So I did say that I’d start writing a bit about fitness and travel on this blog too, and when better to do so than after a recent short three day weekend trip to Vietnam for work. So in between work engagements, I had the chance to visit a couple of F&B establishments and shopping areas. I mainly stayed within District 1 though, with a short foray into District 3 for a meal.
And District 1 seems to me, a great place to be staying and wandering about in. I stayed at the New World Hotel Saigon, a five star hotel in Ho Chi Minh that I felt had considerate and quality service as well as nice big cushy beds. Along with complimentary bottled water, fast Internet, a pretty comprehensive and delicious buffet breakfast and other nice touches.
Within walking distance are quite a number of local eateries and shops, the well-known Ben Thanh market, the rather exciting shopping market/mall Saigon Square and some upmarket ones like Rex Shopping Arcade (with LV and the likes) and Saigon Centre. Vincom Center, the Saigon Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral are also not too far off.
Here are some places and food I experienced in Ho Chi Minh City both this time and last year around the same time, which I’d like to share with you all:
1. Ben Thanh Market (this should be categorised under Shopping and Eating too)
Having been to other famous markets like Chatuchak in Bangkok and the souks in Marrakesh, I thought I had some idea of what these were like. But it seems every market has its own character and flavour, and Ben Thanh is no exception.
Filled to the brim with clothing, souvenirs, food and much more, it is bustling with colour, activity and atmosphere. Salespeople tend to grab and pull you to get you to buy things though, so those with such phobias – do beware.
I didn’t manage to try any of the local food stalls there, but I heard that they are pretty good.
Would say it definitely warrants a visit if you’re going to Ho Chi Minh City.
3. Saigon Post Office, 2 Công xã Paris
Probably the most or one of the most beautiful post offices in the world I think.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral
Right across the post office in big within a big square, the Notre Dame Cathedral is majestic, intricate and full of old world charm – and evidently a very popular spot for couples to take their wedding photographs.
5. Saigon Opera House, Đồng Khởi
Again another beautifully decorated building, one which is nestled right in the middle of busy roads and high end shops.
1. Saigon Square, Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa
Pretty awesome for shopping I’d say! It is partially air conditioned, most stalls allow you to bargain, and the stall holders are not pushy, making it an overall pleasant environment to buy things or even just browse. Filled to the brim with casual clothes, dresses, shoes, men’s clothing, accessories and more.
Quite similar to the Bugis Street/Village shopping area in Singapore!
3. Vincom , 72 Lê Thánh Tôn
Erm, ignore the colonial building, Vincom Center is the glass building behind it! Packed full of food places in the basement, including the well-known Wrap & Roll Chain and many local and regional F&B offerings. I think there’s a Beard Papa Sweets and a Thai Express too. Korean bakeries are present here too, like Tous Le Jours and Paris Baguette – it seems these chain stores can be found at many spots within the city.
Shops-wise, there are many international and regional brands, like Zara, Benetton, Charles & Keith, Bata and more. Not so many local stores, but I suppose that’s to be expected. There are many kids/baby shops here though!
1. Pho, Pho and more Pho
Pho shops seem to be pretty much everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. Small roadside stalls, chain restaurants, and nice establishments.
I mainly visited chain places as I was there for work, and these were not too bad though not as delicious as I had hoped/expected. Fairly cheap (around US$5 for a main, side and drink?) and good though! And many branches all around the city.
They were all quite nice, from chains to little dinky ones, so it was hard to compare.
A chi chi café chain, L’uisine offers a mix of East and West, mainly sandwiches, salads, cakes and the like. Utilising an increasingly popular part-shop, part-café concept, the L’usine café I visited was decorated with very clean fresh tones, and had a lovely, enjoyable ambience.
Plus the Vietnamese pork salad I had there was amazing.
3. Hatvala, 44 Nguyen Hue
A friendly little 2 storey restaurant / café, Hatvala offers simple Vietnamese fare in a lovely, comfortable environment. The soft shell crab and fried spring rolls were really yummy. And there was free WiFi!
It’s not that cheap (around US$10 or so per pax I think), but reasonably priced – and you get to enjoy your food in comfort.
4. Xu Restaurant and Lounge, 71-75 Ha Ba Trung
For a more luxurious meal or social drinks, there is Xu Restaurant and Lounge, a tasteful place that oozes class and ambience. The dishes were creative and overall were pretty good as well, with some hits and some misses.
Located at the top of the 69 and 70th floors of a commercial building in Ho Chi Minh, Chill Sky Bar and Restaurant offers stunning views of the city. By night, it is simply enchanting, filled with all the lovely colourful lights of Ho Chi Minh.
Some other things to see/do in the city:
I found Ho Chi Minh City to be quite a nice place to visit for a couple of days!
And now, off to Hong Kong!