Vietnam Trip 2012 - Part 1

I visited Vietnam for work over a span of 1.5 weeks, spending most of my time in Biên Hòa and also spending some time in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Over in HCMC, I stayed in Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon and also Parkroyal Saigon. Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon is near to the city centre while Parkroyal Saigon is quite near to the airport.

For my first night in HCMC, I managed to visit the night market outside Bến Thành Market and had phở at a random stall along the street. Together with a coconut, the meal costed around S$2+. Most importantly, the phở was great!

From the second day, I moved over to Biên Hòa and stayed in Wooshu Hotel for a few days as the workplace is in Biên Hòa and it about 1 hour drive away from HCMC. As it is an industrial city, there really isn't anything interesting over in Biên Hòa. For the few days, it was mainly commute between work, hotel and meal places.

For the later part of the week, I was back in HCMC for a few days. I managed to have a good french meal at La Cuisine. It wasn't cheap even by Singapore standards, but I enjoyed my meal pretty much.

For the weekend, I planned to stay in HCMC for the saturday and do some sightseeing before I fly over to Hanoi on sunday as there was work for me over there for the subsequent week. I started my saturday morning by taking a taxi to Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam to grab a local breakfast instead of having the continental breakfast in hotel. It was my first time trying Bánh Cuốn and I fell in love with this chee cheong fun lookalike immediately. The breakfast also felt complete with a cup of vietnamese iced coffee. I chose iced coffee instead of hot coffee because the weather was really hot.

After the breakfast, I proceeded to do some shopping in Saigon Square Mall and also Bến Thành Market. I managed to grab some souvenirs, local snacks and also coffee powder along with the vietnamese coffee filter apparatus.

For lunch, I tried Phở 24, a restaurant chain recommended by a colleague. It's a popular restaurant chain but I felt the prices are a bit higher (my meal costed 92,000 VND) than streetside stalls and also not as tasty. It's still better than the phở we get in Singapore though.

Next, I visited Hội Trường Thống Nhất (Reunification Palace), one of the key tourist attractions in HCMC.

Outside of the palace, there were quite a number of motorbike tour guides soliciting for business. I took on the offer and went on a half day semi-guided tour with a motorbike tour guide. Next on the itinerary is War Remnants Museum (Bảo Tàng Chứng Tích Chiến Tranh) which is about than 5 minutes ride away. This museum seems more interesting and showcases the war history of Vietnam. It's quite a sad story and it's good to see Vietnam is now doing so much better after the wars.

Next, we visited Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and also the General Post Office across the road.

We dropped by the square in front of City Hall where Ho Chi Minh's statue was for some quick photos.

We also dropped by the river for some photos of old hotels, opera house and river cruise ship. As we made our way to Chinatown, the tour guide briefly introduced me to Bitexco Financial Tower, which apparently has an observatory for tourists to get a city view.

It was quite a long motorbike ride from city centre to Chinatown. The tour guide told me that is possible to buy coffee powder there at almost half the price of what I paid for in Bến Thành Market. However, I felt that Chợ Bình Tây (famous market in chinatown) is somewhat chaotic and messy. It almost feels like a wholesale market with the narrow walkways and big packages of goods all around.

Next, we visited Nhà thờ Cha Tam, a beautiful old church in Chinatown.

After the tour, the tour guide recommended me to have my dinner over in Quan An Ngon before sending me back to the hotel. This restaurant seems to be popular among tourists and their menu sure is very extensive.

More photos of my Vietnam trip can be found here.

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