Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Checking Out a Residential Block @ Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam

I am the type who is always curious about other people's home, even when I am overseas! 

In my trip to
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I noticed many residential blocks like the above and since my companions had yet to complete their pampering session at Spa Salon Galaxy, I thought I might as well make better use of my time by checking if I can access the upper levels. 

Woah! No barriers to entry! 

At the back of the block were more buildings, which were the typical long ones with compact entrance. Very different from this wider block which reminded me somewhat like our shorter HDB blocks, albeit without lifts and with higher ceilings. 

Time to climb up! 

The corridor; humans are the same, across different countries. Despite the need to ensure a clear passage, residents would always deem the common corridor to be their property and will attempt to stake their ownership by sprucing up the area in front of their unit.

Due to privacy issues, I didn't take any photos of those residential units. I did notice that given the taller ceiling, some owners would 'build' an additional level to accommodate more people. Each unit also appeared to be deeper than our boxed-shape HDB units that were built in the early 1980s.

Another interesting feature was that not all units were residential; some were obviously commercial entities and I found like two cafes in our short visit. I wonder how people would know since there were no noticeable logos to attract people walking past on the ground level.

Don't belittle it though; the Auvery Cafe commanded a perfect score of 5.0 on Google review, and it offered creative beverages like Pistachio latte! Maybe I shall check it out the next time I am in HCMC

Right across the block would be the restaurant where I had my most expensive meal in HCMC; Quince Saigon. Its original outlet was in Bangkok, which is a michelin-plate establishment! 

Time to hit the street as my friends would be arriving soon.
And I was actually pretty hungry! 

Monday, March 27, 2023

One of The Many Little, Narrow Lanes in Between Buildings @ Ho Chi Minh City [Vietnam]

The above was the window view from our room within Vien Dong Hotel. With so many buildings tightly packed, one would wonder where exactly are the roads, and entrances to the buildings! 

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out alone, during the day! For safety reason, I chose a lane along Bui Vien Street that's close to our hotel, and it's a straight route that didn't look devoid of human activities.

With a provision store near the start of the lane was assuring as it means the cluster of buildings along the stretch would be filled with homes, and not some shady business. 

Lane was about 160 meters long; and one thing I noticed was the many budget hotels or hostels. In my search for accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City, I did notice these establishments but were worried that it might be hidden in some dark alleys.

Prices were incredibly cheap; imagine a single room that cost only 200,000 dong a night! That's only about S$11. Even a triple-person room would not set you back more than S$20.00 a night and this Tam Anh Guest House even provides air conditioning, hot shower, cable TV and free Wi-Fi! 

Always nice to see pet dogs around! The lane was quite narrow, which means a car wouldn't be able to drive all the way in. Maybe that's why motorbikes are way more popular than cars in Vietnam.

Back to the main road! I bet there are lanes that might be more interesting and with so many in the city; you might chance upon one, if you dare to explore. 


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Day Four of My Inaugural Visit to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in Vietnam

<<< Day Three

Detailed Postings for the Day
There was a need to ensure my stomach was filled before we embarked on our first tour in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC); thank god for the provision of free breakfast buffet at Vien Dong Hotel

The tour focused on the visit to the most popular attraction for any tourist, the Cu Chi Tunnels! Aside from the historical tunnels that were used during the Vietnam War, we also paid a visit to Lacquer Painting factory that employs victims of Agent Orange and I also had the opportunity to hold and fire a real gun for the first time in my life

You may click here for summary of the tour before diving into the detailed sub postings for the three activities. I initially thought it would be boring but the half day tour turned out much better than expected! 

Instead of bringing us back to our hotels, we requested to disembark at another location so that we can proceed to grab lunch! p.s. the half day tour doesn't include lunch, and we were famished.

It's time for my very first authentic bahn mi right here in Vietnam! The Great Kon had researched and the most famous in HCMC would be Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa. God was the operator incredibly generous with the ingredients! In Singapore, this would have easily cost me 3-4 times more! 

Charm Bakery was another brand renowned for bahn mi and we actually stepped in to see if we can order one just to share and try. If I remember correctly, they were either closing or had already sold out.

Menu for reference. Unlike Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa which only allowed takeaways, Charm Bakery had a dining area to sit down and they have a few options for banh mi too, including a vegetarian option.

Above would give you a visual reference on how near both banh mi shops are (refer to red arrow for location of Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa)! You can see the queue building up at Huynh Hoa.

Back to the roundabout again. 
Guess what my friends craved for after banh mi?! 

In actual fact, I was the one who wanted to go to the cafe and it's not because I was thirsty. I noted the outdoor corridor on the upper floors of the cafe which would give me an vantage view of the roundabout! 

See how great the spot was! 

Time-lapsed video for your viewing pleasure! As I had mentioned before, traffic in HCMC was chaotic yet totally in harmony! That's such a contradicting statement but I guess you have to experience it to get what I meant.

Katinat Saigon Café is a Vietnamese coffee chain and its name came about from the word "Catinat", said to be the "most historic street in Saigon", the old name of HCMC. It's now known as Đ. Đồng Khởi, which is a street super near Nguyen Hue Walking Street. Love the timeless design in the cafe.

