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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Ho Chi Minh (Part 1)

My first visit to Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) was a impromptu trip with my sister.  What drew me back again this year was the cheap air-fare and accommodation, unforgettable roasted suckling pig :P~~ and the history of Vietnam which I would like both Luis and my hubby to know about.

So here we go!!

Date: 20 Nov to 22 Nov 2012
Flying with: Jet Star
Companion:  younger son, Luis and hubby
Mode of Travel: Free & Easy
Currency:  17,000VND = S$1
Time Difference: 1 hour behind Singapore
Lan Lan Hotel 2
46 Thu Khoa Huan Street,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City,

Blue Diamond Hotel
48-50 Thu Khoa Huan Street
Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City,

Day 1 -20 Nov 2012

I was greedy, want to maximize the full day, so booked a 7.15am flight.  Woked up at 4.30am and stoned my way out of the house.  Unknowingly, "advanture" began even before I was fully awake..............  The taxi we took broke down on the express way.   Yes, couldn't believe such "suay-ness" can happen.  Hubby and driver already hopped off the car to check out on the situation.  Me still dreamy remain motionless in the car until Luis screamed into my ears: 

"MUMMY!!!  Taxi got smoke you know!  Open the door and let me get off before the taxi EXPLODE!!  OPEN THE CAR DOOR NOW!!!"  

Oh oh....... Luis's screaming successfully woke me up and we got off the taxi (to be safe).

The front bonet of the taxi was smoking but it didn't explode, the thing was ........... we were in the middle of the express way -_____-|||  on a dark, chilly 5am morning.

Everything was happening too quickly.   The taxi driver run to the middle of the road waving his arms in the air like a crazy orangutan trying to stop another taxi for us.  It was such a dangerous act, not in time to stop him.  But another taxi did stop by.

At the below pic, the nearer car was the smoking cab but camera not able to capture the smoke.
The other vehicle infront was another taxi which came to our "rescue".

Hubby was running towards the taxi driver to pay him before we hopped into another cab.
But he refused to take the money and asked us to hurry and continue with our journey.

Nevertheless, we arrived Changi Airport safe and sound.  After the drama, we went through, was hungry.

 This was breakfast after checked in.
But couldn't remember where we ordered these as I fell into blur daze again.

Fluffy bread with kaya and butter is always comforting.

My hair pleats done at Snip Avenue at Ang Mo Kio.
It was S$26.90 inclusive hair wash.
Perfect for travelling in humid country like Ho Chi Minh.

Multi-colored square woven scarf bought from previous Hunan trip.

My gelish manicure.  Advertise a bit, heehee....
Check out   http://www.facebook.com/precious.nail.5
Enquires welcome, email preciousnail@rocketmail.com

Koo koo looking me ready to board the plane.
No make-up, cos' I was all ready to snooze my way on board.

Luis hates and love flying, just like me, heehee......

Shopping began on plane.
Bought Givenchy's Mini Prismes @$74

Damn cute and pretty, with pressed powder, eyeshadow and blusher.  Will do a review sometime later.

Taxi stand at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the only airport in Ho Chi Minh.

A chart with taxi rates being vandalised on a wall pillar at the taxi stand.

*Tip #1 - We took Sai Gon cab to our hotel, cost 200,000VND/S$11.70.  But they are not commonly seen in other areas and are slightly more expensive.  Vinasun and MaiLinh are the more trusted cab companies.  My sis had been over-charged before, couldn't remember which dishonest cab company it was.   That time, throughout the journey seemed fine with the meter on.  But just before she reached her destination, the meter suddenly jumped by double!  So, yeah.........

Motor herds was the same as before on the roads.

Upon arrival to Blue Diamond Hotel, was told that the room reserved for us had a faulty air-con -____-|||  So they had arranged us to stay at Lan Lan Hotel 2 which is just next door.  Not sure if that's a white lie but didn't see a need to fuss about, so we had a FOC early check-in to Lan Lan 2 Hotel.  We didn't lift a finger on our luggages, both hotels had served us well.

A queen size and a super single bed for the 3 of us!
The beds were fresh and clean, except that it's a bit hard.

Simple furnitures with a very faint smell of freshly painted lacquer.

View outside the window wasn't too nice, but it didn't bother.

Didn't expect to see a kiddy shower curtain in a hotel's restroom :P

The restroom was spotlessly clean.

No time was wasted; put on my make-up in speedy mode and dashed out in search of legendary Lunch Lady for brunch.

Self-take in Vinasun cab

My golden bling pumps were beaming under the morning sun.

*Tip #2 - Cab fares are relatively cheap in Ho Chi Minh.  But cab drivers here aren't likely to give you exact change.  Eg.  if the fare is 155,000VND and you only have 200,000, you will be consider lucky to get a change of 40,000VND, if not you will just have to leave the cab without getting back the change of 45,000VND/S$2.65.  So, PLEASE get your small change in Changi Airport's money changer as other money changers outside aren't likely to have small notes.

