It has been quite a while since my last visit to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). In the earlier years, I used to take a short vacation there at least twice a year if not once.
Food is always something that I look forward to whenever I think of HCMC in addition to the simplicity lifestyle. I also enjoy lazing around in their local cafes to do people watching. Well, there are times when we feel like doing nothing literally and just watching the world goes by type of feeling. 😏
That does happen to me, not sure whether you ever had that kind of feeling though!
To take advantage of the upcoming Labour Day holiday, I thought of doing a long weekend trip to spend some quality time with my family members especially with my eldest daughter whom we have missed her for most of our family trip in recent years. At the same time, I can also take this opportunity to celebrate my (this year’s) birthday in HCMC too.
Letting out a small secret…..I celebrated my birthday last year in Kuala Lumpur and I hope to be able to do so for every of my future birthdays…..😁
Why HCMC? By flight, it can be conveniently reached in about 2 hours. A nice duration for a short getaway. There are numerous airlines going to HCMC. Full fledge airlines cost are usually on a higher side compared to budget carriers. However, there are times you might be able to find economical fares from full fledge airlines too if you are lucky.
On the average, you should be able to get a return airfare ticket for less than $150. For this trip of mine, I bought a one way flight out ticket from Jetstar and the one way return ticket from Vietjet because of the desired flight timings.
What a better way than to start the morning with a sumptious breakfast at the airport lounge before departure.
There are a couple of lounges available, SATS Premier, Dnata, Plaza Premium, Ambassador Transit, etc. Somehow, Plaza Premium is still my preferred lounge choice as I simply loved their hot food counter.
Great breakfast spread! 👍
There are lots of accommodation available when you are in HCMC. I usually stay in District 1 near to the Ben Thanh Market. There are many districts in HCMC and District 1 is at the city centre and it is a touristy district. Needless to say, prices are also touristy too compared to other districts. More activities are centred around District 1 and this is the main reason for its popularity.
City centre is just 40 mins ride from Tan Son Nhat International Airport via Taxi. It is always recommended to use their national public transport company, Vinasun which is our ComfortDelgro equilvalent. Alternatively, you may choose to go with Grab if you are price sensitive. Anyway, it will save you more than half of the fare if you were to Grab. 😁
Hotel accommodation can be easily found in District 1 and prices ranges from as low as USD$20 to as high as USD$250 a night. I will choose to stay in a one star hotel costing USD$20 a night if I were to travel on my own but with family, a 3 star hotel in the range of USD$70 a night would be good enough. Best part of it, all hotels includes morning breakfast.
For this trip, I stayed at the Thien Xuan Hotel at 108 Le Thanh Ton St. Hotel is conveniently located within steps from the iconic Ben Thanh Market. Very centralized area and is within walking distance to Vincom Centre, Parkson and Takashimaya.
The iconic Ben Thanh Market in the day.
Fully transformed when it comes after dark.
Immediately upon check-in, I headed to my usual tailor, Van Huy Tailor inside Ben Thanh Market for my clothes tailoring.
This is also one of the reason for making this trip in addition to my food cravings. In total, I tailored 2 suits with 8 long sleeve shirts and an extra pair of trouser.
Turnaround is usually within 1 to 2 days depending on what is needed.
After tailoring measurement, proceeded straight to settle my first on the list cravings….. Vietnamese crispy rice cupcakes and spring rolls at Wrap & Roll located at B3 of Vincom Centre.
Banh Khot – Crispy rice cupcakes with shrimps
Cha Gio Wrap & Roll – Traditional deep-fried spring rolls with pork & seafood
Goi Cuon Wrap & Roll – Fresh spring rolls with prawns & pork
Cuon Bun Cha Wrap & Roll – Grilled pork skewers
Thereafter, spent the remaining afternoon rounding up Vincom Centre.
Night view of Vincom Centre & Parkson which is directly opposite each other.
Magnificient night view of the Ho Chi Minh City Hall or Saigon City Hall. It was built in 1902 – 1908 in a French colonial style for the then city of Saigon and was later renamed after 1975 as Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.
Although this elegant colonial building is not open to the public, Saigon City Hall is popular for its great photo opportunities.
Dinner was at Hai Lua, an eatery outlet inside Ben Thanh night market.
Look at the fresh seafood which will be cooked on the spot upon ordering.
It is a routine ritual for me to dine there each time I visit HCMC. The seafood is really good, fresh and value for money.
Ca dieu hong nuong muoi ot – Red snapper grilled with salt & spice
Tom cang nuong – Grilled big shrimp
Thit nuong – Grill meat
Rau muong xao toi – Water morning glory sauteed with garlic
A couple more street food items to go before calling it a night. Due to time constraints, food prioritization is of crucial importance and has to be properly planned and executed to prevent disappointment. 😅
One such food item is Ha Cao, similar to 水晶包 (crystal dumpling). Cannot really describe but you need to eat to understand why it is tastily good.
Next other item will be none other than the street noodle stall that serves great soup stock with white radish and pig’s blood.
The soup is flavourfully done with the sweetness of the white radish, carrot & pork bones boiled over time.
That brings me to the end of an eventful day.
Waking up to a bright and early Day 2 morning. The sky is already brightly litted up at 6am and what other good way to start the morning than to work out the excess calories that I have had yesterday.
The Vietnamese people are sure health conscious too as you can see that most of them are already up & working out at the parks.
It really makes me feel connected by joining them at the park.
You will get to see people strolling freely, working out at the various fitness stations and having fun playing badminton at the park. Life is indeed carefree here and simplicity is the key to life.
Happen to chance upon this make shift stall selling beancurd. Needless to say, proceeded to packet back and savour at the comfort in the hotel room.
