Our first stop in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formally known as Saigon. HCMC is in the south and it is the biggest city in Vietnam. When we arrived it was really overwhelming. Before we even got off the bus there were taxi drivers yelling at us from outside the front door. We were warned of this. We were also warned not to carry any valuables on us. If you took a bag out with you you would be putting yourself at risk – gangs are known to go past on scooters, grab your bag and drag you along the road if you don’t let go! This meant I had to put my cellphone and money in my pockets and I couldn’t take my camera out with me – therefore there aren’t many photos in this blog sorry!
Even though we were worried about being mugged the whole time, we still managed to have fun. We stayed in the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao (PNL). This area is super touristy and people say you don’t see the real HCMC if you stay here, but I liked it. It was quite comforting knowing that in such a whirl wind of a city you could be surrounded by others who were in the same situation.
HCMC is the food capital of Vietnam so I took it upon myself to try as many things as I could while I was here. We also did some shopping and took in a bit of history. Lots and lots to do but we only had 3 nights here so we had to pick and choose.
- Eating!! Try as many places as you can. We went to a restaurant called Cục Gạch Quán for dinner one night. Supposedly Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been here. I had the caramelised pork in clay pot and pumpkin and zucchini flowers. The second photo below is beef pho – you can’t go to Vietnam without having this. You also have to try the local street food stalls. The stalls normally only specialise in one dish. Pick a stall that has lots of locals dining there, normally on little stools – this is a sign that the food is delicious! I had a really good Banh Mi using this method – it only cost me $1.50 NZ!!
- Back of bikes tour – this was amazing! One of my favourite things so far on my trip. You go on the back of a scooter through different districts (yes HCMC has districts just like The Hunger Games) and try lots of different street foods that you would never come across by yourself. A lot of these stalls are down alley ways, or perched on busy main roads in front of shops. One of the stalls we went to is so popular that the woman who runs it managed to send her son to University in America! Below is a list of some of the foods I tried while on the tour. They also had a food challenge. It was to eat a local delicacy – a fertilised duck egg. I couldn’t eat it though…
“Goi Du Du Bo- Julienned Green Papaya Salad topped with Thai Basil, Dried Beef Liver, Toasted Peanuts and Prawn Crackers. Sauced with Chili Sauce and Light Fish Sauce, Heo Nuong- Grilled Pork Skewers, with Roasted Chili Sauce, Ho Lo Nuong- Grilled Pork Sausage, with Roasted Chili Sauce, Banh Canh Ghe- Ocean Crab Soup with Tapioca Noodles, Pork Rinds, Fried Fish Cake, and Green Chili Sauce, Banh Xeo- Crispy Rice Flour ”Crepe,” Stuffed with Shrimp, Pork and Bean sprouts. Served with Fresh Lettuce and Sweet Fish Sauce, Kem Voi Com Nep Va Xoai- Ice Cream with Sticky Rice and Mango”
- Day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels – an immense network of tunnels (more than 250 km long) that were used during The Vietnam War.
- Shopping – There is so much shopping to be done in HCMC. Since we had time restraints we could only do a little bit (good for my budget and suitcase situation). We visited the Ben Thanh Market. We bought cheap nikes and chucks and across the road I managed to get some super cheap prescription glasses! Happy days!
- Only catch Vinasun and Mailinh Taxis – all the other ones will most likely rip you off
- Don’t carry any valuables on you, if you do make sure you hide them
- Eat as much as you can!