After about  15mins of cab ride, we finally arrived and LUNCH LADY was easily spotted with a big signage  under a huge shady tree.  There wasn't any crowd at the early hour of around 10.15am.

Upon arrival, was greeted by Mdm Thanh, the Lunch Lady!!  She was wearing traditional Non La (or Conical Hat) and a bright smile :D

The lady at the left hand corner of the pic was preparing Pho (Vietnam traditional soup noodle) for us.  She don't speak English,, Mandarin or Cantonese (which I speak) but language wasn't a barrier.  She was able to grasp my sign language and totally understand that I didn't want beansprouts for my bowl, heeheehee.......

After greeting us, Mdm Thanh continued slicing/chopping steamed pork.

Authentic Vietnamese Rice paper rolls always comes with spring onions sticking out.
Those served in Singapore's Vietnamese restaurant doesn't.

Peanut sauce to dip in.  It's a rich blend of sour, spicy and sweet.

My Pho came in a big portion with generous ingredients of prawns, pork slices, minced pork, a small piece of rib and a quail's egg.  The soup base was really GOOD!  Thank god, the trip was worth it.

Having a meal on dwarf chairs and tables was a thrilling experience.
That's how the locals eat.
I was so proud of myself for finding this "non-tourist" place, the sense of satisfaction was......

2 bowls of Pho, 2 rice paper rolls and 2 bottle drinks were 100,000VND/S$5.90
The Lunch Lady is at -
23 Hoang Sa Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Around the neighbourhood.

Tibit stall = buy bubble gums for the boys.  Was 5,000VND/S$0.30 for 2!
But the gums became bland very fast.

We walked back to the main road and saw this-

Hubby told me it's a calf.

If you are interested to visit The Lunch Lady, the cab will stop at this junction and just need to walk in.

Opposite the road was a canal.
And sigh, I put on weight, but diet shall wait till I'm back to Singapore.

Next stop was -
The War Remnants Museum
28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours 7.30am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 5pm

Was my second visit, so I played tour-guide for hubby and Luis.

Under Singapore's education system, all we learnt was World War II.  Thus visiting this museum would be meaningful while gaining knowledge on Vietnam War which ended in 1975.

I was deeply affected by the cruelty of war during the first visit.  My hubby and son were however nonchalant, was a bit disappointed with their reactions, oh well........

Display of American crafts at the entrance of the museum.

Some exhibits of old bombs.

During that time, the U.S. government viewed involvement as a way to "help" Vietnam and prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam.  That's the biggest bull-shit I ever heard in my whole life.

Agent Orange is a chemical warfare used by the U.S. military during the war.  Estimated 400,000 people were killed and 500,000 children were born with birth defects.  The effects of Agent Orange is still affecting Vietnam people up till today.

See the transparent box on orange platform on the ground?
Inside are specimen of deformed fetus.

At the left side of the museum are new exhibits of Tiger Cages which wasn't available during my visit last year.

Inside, we got to see how French people imprison and torture Vietnamese.

Not sure of France's involvement in the Vietnam War,
but methods of killing and torture skills were on par if not, above the Japanese.

I understand that it's all history now,
but the fact that human can be so cruel makes me feel disgusted to the verge of puking.

Nearly shocked to death as I entered into a cell and saw this scary chop head thingy.
It's my first time to see a guillotine and it gave me goose bumps.....

After being scared, left the museum and strolled to Diamond Plaza Shopping Centre.
On our way, we saw a cafe crowded with local youngsters.

Having with me ice-cuppo @29,000VND/S$1.70 and lime tea @36,000VND/S$2.12

Luis having veg-less (special order) ham and cheese baguette @36,000VND/S$2.12.
It's very similar to our Sub-Way, but in a much better price.

*Tip #2 - Using Vietnam Dong/currency can be a challenge.  Denominations with numerous zeros confuse me forever and hinders shopping.  To overcome this, ignore all the zeros after the decimal point.  Then divide by 17 to convert to SGD.  In case of "emergency", simply ask how much it is in USD, problem solved.  Be extremely careful when making payment.  Take for instance - 50,000VND can be easily mistaken as 5,000VND, both notes are blue in color.   Just take your time to count and check the notes twice before making any payment, normally the sellers/vendors are very patient and understanding.

In less than 5mins walk we reached Diamond Plaza.
It's high end shopping mall with merchandise priced similar to Singapore.

So, the purpose of visit was only for ONE THING - buy Hikosen Cara Cats!!

We bought this big cat at around S$38.
Luis called this his "sausage cat".
The price tag was cut off for Luis to sleep with the very night and the receipt don't have the breakdown.
Whatever it is, this soft toy of Hikosen Cara easily cost more than S$100 in Singapore.

My butt cushion, now in my nail salon @242,000VND/S$14.24

Masks each @97,000VND/S$5.70

Coin purse @121,000VND/S$7.12

Back rest cushion @605,000VND/S$35.59

Pillow @508,000VND/S$29.88

Sling bag 387,000VND/S$22.76

Hat about S$17, which you will see me wearing it on the next post.