Woo….the beancurd texture is super smooth and soft. The starchy rice ball condiments makes it perfect with the pandan ginger sugar syrup over coconut sauce topping.
After a good workout, time for a deserving breakfast. I always look forward to enjoying their local breakfast.
Do not judge the looks of it as it is definitely deceiving. Trust me on this. Their breakfast though simple but it is certainly deliciously good.
Had an Italian lunch at Buzza Pizza (5-7-9 Nguyen Trung Truc, Phurong Ben Thanh).
They offer pretty good selections of Pizza, Pasta, Risotto & Salads.
Chicken Pizza with garlic, onion, mozarella cheese, paprika & tomato sauce. Their pizza bread is superbly soft & tenderly good.
Vongole Pasta with garlic, clam, cherry tomatoes, pepper and salt. This is another must try item for pasta lovers.
After lunch, went over to CGV Cinema at Vincom Centre to catch a movie, Avenges : Infinity War which started premiering a couple of days ago.
Took the opportunity to catch it at the Gold Class theatre. It is nice to watch it with comfort since it is going to be a long show.
After show, pop over to Takashimaya at Saigon Centre.
Enjoying a mixture of Japanese food items at Oedo Alley Japanese Food Village on Takashimaya Level 5.
Santen Aburi Roll
Kake Udon with Ebiten
Gyu Saikoro Suteki Teppanyaki
There are a lot of Japanese restaurants and eateries in HCMC. Best part, you get to enjoy food of quality standard and value for money here. 😀
After a satisfying meal, headed down to Takashimaya B2 for desserts.
You gotta try their Meet Fresh Signature Herbal Jelly. Super champion.
Thereafter, spent the rest of the evening window shopping at Saigon Square before calling it another night.
Saigon Square is located on the corner of Nam Ky Khoi and Le Loi in District 1 and is also directly opposite Takashimaya. This shopping arcade is packed with stalls on 2 levels selling fashion, accessories and clothings. It is liken to that of the Platinum Fashion Mall in Bangkok. Bargaining is expected here as prices are initially inflated. If there is something you have your eye on, shop around and enquire about prices as it is fairly easy to find different shops selling similar items. Just consider what you would be willing to pay for an item and bargain accordingly.
Rule of thumb – once you have decided to go ahead and buy the item, don’t ever attempt to check prices in other stalls again. 😎
Today, HCMC celebrates its 43 years of Independence Day.
There seems to be some kind of events going on with Harley Bikers and Cyclists participants gearing up for flagging off at the starting point. Looks happening.
As usual, went for my routine workout followed by a good breakfast before heading over to Diamond Plaza, a beautifully renovated departmental store and is surrounded by the city’s most attractive sites like the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office and the April 30th Park – a charming open space with tall trees and greenery.
The departmental store is housed in a charming colonial-looking building. Diamond Plaza provides family with children with entertainment options such as the large bowling alley and video arcade on the 4th floor and Diamond Cinema on the 13th floor.
Lunch is at Dim Tu Tac at 55 Dong Du, Ben Nghe.
Dim Tu Tac (點都得) read in cantonese literally translated as “anything also can” is a Chinese dim sum restaurant in HCMC. It is the only restaurant in Vietnam known for their Northern and Cantonese dim sums while providing other fine culinary dishes.
Steamed Shanghai Dumpling
Crispy Beancurd Skin Roll with Prawn
Steamed Rice Roll with BBQ Honey Glazed Pork
Steamed Shrimp & Spinach Dumpling
Sichuan Hot & Sour Soup
Beancurd in Brine Sauce
Stewed Assorted Vegetable with Taro Curd Sauce in Casserole
Took a leisure stroll to Bitexco Financial Tower after lunch.
Bitexco Financial Tower is a skyscraper in HCMC with 68 floors above ground and 3 basements. The building has a height of 262.5m making it the tallest building in the city, 4th tallest in Vietnam and 263th tallest in the world as of beginning of 2018.
Venture out to HCMC newest shopping mall, Crescent Mall in the evening. The said mall is located in District 7, an upcoming thriving new urban area populated by middle to upper class Vietnamese and expatriates. The Crescent brings unique design and an array of upscale retail outlets together under one roof.
Look at the astonishing night bridge rainbow lighting across the lake. Amazingly beautiful.
Complimented by the lakefront location which brings up the entire shopping experience.
Beautiful lakefront view overlooking the stretch of dining outlets.
You will definitely be spoilt for choice of food here. It took me a long while to finally settle on having a Japanese cuisine at Morico – a modern japanese restaurant cafe for my dinner.
Maguro Tempura Maki – Tuna & cheese fried sushi
Tatsuta Age – Best seller Japanese fried chicken
Sakura Ebi Age – Crispy tiny shrimp
Katsu Toji – Pork cutlet in steamed egg
Ebi Tempura Udon – Best seller prawn tempura with udon
Spicy Salmon Yaki Meshi – Best seller spicy salmon fried rice
Kinaco Warabi Mochi
The mochi with the red bean paste & palm sugar syrup together with the sesame ice cream is perfectly good for a finale. Awesome ! 👍
Being the last night here, decided to take it easy by waking up to my natural alarm clock the next day.
Started packing my loots after breakfast and getting ready for checkout to head to the airport for my early afternoon flight home.
Relaxing at the Orchid Lounge prior to boarding.
4 days 3 nights just passed with a quick blink of an eye. Overall, the trip is just right and importantly, accomplished what I have set out to do. Good times always passes before you knew it. Well, all good things must come to an end. I can always look forward to be back again sometime soon. For now, I will look forward to my upcoming Eastern Hokkaido at the end of May. Till then, a Happy Labour Day to one & all.