At a crossroad, should we go back to the hotel for a shower before heading out to our next destination? It's not yet 3pm and we targeted to meet only at 5pm or so. 

No time should be wasted when one is overseas! 
Let's stroll to Ben Thanh Market.

More accurately, we shall be eating again; not at the market but at a branch of Pizza 4Ps that's a stone throw away from Ben Thanh! Of course we had to order the four-cheese pizza! 

Refreshed after a shower back at Vien Dong Hotel and since I still had some time before meeting with our friends; I decided to grab a cup of iced coffee from Wayne's Coffee, which had a branch right at the lobby of the hotel. 

Checking out the Saigon Skydeck @ Bitexco Financial Tower! Great view of HCMC's downtown although I was darn frustrated with photo-taking when night falls; the reflective glass and the LED lights at night were irritating! p.s. we also stopped by the Ao Dai Exhibition, housed within the skydeck.

Chaiko House - fashion wear for kids, where families wouldn't mind splurging to dress up their young child to be prince / princess. Honestly, I might have done the same if I have a kid. 

I think this was the most number of people on a motorbike that I saw in HCMC! Do you know that the record was 58?! A feat that took place in Indian that was listed on Guinness World Records!  

A familiar brand; Art Friend. From the website, I think it's a Singapore brand with branches in Malaysia. This one at HCMC was its only one in Vietnam.

Queue outside Bánh Mì Huynh Hoa, at about 6.25pm. We were actually very lucky when we checked it out earlier in the afternoon as the Great Kon mentioned the above was its usual queue! Sorry for the blur picture; was on GRAB.

Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market; the biggest in HCMC! Nevertheless, people would know that I generally have no interest in flowers given my lack of a green thumb. What I was more interested in was the activities in the evening.

When the street transformed into the Hồ Thị Kỷ Food Street

With so many choices, I was glad we have more stomachs to share the food as I would have been extremely limited if it was just Alex and myself. For more on the food we had at the food street, click here

Relaxing with a carnival game; more for my friend as I admit I am quite lousy in such things. I don't mind trying if it was for free though.

A short video of the food street.

Motorbike parking; given the sheer amount of motorbikes in HCMC, there were a lot of outdoor parking for the vehicles. My understanding is that there's a parking charge; hence, you cannot just anyhow park and assume parking is free! 

Although we were pretty full, the night was still young and Kon suggested checking out a highly rated dessert store which was about a kilometer away. Heck man, let's just walk there! 

Ohhhhh a sex shop! haha.

Tân Huê Viên might not ring a bell for many of you. However, if you are a tourist and want to get some food souvenirs for friends and family back home, the products under the Tân Huê Viên brand would be one of them! Its signature product would be the durian mooncake! 

More a pastry than the typical mooncake we get in Singapore, please be assured that each pack wouldn't be as expensive! A 440-g pack comprising of four mooncakes only cost 68,000 dong (about S$4). For someone who only loves durians in its original form, even I was impressed with the durian filling for this mooncake; key is to toast them for a few minutes in the oven or air fryer! 

The Worker Monument - a nine meter-tall statue made of granite that was completed in 1988 and represented the workers, laborers who struggled to build and defend the country. Aforementioned was paraphrased from a comment on Google review.

One thing about walking on the pavements of HCMC; be wary of the "bombs". I did notice quite a number of dog poo in the six days I was in the city and I was "lucky" to kick one on day four. 

Vanity tables with LED mirror! I thought it was something unique from Vietnam and realized some furniture stores in Singapore were also selling it. Bet they are hot cakes amongst the ladies.

Pet dogs, in general, have a collar but not leashed. For a country that still continues to eat dogs, I am quite surprised by this behavior given the higher risk that the dog might be abducted for its meat.

Coming to a local residential enclave that reminded us of Singapore in the early 1980s, when flats were sometimes built only four floors high.

And the above building wouldn't have looked out of place even if I tell you that's in Singapore! Singapore's public housing is well known in the world and it's always good to share best practices with countries who are keen to learn more. 

Roads were much quieter. 

Look, another photo bomber! See how dead panned her expression was! p.s. I am not unhappy with the photo-bombing; in fact, I welcome them since I am not a professional photographer and I don't like to stage the environment. To me, there's perfection in being imperfect.

Bò Kho Gánh Sài Gòn - amongst all the eateries along the stretch, this was the most popular and we spotted some foreigners too. It was supposedly popular for its beef stew.

Our tummies were bursting with local desserts from Khánh Vy Sweets! I can't imagine we were so confident that there wouldn't be a problem to go with mini servings comprising of 13 different types of desserts; a disastrous defeat!  

Sugar cane juice seemed pretty well liked in HCMC. Whatever the case, this sight would have resulted in complaints in Singapore as it's a potential risk for pest to congregate.

On quite a number of occasions, I had seen mobile stalls selling dried squid. Maybe I would try when I am in Hanoi next week! Personally, I do enjoy dried squid, especially when it is grilled and down with a mug of ice, cold beer!