Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ho Chi Minh City- Accommodation, Food, Shopping and Transportation

Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis with population exceeds 10 millions. Most of the attractions are located around District 1 in the city. To be more specific, the old French Colonial buildings are scattered around Ho Chi Minh City Hall at Nguyen Hue Road. It is the place where modern sky scrapers erect as well. As the mass-transportation system is still developing, it is always better for us to stay at a spot which we in vicinity of shopping complexes, eateries, and the heritage area.

Accommodation
We have two choices- Somewhere nearby Pham Ngu Lao Road or Nguyen Hue Road. After a deep consideration, we chose to stay at Saigon Pink 3 Hotel. The hotel located at Ho Tung Mau Street- a block away from Nguyen Hue Road. The hotel is located on the same street with Bitexco Tower, which by foot, 10 minutes to the city hall, another 15 minutes to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, 10 minutes to Saigon Square and Ben Thanh Market, and it is surrounded with local and international eateries.

Saigon Pink 3 Hotel is a small hotel at the middle of shop lots. The room was small, but with enough amenity for a comfortable stay- coffee making facilities, LCD flat screen with international programs, safe box, air-conditioner, fan, and water heater in bathroom. The room service was punctual and the staff were friendly. Anyway, we found only two of them could speak fluency English. The issue of communication was the only downside of the hotel. Frankly, with the room rate offered, the service given was beyond our expectation. 

Saigon Pink 3 Hotel from the roadside. As the name suggested, there were Pink 1 and Pink 2 as well. So, we brought the name card of the hotel with address stated in Vietnamese language, just in case we need to return to the hotel by taxi.

The staircase (upper left) leads to the lobby of the hotel (upper right). The room was nicely decorated with wooden furniture (lower row). The fan was useful in extreme hot weather.

The hotel was located along a quiet street, in a neighbourhood with plenty eateries and convenient shops.

Nguyen Hue Road is a block away from the hotel.

No doubt, both Phan Ngu Lao and Nguyen Hue areas are strategic, but for us, Nguyen Hue Road and the area in vicinity are the better one. Next, we would like to share about the food.


Food
No doubt beef noodle or pho is the must try food in Ho Chi Minh City (as in many other places in Vietnam).  Then comes banh mi- the Vietnamese wheat bread, or sandwich is something special available in the city. The bread was introduced by French during colonial period, and now is becoming one of the most widely found food in Ho Chi Minh City. The bread is light and airy, with crunchy crust. It is always filled with mixture of meat, fish, egg, and vegetable. Other traditional Vietnamese food can be found in Ho Chi Minh City as well.

We took our first breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City at Bun Bo Hue 44 not far away from our hotel (upper left). The shop was operated by local, with mostly local customers (upper right). The pho was nice (lower right), and served with free flow of raw vegetable.  The taste was more spicy, and a bit more sour than the pho we tried in Hanoi. The price for a portion was VND55,000, approximately MYR8 (USD2). Not cheap, but worth a try.

After a few days strolling around, we found cheaper pho- the roadside stall a few steps away from our hotel (upper left). The price for the noodle with fried chicken was VND25,000 (upper right), and pho with pork was VND30,000 each (lower row). The taste, very nice, with much cheaper price.

Just like other places in Vietnam, people in Ho Chi Minh City like to dine beside the road with their small chairs and tables.

Choose the noodle, choose the way of cooking (dry or soup, and the meat), and find a place to sit. Well, the best way to choose the dish- look around the bowls in front of the customers, find one we wish to have, and point it to the cook. 

We were not big fan of baguette. But banh mi was something that so special in HCMC that we had no choice but to take a try. Our took our first banh mi at Hoppy, an eatery on the same street with Bun Bo Hue 44 (upper left). The shop was fully air-conditioned, so it was a nice place for a meal in hot afternoon. The banh mi was cheap, with special discount at VND29,000 (lower right), but the drinks were quite expensive.

We bought banh mi at the roadside stalls like this one as well. Cheaper price (VND15,000). Tasted just like any other banh mi we could find in the city.

Ben Thanh Market is one of the best place for us to get local Vietnamese food. There was a problem with that place- very hot in the afternoon.

The food stalls in Ben Thanh Market were clean.

We tried several traditional Vietnamese dishes in Ben Thanh Market, including beef pho (upper left), fried chicken rice (upper right), shrimp and pork spring roll (lower right), and shredded pork spring roll. The prices were between VND40,000 - VND65,000 per dish. Reasonable as the portion was big. Pho and chicken rice tasted average, while the spring rolls were good.

Vincom Center was a good place for food. We went there everyday, looking for food, souvenirs, and to escape from extreme heat outside. The food court and eateries were located at the lowest level of the mall (upper left). Again, beef pho (upper right) and spring rolls (lower right). We tried the Japanese BBQ buffet as well. The food over there were a little bit more expensive than Ben Thanh, with average taste. The price for Japanese buffet was around VND300,000 per person.

