Ho Chi Minh City: 48 Hours

30–31 Aug, 2015

The same question I get asked every time I take a short weekend trip overseas is “Will you have enough time?” and this same question was asked (many times) when I decided to take a weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City. Along with other questions, like what’s there in HCMC? in which I replied, “dunno. never been there.”

This trip happened because I was bored. Got fed up of BKK plus I saw cheap tickets with great timing flights where I can leave early morning and come back the next day at night giving me 2 whole days and 1 night there. No need to ask for extra day off.

So what is there in Ho Chi Minh City?

The first thing you’ll noticed as soon as you step out of the airport is how noisy it is. The motorbikes cramming on the streets hoking CONSTANTLY as if the honking would be a way of greetings pedestrians. To be clear though, honking in Vietnam is not an aggressive or hostile expression where it is in a lot of places (including bkk). It’s more of ‘hey i’m behind you or im going that way. be careful type of warning. Besides the noise of the horns, noises also come from the turning lights. Yup. Every time a driver turns on the turning lights, the damn car/motor bike produces the sound. It could be a ‘tik tik’ sound or it could be something more complex like a melody type sound depending on the drivers’ preference i guess. Bangkok is so quiet comparing to this city.

Statue of Ho Chi Minh in front of the city hall

The most difficult thing to do and that everyone needs to adjust quickly is the street crossing situation. No car will stop for you even when you cross the street using the cross walk. I was able to adapt to the situation quickly by walking right behind big guys or a group of daring tourists. Where’s my good karma for always stopping and letting pedestrians cross the street?

For such chaotic city, HCMC has may park areas where people can go and be cut away from the noisy streets. Moreover, the famous vietnamese coffees can be found in every corner of the city weather from a street vendors stalls or established Cafe’ brands. Coffee is one of my favorite things in Vietnam and I will go through a day with many cafe visits. Vietnamese food is also awesome! Unfortunately, like in a lot of countries in South East Asia, tourists do get ripped off, price discrimination is a thing. As far as I know, I go ripped off once here by a street vendor who provided me with a different set of menu (which of course shows higher prices for each item than they normally are). But it was ok. I did not take it seriously.

The coffee though!
bowls of heaven!

Talking about food, I found 2 very special places that should be on a MUST list for this city. The first one is The Lunch Lady. This place is getting more and more known amongst travellers. When I was there, I would say that 85% of the customers were travellers from other countries. It is a small stall located under a big tree in a little alley across the street from the zoo. The uniqueness of this place is that there is only one menu per day and the menu varies from day to day. I was there on a Monday and Monday at The Lunch Lady means Bún Thai, which is Pho in tom yam gung style broth. And it was marvellous.

The other place I would recommend everyone to try is a place that specialises in Bun Thit Nuong. It is a rice noodle with a top of fresh grilled pork and a holy spring rolls!! This dish is unbelievable! I found this place through one of Mark Wiens YouTube video and then found my way there using google map :) This place is in a local residential area. There were only people eating when I went. So you know it must be good! The name of the store is called Chi Thong Bun Thit Nuong.

Other than the goodies, Ho Chi Minh city has an interesting architecture all around the city. Many buildings definitely portrait the history of this former French colonial country. Seeing European style buildings right next to an old about to fall apart buildings makes this city quite charming.

For a short trip, Ho Chi Minh city was lovely. I don’t know what I would have done more had I have more time. Maybe I would just wander around the city enjoying delicious street food and drink its delicious coffee and never leave.

Until next time Vietnam.