Thursday, March 18, 2010

The day I officially named it "Viet-YUM!" (My Saigon Report)

I was in the "Land of Pho" (LOL) last week with my bestfriend and we really had a blast. It was our first out-of-the-country trip together so it was really a memorable one.  (Well, we did hang out with each other last year in Singapore but we didn't go there together, so it wasn't as special as this one.)

Anyway, because we were arriving a little past midnight, we gave up on the idea of taking a random cab at the  Saigon airport.  We already booked a hotel prior to going there, so what we did was we just availed of the airport pick-up for a minimal fee.

We stayed in this budget hotel in the Pham Ngu Lao area called Blue River Hotel. The place is nothing grand or elegant, nor does it have a pool or a bar or any of those 5-freakin-star amenities but the place is nothing short of homey.

 Floral designs on the wall, looks cute and gay eh? Hehe!

It has a homey kitchen, a homey receiving area, homey bedroom and a very accommodating staff. Our stay was really hassle-free since they also made arrangements for our tours and money exchange. We got 5-star treatment even without the 5-star moolah. LOL! How sweet is that, right? :)

We were super hungry when we arrived at the hotel so we asked the staff where we can eat at this time of the night, errrr day.  She recommended this resto at the corner.  Thank goodness it was still open even at that un-godly hour! So off we went and ordered Pho. The beef was tender, the noodle was just right and the broth, oh yesss the broth, it tasted like heaven on earth. (Yes, I was exaggerating a bit. LOL!)

Burp! Yes, I didn't use chopsticks. I eat noodles better with fork and spoon - Filipino Style! :) Haha!

After stuffing ourselves with these Vietnamese delish, me and my bestfriend decided to go to the nearest bar to try their local brew. We actually saw several bars in the area but the most jam-packed that night was the Go2 Bar. I ordered Saigon Beer - I don't know if this is their famous local beer but basing from its name, it might be.

 Brand, Brewed and Bottled in Ho Chi Minh city. Isn't it obvious?! :p

I think I downed 6-7 bottles of that big thingy. Para syang redhorse, lupit! :) Hahaha!  [translate: It tasted like Redhorse, wow!]. We drank and partied with the people there up until 6AM and to think that we needed to be somewhere by 8AM. WOW! Who needs sleep when you're in Saigon!? Ha! After our slugfest, me and my bestfriend decided to try their local coffee.

Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk: Cheap, tasty and dirty - just the way I like it! LOL :) 

I read in several blogs and forums that I should never leave Saigon without trying their street coffee. SO that was what we did. Iced for me and hot for my friend. Because I like my coffee strong and sweet, this was  a welcome treat. We got back to the hotel at around 7am, just in time for breakfast and shower before the driver picked us up for the tour.

Our agenda for the day - Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnel. We got the tour for $13/pax (lunch not included). I think it was a 1.5 to 2 hours drive from the hotel to the temple. I passed out on the bus that's why I can't tell you much about the scenery on the way. Haha! I need my beauty rest too, you know! =D   

Inside the Cao Dai Temple. Nice noh?

We got there a little before 12nn just in time for their ceremony. We were told that they pray 4 times in a day - 6am, 12noon, 6PM and 12MN. 

Wow! I wonder if they ever ran out of things to pray for! It was nice to observe how other religions do their thing. Their ritual is solemn and moving. Definitely a must-see when you're in HCMC!

We were already hungry like hippos by the time we got back to the bus so it was a good thing that our tour guide announced that we will drop by a local restaurant on the way to the Cu Chi tunnel for lunch. It was a quiet resto situated on the highway, forgot to get the name though. Hehe. 

The presentation's crappy but boy, this fish almost made me cream in my pants! Harhar!

Spring Rolls

We ordered fish and spring rolls plus an ice-cold Coca Cola. Ooooh-lala! The fish really tasted magnifico. It doesnt look like it in the picture though. Hehe. We paid 180,000 VND for lunch.  

It was another 1.5 hours to get to the Cu-Chi tunnels so we slept again on the bus.  The sun was already sizzling hot by the time we reached our destination. Anyway for the benefit of those who don't know, this used to be the place where the Vietnamese guerillas hid during the war with the Americans. Whoever thought of making these tunnels should be given good head as a reward! Hahaha!  The architecture and the way the tunnels were routed together was really brilliant. 

I didn't go all the way in because I'm short so I might have a hard time getting myself up. I looked sweaty and dirty from all the walking and crawling and picture-taking. LOL! Ang hirap pala maging artista, noh? =p

The tunnel was small. There were parts where we had to bend in order to pass through. It was hot as hell inside. No wonder my Vietnamese brothas' were so fit, it's like walking inside a sauna!