Mon Hue could be a good place to "sweep" many Vietnamese traditional dishes in one round, only if they had English-speaking staff (upper left). We had a bad experience there- delayed order, wrong order, wrong food served, and at last, wrong bill, all might caused by ineffective communication. We tried the spring roll (upper right), the pork rice with pickled shrimp (lower right), and the steamed rice pancake with fish. Portion was small, but the taste was good.

We bought food and beverages from convenient shops as well. The price was a bit expensive, but conveniently available!

Freshly brewed Vietnam coffee was available in the convenient shop. The price- VND15,000. The taste was surprisingly good.

We visited Nguyen Trung Coffee House for a sip of Vietnam coffee. The taste was just like old time.

Shopping
Ho Chi Minh City is not a great place for shopping. You might disagree with us. But no doubt, if compared to other shopping heavens in SEA countries, things in HCMC were more expensive, even for the fake or rejected international branded products. Some local branded products were reasonable in pricing, but not widely available. 

We visited Saigon Square, Ben Thanh Market, Vincom Center, Bitexco Tower, Parkson, Diamond Plaza, and a few shopping streets around District 1. The cheapest souvenirs were hunted along Le Loi Street, while bargained clothes were purchased from Ben Thanh Market. The famous dried fruits were available at Ben Thanh and Vincom Center.

Bargaining in Saigon Square was hard. For street shops and Ben Thanh Market, we could get discounts up to 60%. But it was highly depending on our luck. Vincom Center, Parkson, Bitexco and Diamond Plaza offered fixed price items only. So unless we could endure the hot weather and walk down the streets, or else hunting for bargained items would be very difficult.

Saigon Square is a small mall, with stalls selling food, clothes, coffee powder, bags, watches, and souvenirs under one roof. Be aware that most of the branded products which are sold with extremely high prices, are suspected fake (from our point of view). Bargaining was difficult. The only good thing about the mall- it was fully air-conditioned. The mall from the outside (upper left), the entrance (upper right), and stalls inside the mall (lower right). There were some stalls selling local food like dried fruits and coffee powder. But we would advise to buy these products from Ben Thanh Market just at the other side of Le Loi Street.

Ben Thanh Market was the best place for shopping local products and souvenirs, of course only if we could visit it before the blazing sun turned the market into a big hot oven. Anyway, bargaining was easier than Saigon Square- 10% off for food and up to 60% off for clothes. We would recommend dried fruits- mango, lotus seed, and coconut were good.

Souvenir shops are scattered around the streets (upper row). We need to survey the price one by one. Bargain was hard, unless we bought in a bulk. Le Loi Street was a good place to hunt for souvenirs (lower right). Stalls selling souvenirs were available along the street.

The best air-conditioned shopping mall in HCMC- Vincom Center. We bought some dried fruits as souvenir at Vincom Center. Diamond Plaza and Bitexco were a bit too small for shopping.

Transportation
We would like to share about our experience with taxi in Ho Chi Minh City.  We took taxi a few times in HCMC. To us, taxi was the most convenient transportation available, when walking was not a choice. We read many articles and reports regarding taxi scams, as highlighted in Scam Free Ride. So, the best way to avoid the scam is to take the taxi from two companies only- MaiLinh (green colour) or Vinasun (white colour). The taxi from these two companies were strictly run on meter, taxi drivers were polite and professional as well.

The taxi from the airport to District 1 was fixed around VND170,000. We had a night ride on arrival, so we paid extra VND20,000 at the taxi counter. From hotel to airport, we paid VND140,000. Within District 1, the fare was not more than VND40,000.

Both our travel mates took their chance to travel by bus from airport to district 1. According to them, the bus service was punctual. The bus was clean with and air conditioned.

"Green Taxi" in HCMC.

Ho Chi Minh City is a beautiful and clean city. With the development is still blooming, we expect to see more sky-scrapers and shopping centers in near future. The city was easy to navigate with travel map. The lack of public transportation like LRT, makes taxi the most convenient choice for the moment. Staying in District 1 is great as most of the tourist's attraction are there. For food, the price is a bit high, but, we can always go for the cheaper choices- street food. HCMC is definitely not our shopping heaven. Still, our choice for shopping- Ben Thanh Market and Vincom Center. 

This is our last post on our trip to Ho Chi Minh City. More about our experiences in Ho Chi Minh City and other places in Vietnam are available:


Danang, City of Hue, Hoi An, & My Son
Hanoi & Halong Bay



4 comments:

  1. Ho Chi Minh City is a city with amazing places to visit. The food, environment, and infrastructure look well organized and perfect. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. We hope you enjoy reading our blog :)

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  2. I like their way of description, such as hot and busy Ben Thanh, buy in bulk or hard to bargain for souvenir street, and small but cozy shopping mall- so close to reality. Thank you for your sharing. I just returned from my HCM tour.

    Tessie

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