I’ve been slowing down on blogging lately due to a couple of work and personal matters. I’ll probably be writing about some of them on another entry but for now, I’m finally blogging about my Saigon trip!
Now that I’ve tackled the “Saigon is just like Manila” comment and have gotten it out of the way, I can now write about the actual trip. So what is there to see in Saigon, exactly? Three main things — 1) FOOD 2) HISTORY & CULTURE 3) ART & ARCHITECTURE. (Yes, I know that history is different from culture as art is from architecture, but I’d like to combine them for brevity, just for this entry.)
When in Saigon, don’t miss the following:
While wandering around the city, we noticed several sidestreet vendors selling street food I’ve never seen or tasted before! Don’t forget to stop by and try at least one. On the photo above are grilled bananas, which will later on be chopped into small pieces and soaked in coconut milk. Not sure what it’s called, but it tastes YUM.
See those round things with toppings? Those are pancakes. At least that’s what they call them. Egg-flavored, chicken-flavored, pork-flavored, mixed seafood. They are wrapped with lettuce leaves and dipped in special sauce. This is what we ate at a restaurant near our hotel, which I’m glad we discovered because we never found these pancakes in the other restaurants we visited.
My favorite Hollywood couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, HEARTS Vietnam. It used to be sort of their second home. They used to drive motorbikes around the city like ordinary Vietnamese citizens and of course, their son, Pax, is Vietnamese and they adopted him during one of their trips. Anyway, Angelina’s favorite restaurant in Saigon is Cuc Gach Quan (seen on the photo above). Lovely interiors and awesome tofu (probably the best I’ve tasted in my entire life).
Got time to spare? Why not learn how to cook Vietnamese food by attending a cooking class?! 😀 My sister and I enrolled ourselves in a half-day cooking class at The Vietnam Cookery Center. We were taught how to cook a full-course Vietnamese meal — from salad to dessert. This is where I learned that in Vietnam, soup comes after the main course.
Here’s part of what we cooked!
Got a certificate of completion from the funny chef and his very friendly assistant, yay! I’m glad to have interacted with such nice people and yes, I got to take home the recipes!
HISTORY & CULTURE
Vietnam has a rich history. They’re a nation that has gone through grueling times, and it’s admirable how they’ve rebuilt the city after decades of war. We visited a couple of places that have somewhat shown me an entirely new perspective of the Vietnam War.
This was taken outside of the War Remnants Museum. I wasn’t able to take photos inside because I was too engrossed in what I was seeing and I was kind of feeling emotional. I found the narratives a bit too one-sided (because I myself am pretty firm about where I stand on this particular war), but the photos I saw inside that museum totally brought me to tears. War is ugly.
The Vietnamese were pretty creative with this whole war thing. We visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, which is a few hours away from Saigon. The tunnels served as headquarters/hideout/hospital/dinner place/bedroom to the Vietnamese soldiers during the war. The tunnels also had several traps that helped capture and kill the “bad Americans” (tour guide’s words). Pardon the haggard look, I just finished walking under the ultra-narrow, dark and hot tunnel with my entire back bent.
We also got a chance to go target shooting on the actual battlefield. What an experience!
ART & ARCHITECTURE
At the heart of bustling and modern Ho Chi Minh City, you can still find architectural marvels built during the French colonization in the 1800s.
The Notre Dame Cathedral. Vietnam’s French colonists had all materials to build this church shipped from France back in the 1800s.
The Saigon Opera House. This actually looks a lot more beautiful at night.
The Saigon Post Office. It was very refreshing to see old people still writing letters and utilizing snail mail.
This is just one of the several art galleries you’ll see along Dong Khoi Street in HCMC.
Recommended hote: The Alcove Library Hotel.
If you want to spend moments away from the city, take a tour to the Mekong Delta and go boating.
There you have it! I read somewhere that Saigon is a place where the old meets the new, where modernity meets mysticism. I enjoyed every single day of my stay there, and I am so grateful for such an enriching trip.
I loved Saigon, and I’m looking forward to visiting Hanoi soon. In the meantime, I’m already preparing for my next trip (yes, that’s how overdue this entry is) which will be next weekend in Bantayan Island in Cebu!
Have you been to Saigon, or any part of Vietnam? What did you love most about it?