Vietnam #9 – Day 3 and 4 in Ho Chi Minh City

I woke up just past 7 and then woke Dao up as we prepared for breakfast at the hotel below. Once down at the restaurant below, we placed our orders, we both ordered Pho Ga, while she had orange juice and I had iced tea. A hearty breakfast and nothing out of the ordinary.

We then headed back to our room, where we lingered for an hour or so before Dao declared that we were leaving for the museum. I had this morning chanced upon a promo code that Grab was running, which was 9,000 dong for any fares that cost less than or equal to 50,000 dong, and a maximum of 41,000 dong discount for trips more than 50,000 dong.

So booked ourselves a GrabCar to Ho Chi Minh City museum, and it only cost us 9,000 dong, roughly 50 cents in SGD, unreal! So this museum was a place that I have not been to so far, so it was a good choice. Admission was 30,000 dong, so I paid 60,000 dong.

The 2-story building which was previously known as Gia Long Palace, houses quite a fair bit of exhibits from the traditions and customs of the Vietnamese, to the revolutionary and communist history of Vietnam to modern times. Quite informative.

But obviously, we weren’t here for that, and I only briefly glanced at the exhibits. The time here was to take photos, lots of them, and we spent over 2 hours here. The building was modeled after classical Baroque architecture with European and Oriental influences, and seem to be a favorite with many locals, especially some who came here for their wedding photoshoot.

Not sure whether it was breakfast, but I had an upset stomach which caused me to have diarrhea twice at the museum washroom. And just when I didn’t bring Po Chai pills for this trip. Fortunately for me, I kind of recovered after I got everything out.

Change of style with her jacket.

Final blast.

After about 2 hours of photo taking, it was time for lunch. But we couldn’t really decide on anything of note until we decided to head nearby on foot for lunch. But as we walked less than 500m under the hot sun, Dao uttered surrender and begged for a GrabCar back to our hotel area. I tried to reason with her since the traffic was quite bad, but she didn’t relent. So I ordered a GrabCar for 9,000 dong again, and we waited for quite a fair bit before our driver came amidst the bad traffic and took us back to Bui Vien.

So while in the GrabCar, Dao suggested we should head to Asiana Food Town for lunch. Because, why not? So we took lesser time to decide what to eat. She ordered Bun Thit Nuong for 65,000 dong, while I ordered Shrimp Banh Khot for 70,000 dong. Kind of regretted my choice because it was no fun eating all 6 for lunch alone. I then ordered coconut coffee for 42,000 dong while she ordered Kiwi yogurt drink. She then disappeared for quite a fair bit after she said she wanted to go to the washroom. When she did return after 20 minutes, she said that she went to buy something of which I didn’t press her further on what she got.

We then headed back to the hotel where she had a change of outfit before we headed to our second destination of the day, Nghia An Pagoda. I had checked out the fare there earlier, and it showed 76,000 dong. So I had a shock when the fare showed 107,000 dong now when I was at the hotel. Told Dao about it, and she changed the location to the Food Town, and the fare was now at 79,000 dong. So smart of her to outsmart the location-based fare Grab fare system.

So after about 20 minutes, we were at our destination. Located within Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, Cholon, I only learned later on that it was a place of worship dedicated to the Wu general, Quan Cong. The pagoda was a fine example of Chinese religious architecture in Vietnam, with its elaborately gilded woodwork, intricate statues, and other relics. During our time, there were quite a fair bit of women lining up to take photos at the pagoda’s main entrance, including soon-to-be-married couples. We spent over an hour here.

Perimeter photos as we waited patiently for a married couple and later on other girls who hogged the entrance.

Finally, it was our turn.

We then made our way on foot to a nearby pagoda, Bà Thiên Hậu Pagoda, which was an 18th-century pagoda built in 1870 to honor a sea goddess and featured colorful, ornate Chinese architecture. This was a smaller pagoda, and more populated with tourists than the previous one. So we just spent 10 over minutes here taking photos, before we got ourselves a GrabCar back to our hotel for 47,000 dong. Why the huge discrepancy in fares, this I wouldn’t know.

Before the decision to go back to the hotel, Dao actually suggested going to Little Japan to take photos. But since there was no fixed location, and it was really just one whole stretch of a street called Le Thanh Ton, she seemed to be put off by having to walk around aimlessly and decided to call it off since the night was setting in and she wasn’t feeling too well.