Lanyard for my camera, price can't remember.

*Tip #3 - Always lanyard your camera and carry a sling bag.  While walking on pathways, try not to walk near the roadside.    This is to avoid bike robbers who just snatch your valuables and drive off.  Also avoid taking photos near the roadside, unless you want to put your camera at risk of being snatched away.  .Singaporeans have a habit of  holding and looking at handphones, but in Vietnam, it's best to keep them aside so as not to attract thieves/robbers.  

 We took a cab back to the hotel to drop off those heavy Hikosen Cara Cats.
Then dashed out again by cab to Russian Market at around 3pm.
No idea why it is called a market when it's a shopping centre.

It was a disappointment, nothing much to explore with only 2 floors.  However, there were many many, as in really many shops selling winter wear in various sizes, including XXXL. So for those who are planning to travel in winter, this is probably the best spot to hit on.  I had totally forgotten to take pics but did not leave the place empty-handed.

Bought a pair of berms for Luis and 2 pairs of sport pants for myself for less than S$15 each.
I am extremely pleased with the dry tech material, it was a steal.

Hopped in a cab (again) to Saigon Square 2.
Not able to take pic of the exterior due to heavy traffic.

The apparels were a bit old fashion.

After much digging, my steals were -
Jeggings @150,000VND/S$8.82 after some bargaining.

Bling blouse about S$25.
Wearing this will definitely be the lime light for clubbing or formal dinner.

Our last stop of the day was early dinner at Nam Bo Restaurant.
This place was recommended by staff of Blue Diamond Hotel.
It's unlikely that you will find much reviews on this restaurant cos' it's patronised mainly by locals.
Not much tourists knows about this gem.

Nam Bo doesn't have a grand entrance.

Instead the entrance was placed with charcoal pits for grilling suckling pigs.

With so many piglets to be grilled, it's no doubt that grilled suckling pig is their signature dish.

The restaurant was rather empty at 5pm.
The crowd began to come in only when we were about to leave.

The waiters don't speak English, but the menu has English descriptions, so with some sign language, communication did work out.

A grill pot with charcoal was placed on our table for BBQ on the spot.

The waiter helped us with the grilling.
Below pic was marinated beef with lady's finger. 

Marinated chicken, mouth watered even before eating, we were surrounded by the warm fragrance.......
Both beef and chicken were tender and juicy, hur hur......... felt too blessed for words liao.

 Very very spicy chilli although they looked very mild.

Stir fried pumpkin flowers!
No bad!

At long last, super crispy suckling pig which I had missed dearly for almost one year!
Suckling pigs in Singapore are served on the same day, but never immediately after grilling.
Thus the taste and texture differs.
Not only that, we have to pay through our nose just to have a few pieces of suckling pig.

At Nam Bo, suckling pig were served immediately from the charcoal pit.
Oh........ my loveeeeeeeee. myyyyyyy piglet, I'm hunger for your touch........
So crispy, YOU ARE MINE!!!!! waaaaaa  oooooh oooooh..........
The above plate was half piglet portion.  Pickled veg and steam buns comes with it.
So do take note not to order too much rice if you are ordering this dish.

 The whole meal with 2 bottles of Saigon beer was about 600,000VND/S$35.30.
Worth to the max right?
Must visit if you are travelling to Ho Chi Minh ok?

Nam Bo has a few branches, the one I visited was at the first address-

After dinner we head back to our hotel for an early night.  On the second day was a long journey to Cai Dai Temple to witness the spectacular Midday Mass and adventure into the Cu Chi Tunnels.  Stay tuned for my Part 2!


  1. Hi, came across your blog when I was googling for Bangkok tailors. Your travel posts are very informative and definitely of help! Thank you :) - Isabelle K :)

    1. Thank you very much, please continue to pop by my blog :)

  2. Hi I'm going to ho chi minh city in about 2 weeks time! Would like to ask how much would I need to bring for shopping, transportation, food and hotel? Just approximately will do. I'm not looking at top hotels but just normal average one will do. Thank you so much! :)

    1. Hi Tea!

      (Sounds like high-tea! Yummy!!!) Lots of boutique hotels in HCM, range S$50 to 60/night. Taxi is very cheap, less than S$2 around those few districts. Street food from S$1+ for a bowl of pho to less than S$15/pax in a restaurant.

      It's different from Bangkok, not much shopping. Major spending if you are into Hikosen Cara, credit card can be used. Coffee price range from a few dollars to S$100 over. Those lacquer vases, jewellery boxes etc easily cost more than S$50. If you are interested in these items, have to bring more money.

      Nothing much for fashion, cheapest Ao Dai around S$12, T-shirts around S$5 at Ban Thanh Market.

  3. hi, thank you very much for your very detail information, i stayed in this hotel, it is very good
    sanouva budget hotel in district 1 ho chi minh city