went to the flea outside Ben Thanh Market to buy some souvenirs before we head for the airport.

TIP: Always haggle! They will usually give in. If they don't, there's always another store that sells almost the same thing. But it depends on what kind of shop, if they state that it's fixed price, then obviously haggling is of no use!

I really enjoyed the 6 days in Ho Chi Minh City. However, it is highly recommended to book perhaps 8 days so that you can travel to Mui Ne and stay there for a couple of days. There is really nothing much to do in the city. We haven't actually explored the whole of it, but I don't think I will come back... Unless it's a short trip then perhaps I will because I still have places in mind I want to go to like Lush (nightlife). I will travel to vietnam again but to Hanoi!

I hope you guys like my post and thanks a lot for reading :-) Feel free to leave any comments if you want to ask questions or give suggestions/improvements to my posts or anything at all!

Have a great week ahead everyone xoxo/

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