We then hung around in the room for a bit before deciding to head to Aloha Boys Poke which was just a street away for dinner. Basically, it’s a place selling salad bowls, but for half the price of what was charged in Singapore. Dao ordered a Poke Maikai for 120,000 dong while I got a Can-cun for 130,000 dong. There was a couple occupying the street-viewing seats, and Dao pouted at times that she wanted that view. Cute. We again took a fair bit of photos here. As we ate, more people came into the place, and they were all foreigners.

We finished our dinner in about 20 minutes and it was still early. So we headed to the nearby Highlands Coffee, where she ordered tea with lotus seeds while I ordered hot caramel macchiato, the total was 108,000 dong. We then sat at the second story overlooking the street for a fair bit, while she kept taking photos. We spent close to an hour here.

I was really bored at doing nothing, so Dao then suggested we take a walk at Saigon Love Lake inside 23/9 Park, which was just a lake and nothing much to it, besides it was dark and you can’t see shit. What we could see was couples on benches lining the lake, cuddling, and kissing.

We then walked around the perimeter of the park and then wound up at the outdoor stage of the Food Town, where we took photos again. Before heading back to the hotel, we spent some time circling inside the Miniso outlet but didn’t get anything. We then headed inside the FamilyMart to get breakfast for tomorrow, and spent quite a fair bit of time here, as Dao couldn’t decide what bread to get. Total damage was 78,000 dong for two bread, 2 drinks, Dasani mineral water, and a sandwich. This was so cheap.

Back at the hotel, as Dao was packing up after her shower, I gave her her birthday present and Christmas present, a McDonald’s pajamas and Innisfree green tea masks. I could tell she was happy to receive them. We then turned in for the night, not before talking a fair bit, the most we have talked at one time without stopping. While she talked about going to Da Lat sometime next year with me, I wasn’t so sure since many things might happen in between then. Who knows? I didn’t want the night to end so soon, but it had to since she had to get up early.

Got up at 4am as scheduled. Woke Dao up as she roused from her bed, and then went about doing her stuff. Just before 4:30am, she was done and we said farewell. I then lingered around for a while before packing up my stuff as well and got ready to check out.

Unexpectedly busted my 4G data just before checking out, so I was like standing near the hotel using their WiFi as I tried hailing a GrabCar which seemed to be failing me at this crucial juncture despite being in a popular hotspot. Anyway, I paid up 1,280K Dong for my 3 nights stay which was good value to me and headed to the main street as I waited near the bus stop, hoping for the 109 bus to come or someone accepting my GrabCar order.

Minutes ticked by and I was getting anxious. But finally, after about 10 minutes or so, a driver accepted my order, and I was soon on my way to the airport. The fare cost me 83,000 Dong including the airport toll, and this was after I had used the Vuila9 Grab promo code.

Reached the airport just after 7am, and the airport counters were already teeming with people. One counter was catered just for those on the Singapore flight, and I was lucky because the line got even longer after me. Anyway, I only managed to get my flight ticket at around 7:30am, which tells you how crowded the airport was at this period. I then took another 30 minutes or so to clear security. I then pondered over spending money on having breakfast at the airport but decided against it because it was just not worth the money. I then headed to the boarding gate and was just in time to board the first shuttle bus to the plane. Surprisingly the plane wasn’t full when it took off, and this was a surprise for me.

And that concludes my final overseas trip in 2019.

Vietnam #9 – Day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City

I woke up around 7 plus in the morning, and it was a good night’s sleep for me. This hotel is really a keeper! Hung around for a bit before heading down for breakfast. So the options were pretty limited as you get to choose from a few options plus drink. For today, I opted for egg omelette and I must have missed out on seeing the word, bread. Anyway, I enjoyed the omelette but the bread not so much, but I still finished everything.

Headed back to the room after breakfast, and frankly, I was stumped at what to do since it was still quite sometime before Dao arrives. I then received a text stating that she has something on her lip, and she didn’t want to come because she wouldn’t look cute. I was like LOL. Anyway, I managed to convince her to come, so that was that.