We drank tea and their Vietnamese-version of camote. We were told that these were among the things the guerillas ate during the war.  It's too bad there were no McDonalds or KFC back then. :-p 

It was an afternoon full of fun and adventure. Who knew (re)learning history could be this fun! LOL. Whatever! :D It was a very long day for all of us. We were dropped off at the hotel at around 6pm and as soon as our sexy backs hit the bed, we were off to snoozeland in no time! 

 Goodnight my sweet Saigon

We were soooo tired from the tour that we didnt even wake up in time for dinner! Ugh! Our stomachs were grumbling the morning after so we decided to start our day early and have breakfast outside. We took a cab (yes, we were told not to take any other cabs aside from Vinasun and Mei Linh) going to Quan An Ngon. The driver charged a fixed rate of 80,000VND. We didn't have the slightest idea if he charged us high or just right. But anyway, paying 80k sounded legit so we agreed to it. Hehe. 

I ordered Banh Can Cua - this is Pho with meat strips. While my friend ordered one with lots of seafood in it. Yum!  Her food looked and tasted better than moi. O-M-G! It was really yummY with a capital Y. LOL!  I ordered Vietnamese iced coffee to go with it. All in all, we paid 132,000VND for breakfast. Not bad at all since the placed looked as nice as the food that we ordered. You guys should give this place a try!

Okay, enough gushing about the food. Hehe. We originally planned to go to the Reunification Palace after brekkie since it's situated near the resto but unfortunately, the palace was close that day. So we were just walking around enjoying the sights and at the same time rearranging our plans for the day when we saw these cycled rickshaws, or Cyclos for short! Because we were feeling tourist-y that day, we decided to try it. 

It looked to me like a wheelchair with a driver in the backseat! Hehe! Not minding being face to face with the incoming traffic and the crazy motorbikes on the road, I think riding the cyclo is a fun experience. We rode it going to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the driver charged us 150,000 VND each. WTF?! It was more expensive than riding a cab and to think that the route we took was relatively shorter. Oh well, since we didn't want to argue we just paid the driver and went about with our itinerary.

Sitting by the park (Notre Dame in the background) while checking out those Viet-cong hunks.. LOL!

Lighting a candle inside the cathedral. Wondering what I prayed for? WORLD PEACE! :D 

 I took this shot inside the HCMC Post office. Nice shot, yes? :) 

After taking these customary shots, we then went to Ben Thanh market for some last minute shopping.  I bought coffee beans and shirts for my family, other than that wala na. :) The cheapo in me prevailed unlike my friend who shopped to her heart's content. Hehe!  
We finished shopping a little past noon so we decided to eat at Pho 2000 - which was just across the street from the market. I've read good reviews of this resto so we wanted to know what the hype was all about. 

Lip-smacking goodness! 

More pics of our last night in Saigon... :) 

My Vietnamese look! :D

It was really the gastronomical pleasure that we had that stood out amongst everything that we experienced during this trip. These Vietnamese hotties really know how to strut their stuff in the kitchen! Thank you people, you certainly hit my gastronomical G-spot! And because of that I now officially call your country "Viet-YUM"!

The Unpure Food Taster,

Special thanks to these blogs for serving as my reference prior to the trip: 


Nimrod said...

You're so shala my friend. The unpure one ravaged another country. :)

Vietnam is so fetch. The wallpaper and temple are so gay. Ahlavit. The coffee you were drinking looks delish... I always want mine to be a little dirty. wink wink. :)

Off topic: your transalation of tagalog to english is so funny khacai!

hahahaha [translate: wow!]

Chyng said...

so the temple and cuchi tour is from 7am-6pm?! super time consuming pala..

-=K=- said...

Hi Chyng - The driver picked us up at the hotel ng 7am and then we got to the temple ng noon in time for their 12NN prayer ritual. Yeah, it will eat up your day. Pero there are packages that only has either cao dai or cuchi so pwede ka mag isip between the two kung ano lang gusto mo. Kame kase we chose both.

-=K=- said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Did you buy their (manual) coffee drip? :) That's an interesting stuff to sell.

-=K=- said...

Yes, I bought five of those. I kept one for myself and the rest I gave as pasalubong to my folks and sibs. I read in your blog that you lived in Saigon for a year? Grabe! Ang sarap! Feeling ko if I were to live there ng 1 year, tataba siguro ko sa sobrang sarap ng pagkaen! Hehe!