After sussing out my options, I decided to make a return visit to the War Remnants Museum. It was the only feasible choice for me I figure. So I set out on foot which took me around 25 minutes, and it wasn’t a good choice since it was a really hot day. Paid 40,000 VND dong for admission and I sat down on a bench overlooking the museum after reaching to take a breather. I then saw an area that I overlooked in visiting the last time I was here.

It was a recreation of the prison on Con Dao Island, originally built by the French but put to use by the American forces during the war where the Vietnamese soldiers were brutally tortured last time. Pretty gruesome and explicit displays of how people suffered then.

I spent a fair bit of time at this exhibit, just wondering how humans are the worst kind sometimes. I then headed into the museum itself and went through the exhibits again, shaking my head at the atrocities of war, and the sheer amount of fatalities.

After a while, I just sat at the museum as I whiled the time away playing my mobile games. It was still so early in the day. I waited until it was past 12 before I started moving to find lunch. I wasn’t feeling adventurous so I headed on foot to the nearest Pho24 outlet. Yes, Pho24 again! Ordered the same old combo set of Bun Cha Gio and iced tea which cost me 50,000 Dong.

After a slow burn lunch, I headed on foot to find the nearest Koi bubble tea store near Nguyen Hue, and it took me a while despite using Google Maps. I sort of got lost for a few minutes, but soon found my bearings and ordered Oolong Milk Tea for 57,000 dong.

It cost more than my lunch!

I then took a slow walk back to the hotel, as I assumed Dao would be here soon. And as I was walking, she told me she was on her way and would reach in 30 minutes. So I hastened my footsteps back to the hotel. I then sat around for a while, and she then texted me that she was here and where the hotel was. I got down and then saw her at the junction. It sure feels good to see her again in just a month. And she did heed my advice to bring lesser stuff.

We then headed to the room where she unpacked and she did look impressed with how nice and big the room was. Then we did nothing, as she just laid on the bed, and seemingly googling what to do. And it was like that for more than an hour before she exclaimed that we should catch a movie since it was late and there’s nothing else to do. She changed her outfit and it was quite a daring one with that oversized shirt hiding the hot pants that makes it look like you are wearing nothing underneath. Sexy cute look.

So a simple search showed that Galaxy Nguyễn Du was the nearest cinema near our hotel, although it would still take 10 minutes to walk there. There were only 3 shows to consider as it was a local cinema chain: a Vietnamese movie, Jumanji: the Next Level, and Frozen 2. In the end, Dao settled on Jumanji which was a huge relief. Seeing that it was a Saturday night and seats were filling up fast for the 815pm show, I suggested we headed to the cinema to buy tickets in-person before getting dinner. But by the time we go there, the seats we wanted were taken, so we had to buy seats that were even closer to the screen. What a bummer!

Since it was a local cinema chain, the tickets cost just 180,000 dong.

After getting the tickets, Dao started her photo session as she took some at the display area for a Vietnamese movie, Mat Biec, and also Christmas. So pretty and cute she was.

We then headed back to the area near our hotel as there wasn’t anything of note to eat near the cinema. Dao then suggested Asiana Food Town which was at Taka Plaza and was near our hotel. Basically, a food court with stores selling food from many countries.

So we took a while just walking around, and one would really be stumped for choice because the selection was really overwhelming. You are really spoilt for choice although the taste is subjective. Dao settled for some fish soup noodles which cost 70,000 dong, while I ordered Bo Ba Loc with noodles for 55,000 dong which I really enjoyed.

We then went to get drinks and settled on Travico Smoothies, where Dao got a Kiwi + Coconut type, while I got Passionfruit + Coconut. They were good and cost 90,000 dong.

Dao also took a fair amount of photos here, and just to make her outfit look different, tucked in her shirt which was ingenious really. LOL.

We then headed to the cinema again and sat around for a bit before getting to our seats which was really facing the screen head-on. The movie was really good and funny, although some parts dragged. We then left for the hotel after the movie, and the traffic in HCMC was scary with the sheer amount of motorcycles and cars creating a gridlock of the roads. Luckily for us, we were walking then. Before the hotel, we headed to the FamilyMart+ where we got Aquafina bottled water and Tea+ drinks, she also liked the latter just like me.

Nothing eventful as we then turned in for the night, not before Dao said that we will go to the museum tomorrow as promised. Nights out.

Vietnam #9 – Day 1 in Ho Chi Minh City

Making my 9th visit to Vietnam, and this was also my 4th time meeting Dao in Ho Chi Minh city. This trip was for me to clear the remainder of my off-in-lieu.

I took VietJetAir for this trip and boarded my plane at Terminal 4. Contemplated Heavenly Wang’s Prata set but settled for Texas Chicken Tenders Combo for my lunch.

My flight was a full one and rather uneventful as I sat at the aisle seat. Landed on time at TSN airport, but was greeted by heavy rain which dampened my mood. But when I was in the airport shuttle after getting slightly drenched while getting on, the rain miraculously stopped. It definitely felt like Christmas as the customs were full of people than usual.

I then boarded the bus service 109 which would take me right at the doorstep of Na Nue hotel in the Bui Vien Backpacker Street (Phạm Ngũ Lão) area. After around 30 minutes, I arrived at my hotel which didn’t take long for me to find. I realize that it was doing a sharing type of arrangement with the hotel next door, Asian Kitchen Hotel.

The reception girl gave me a rundown of the hotel’s house rules, and I then went with her to my room, taking the stairs as my room was located on the 3rd level. Boy was the room huge when she opened the door. It had a single and double bed, a tiny balcony and a spacious toilet even. By far, the largest room I have ever stayed in Ho Chi Minh City.

I stayed in the hotel for a while to chill and was expecting to just be alone for the night in Ho Chi Minh City. I then headed out for dinner and decided on Bun Bo Nam Bo again, after cycling through my options in Bui Vien. Then as I was walking, Dao texted me the bad news that her Korean boss denied her taking leave for Saturday, so that meant I will be seeing her only tomorrow afternoon. Didn’t expect much honestly, but still a bummer.

Arrived at Bun Bo Nam Bo after about a 10-minute walk, and ordered the same 95,000 dong combo comprising of the dish of the same name, fried spring rolls, and iced tea. Still, the same old taste which was delicious by the way but I don’t think I will be coming again after discovering a new food place by the end of this trip which would be cheaper as well.

Headed back to the hotel after dinner, but stopped by FamilyMart to get drinks as I bought Heineken, Lothamilk (which was a mistake as I thought it was Yaourt), and Suntory Tea+ Green Tea for 55,000 dong. I don’t know what was wrong, as I downed all 3 drinks in the night as I chilled the night out on the bed, but I still had a good night’s sleep.

Vietnam #8 – Day 3 and 4 in Ho Chi Minh City

Woke up early today and the same with Dao as we prepared to spend a full day fruitfully. Headed downstairs for breakfast and Dao ordered what I ate yesterday, while I ordered Tuna toasted sandwich. Nothing out of the ordinary but it was a satisfying breakfast.

Headed back to the room after breakfast and sometime later, Dao said we should forget about Thanh An island because it will take too much effort to get there and back. She then said we should go Vung Tau instead, and I was, “Again?” since I was there earlier this year. Anyways, I just listened to her and we booked a limousine taxi which is like a minivan which will take us there in under 2 hours in comfort, costing 288,888 Dong for both of us.

After doing all the preparation work, we then set off for Tan Dinh church which is a famous church landmark that has pink-colored exterior walls. Hired GrabCar which cost us 37,000 Dong to get there in 10 minutes. The church was truly impressive on the exterior but we didn’t go in. Dao then went to a local market nearby to get a coconut drink and we just walked around like headless chickens as I didn’t know what she wanted.

Anyways, we then landed up outside of Tan Dinh church as we waited to be picked up by the limousine taxi. Then I keep seeing foreign tourists wanting to get into the church but were barred by the local guards at the gate, for reasons unknown since they didn’t speak the same language. It was just weird since you can see locals just going in and out freely.

We were soon our way after waiting for 10 minutes, and because we booked it quite late, we had to sit at the front beside the driver. And it was also cheaper. The driver was a skilled one indeed as he kept racing in front of every other vehicle on the road which was great.

Along the way, Dao booked our return transport which cost 320,000 Dong and we will sit at the back this time. We also stopped over at a rest stop mid-way where I got my favorite Lothamilk Yaourt drink (15,000 Dong) while Dao got Dasani mineral water (10,000 Dong).

The taxi was soon emptying out of people until it was just me, Dao, and the driver. In just under 2 hours, we had reached the heart of Vung Tau. This is particularly amazing since I previously took more than 2 hours by motorbike. A nightmare thinking about it now.

So after getting off, I was wondering how are we going to travel around this place without our own transport. Anyways, we walked not far and Dao suggested we eat at this pizza place called The Pizza Company. With the scorching sun bearing down on us and my stomach growling with hunger, I said yes even though pizza wasn’t my kind of food.

Ordered a Chicken Trio pizza as the main, a potato basket for the appetizer which I regretted, and drinks which cost 356,000 Dong, and it was a very satisfying full lunch at the end.

After lunch, we decided to make our way up to Vung Tau Lighthouse. Dao actually suggested we can walk up there, although I was thinking that it was quite high up as far as I can remember. Anyways, less than a few minutes from walking, a plump uncle on a motorcycle approached us to fetch us to the top of the hill for 40,000 Dong. So it was quite a sight to see the uncle trying to ride us to the top with his small motorcycle after some effort. But along the long and winding road, I was thinking about how do we get down later.

About 10 minutes later, we reached the top and it was a particularly sunny day. Always crowded with people, Dao took her time to re-do her makeup but she wasn’t too into taking pictures here. After around 10 minutes of taking photos and chilling around, we were seemingly done here and started making our way down on foot.

As we walked, she suggested we go to a cafe that overlooked the beautiful city of Vung Tau and was situated along the roads as we came up. After some walking, we reached the place which was nice and crowded, and we sat down for a while to have overpriced drinks for 110,000 Dong. We sat down here for quite a while as Dao took her fair share of photos.

An hour later, we decided to leave but not before Dao having a change of outfit again. We took photos again as we make our long trek down.

After around 15 minutes, a taxi stopped for us and Dao negotiated with him to take us to someplace which I learned later would be Green Stone Lake in Ba Ria. I had no clue that we would be going there and I always had the impression we would be going to the beach or some other place in Vung Tau. But yeah, the taxi meter kept going up as we left the city of Vung Tau behind us, and I realized there we just don’t communicate much. The taxi fare cost 520,000 Dong, and Dao paid 500,000. After around 40 minutes, we reached the place which seems to not that known or rather just situated in a rather secluded location since the driver had to ask the locals along the way just to be sure.

A pretty nice scenic location centered around a lake with many Instagram-worthy spots to take photos. But there was an entrance fee of 40,000 Dong which was quite steep honestly. We spent close to 1.5 hours here as we took our own sweet time taking heaps of photos.

We decided to leave the place when the sky started turning dark, and the taxi driver was there waiting for us. So we got into the taxi and ended up at Co.opmart, Ba Ria City which I learned that it will be the pickup point for our trip back to Ho Chi Minh city.

With still quite a while of time before pickup, we wandered around whether we should have our dinner first but couldn’t be decisive enough. We even had a walk inside Co.opmart but came out emptyhanded. Eventually, we ended up having Hủ tiếu at a local restaurant, Yến Yến II. Nothing fantastic about the dinner, and it was quite saltish, to be honest.

As we were just finishing our dinner, the driver called Dao to say he was here, and we quickly paid 70,000 Dong and boarded our transport. Despite choosing our seats earlier, our seats were occupied by 3 men who were sleeping, so we just took the empty seats. Stopped at a rest point mid-way and Dao just took off to buy her stuff before coming back.

Researched on perhaps using the same transport to Da Lat in the future, and the prices were kind of cheap for a 7-8 hours trip. Dao said we can consider that for a future trip perhaps but I shudder to think it will actually happen. Nothing eventful the rest of the way.

It was close to 9 as we were let off at the bus company’s office which was just opposite Bun Bo Nam Bo restaurant. I then told Dao that we were close to Halo Hotel, and we should walk to which she agreed. Along the way, she deliberated over going to Ngyuen Hue walking street or grabbing some food to eat. But eventually, we decided to head back to Halo Hotel as she wanted to have an early night before heading back home early tomorrow morning.

Before going up though, we headed to Mini Stop as I wanted to get rid of some cash, and we bought quite a fair bit for each of our own breakfast tomorrow, costing 127,000 Dong.

Back in the hotel, we started packing up and talked a little before ending the trip on a good note although it could have been better definitely.

The morning was uneventful as I woke Dao up at 4:30am and she left just before 5 to catch her bus back home. I started packing up after she left, and checked out at 6 to catch the bus but the bus didn’t appear for some reason. So I ended up getting a GrabCar at 6:30am which cost me 88,000 Dong after discount. Everything went smoothly as I got back to Singapore with VietJetAir, got myself a GrabCar for 15 SGD to office as I resumed regular life.

Vietnam #8 – Day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City

So the alarm was set for me to wake up at 6, while I would wake Dao up at 630 so that we can set off early after having breakfast. Beautiful sunrise which was a surprise.

Dao eventually woke up after some effort. And we then headed off for breakfast just after 7. While we both expected buffet breakfast, that was not the case as we were handed a menu to choose from a list of options. I opted for fried eggs and toasted bread, while Dao got her favorite Hu Tieu. Pretty decent fare for a good start to the day.

We headed back to the room after breakfast, where Dao deliberated over whether to go to Thanh An island. After a while, Dao decided that we should strike off the place as it simply takes too much time and effort to go there. With the morning still young, Dao suggested a movie, and we took some time to browse through available movies on CGV Vietnam. I also learned that she doesn’t like Korean movies. In the end, we opted for the reboot of Charlie’s Angels at CGV Liberty City Point since options were kind of limited.

It took us around 15 minutes on foot to reach there since it was not that near. After purchasing tickets, Dao then bought popcorn, sweet and salty versions, and mineral water.

Total damage – 360,000 Dong.

Not a bad movie overall by my standards. It was watchable.

After the movie, we were kind of full, so we didn’t have lunch but headed back to Halo Hotel. In the room, Dao kind of retreated into her own world and just watched YouTube videos on her own. It was kind of deja vu all over for me as I thought of Tra Vinh.

Then around 2 hours later, Dao suddenly said we should go eat something and suggested Com Xiu, a Dim Sum restaurant which was kind of far from where we were in Bui Vien territory.

So we got ourselves a GrabCar for 25,000 Dong and soon reached the place in under 7 minutes. There was no one in the restaurant at 3 plus in the afternoon on a Saturday, and we had the whole second floor to ourselves. It was a nicely decored place where it billed itself as serving Dim Sum with a modern twist. Dao did all the ordering and the total damage was 359,000 Dong for all the food and drinks. It was a good experience.

After concluding our afternoon tea (lunch), we then headed on foot to September 23rd Park, which is basically a big park with lush greenery and ample walk space. There were many people gathering around on a Saturday afternoon, so we just walked a bit and talked. Dao talked about her tiresome job and how she disliked her Korean superior – which I figure she hates all things Korean. I then told her to try getting a job in HCM City.

As it was still early, we headed back to Halo Hotel to take a breather. Around evening time, Dao changed her outfit again, and we were off again on foot to Bui Vien walking street.

Around 20 minutes of walking, we were finally there as Dao took her photos and we walked along the street. Dao then suggested having dinner at a place that sold Kebab, but after searching for it for quite some time, we realized that the place didn’t exist. We didn’t have any idea after that attempt on what to eat and just walked aimlessly along the street which was starting to get really crowded with the weekend crowd building up.

After a while, we decided to eat at a place called Phở Hai Thiền where they sold Vietnamese noodles. Dao had her Hu Tieu while I ordered Beef Pho. Not too bad with the damage coming up to 193,000 Dong. Kind of regret we didn’t get their colorful spring rolls.

Following dinner, we headed back into Bui Vien Street and the place was well and truly a party place now with loud music and lots of people. So we were looking for a place to sit that overlooked the street and ended up at Little HaNoi Egg Coffee. But we didn’t order egg coffee but got smoothies instead which were quite expensive at 100,000 Dong. But it was a cool experience definitely seeing people up close and walk by.

Dao then mentioned that the hotel that we were considering prior to this trip, Meraki Boutique Hotel, was actually located right above this Egg Coffee place, and it was a blessing that we didn’t choose to stay here this time. Simply impossible to block out the noise.

Around 9, we decided to head back to Halo Hotel for an early night’s rest. Thanh An Island was a question mark and it does seem like we will have an impromptu destination tomorrow.

And that was it for this chill Saturday.