Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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

Detailed Postings for the Day

I had wondered right from day two of my Ho Chi Minh City trip why there is such a large piece of empty land in front of the famous (or infamous) Ben Thanh Market. Turned out the city was building its first metro, which started more than 10 years ago in 2012! 

Well, it's slated to be completed end of this year, with operations starting next year. Before then, there's always GRAB or if you live within District One; you can always make your way there on foot.

My objective in revisiting was to secure more souvenirs to bring home! While things were more expensive, compared to Cho Binh Tay, beggars can't be choosers. I did try my very best to bargain for the lotus seeds and coffee powder but eventually caved in to a pricing slightly elevated to what I would have paid for in Binh Tay Market.

Street views on my last day in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). I am so going to "miss" the chaotic motorbike traffic, where Alex was constantly worried that careless me would land myself in a traffic accident.

KATINAT - The Coffee and Tea House; even though I can see numerous branches of this in HCMC, it's not that common in the Vietnam capital of Hanoi, with just one branch in the Old Quarter.

Tempted to go for ear cleaning again but it didn't seem to be available at this salon! One of the biggest highlights for the inaugural trip (at Spa Salon Galaxy Sài Gòn), I was impressed with the thorough cleaning and never knew that my ear canals can be that clean!

Last cup of Vietnamese iced coffee from Cafe Nguyen Hoang! Click here for my review! I usually have to bring my pack of 3-in-1 coffee powder from Singapore and it's absolutely unnecessary in Vietnam as it has utterly strong yet good coffee! 

Cho means market in Vietnamese and this Cho Thai Binh was the smallest amongst the three I visited in the past few days but it's also the nearest to where we stayed at Vien Dong Hotel. Unlike the other two, this was also more a wet market with raw meat and vegetables for sale.

I also had my first Bun Thit Nuong in one of the food stalls at Cho Thai Binh! Despite the similarity to bun cha, my preference had always been Bun Thit Nuong even though I initially thought they were the same with different eating methods. 

The busy street alongside Cho Thai Binh; it's never sufficient to keep a lookout for just one direction as the motor vehicles go all over the place, including on pavements! Rule on thumb, be alert, consistent and don't abruptly change your movements! And pray. 

Bakery with pricing that's impossible to get in Singapore. For example, a chocolate coated donut only cost 12,000 dong, which converted to only S$0.70 in Singapore. p.s. didn't try as that's too much starch to bear on a holiday.

Alex had his haircut at Hai Barber Shop while I had my Bun Thit Nuong. While many tourists would make it a point to eat local cuisine and indulge in unique experiences when overseas, Alex is the outlier as he makes it a point to cut his hair in a foreign country! 

Japanese supermarket, even though I initially thought it was a currency exchanger. Things are not exactly cheap as they were imported from the land of the rising sun.

More of the street scene. 

Street hawker along Bui Vien Street; I think it's ban xeo, which is like a egg crepe pancake. Without the night entertainment, Bui Vien appeared normal in the daytime, drastically different from the atmosphere after sunset. 

Bitexco Financial Tower (where Saigon Skydeck is located) ahead of us; despite its visual nearness, the tower was about 1.4 kilometers away. For my next visit to HCMC, I should seriously consider staying around that area. 

I am just wondering; repaired or altered? 

Cutting across the tightly packed buildings using the narrow lanes in between. I blogged about this same lane before and you may refer to here for more information and pictures. 

Last look of our room at Vien Dong hotel

Some travelers would purposely bring along old clothes and shoes and discard them in the hotel room before checking out. I usually don't but my sandals were so heavily abused during this trip; I doubt they can survive the journey home.

I recall purchasing them from Bandung in 2016 and they fast became my favorite pair for being comfortable and hardy through the number of years.

Rushing to board the GRAB car as I happily neglected the fact that the hotel would perform checks after I returned the key card. And the GRAB car had already arrived! Arghhhh! The panic! 

Two photographs taken along the way; a pagoda and the barracks for the Vietnam People's Army! Sometimes, I think I took way too many photographs, and some of them served no purpose! 

Our hauls after six days in HCMC! These were for three persons and not just for me, although 50% were my stuff.  Kon told me he had an impetus to shop more after seeing how I shop; so glad I am able to influence him. Hhahaah

Alfresco cafe right next to the drop off point. While the banh mi did seem tempting, I had intention to have my stomach filled in another place, where I am likely to overstuff myself.

Packing services for your luggage! I think it's a good weather to further protect your luggage from scratches and reduce the risk of damage, especially if they are expensive.

Excess Baggage counter - after my first visit to Taiwan, where I was almost hit with a 20-kilogram excess baggage, I had learnt to manage my shopping and also secured a mini weighing scale, which I would bring along every time I travel by plane.

Map for the departure hall.

After clearing immigration, I was on the lookout for directions to the area where I can get my tummy filled.  Okay, found it; it's on level two. 

Bypassed a few retail and dining counters but I didn't really stop over to check out the pricing. It's a given that prices would be elevated, although still a necessary service to have if you suddenly feel that you don't have enough souvenirs to distribute once you are back to your home country!

Checking out Le Saigonnais - SASCO Business Lounge; where I stuffed myself with food (mainly bananas) and had my first pho in Vietnam! Only me as both Kon and Alex didn't join me.

I took a time-lapsed video while enjoying the food and drinks!

As expected, you would find Alex at Burger King. Menu for your reference; do note that they were in US dollars, and not Vietnamese dong! A whopping (pun intended) US$13.50 for a whopper junior meal!

No time to check out the rest of the shops as it was almost boarding time! It would have been nice to go through the Vietnamese Heritage Coffee, given how much I fell in love with Vietnamese coffee after this inaugural visit to Vietnam.

Clearing final checks! 

Boarding the airport bus; this would be quite uncommon in Singapore as the Changi International Airport is serviced by mainly jet bridges. As a kid, I love taking the airport buses as it provided an opportunity we don't get often in Singapore.

The opportunity to be able to have a close-up shot with the airplanes, with it serving as a backdrop for photos! While it's possible to take the airport buses in Singapore, the strict airport police will tell you "no photos". Such a bummer.

Line of airplanes waiting to be boarded. Given the pandemic, many people were actually worried that some of the planes had not be serviced for a long time, and there's a risk of mechanical damage; similar to how our electronic products tend to spoil when we haven't use them for a long time.

Our VietJet plane was near! 

Only issue with airport buses would be when we have to take it under bad weather. I encountered once when it was raining; thankfully, it was only a drizzle then. 

Nice planes in the hangar! 

Waiting for takeoff. Sometimes I don't like to arrive too early as there's nothing much to do when you are on the plane. I know some would prefer earlier so that they can deposit stuff on the overhead compartments. 

Up, up and away! Check out my photos here, under the eyes of the sky tag! While I had an enjoyable time in HCMC, it's hard not to think about the tons of work waiting for me in Singapore. Hopefully the incoming headcount will help to share my workload come July.

Cotton candy clouds!

This should be the peninsular Malaysia; I had been to quite a few islands on the eastern coast of the peninsular, many of which I had fond memories of; like Tioman, Redang, Perhentian Islands etc. 

I am just clueless once the plane flies over the mainland as there are not many identifiable spots, unlike the islands which I can easily spot given their shapes.

Was the building on fire?
Or it was just a heavy pollutant factory?

Loving the almost flat landscape of our little red dot! You can see the upcoming terminal five for Changi International Airport from one of the photographs. You may check out more photographs from here

Landed safely in Singapore! 

Being local, you wouldn't see me going to Jewel like many of the new arrivals to the world's best airport in 2013. My aim was to quickly get home, take a shower and unpack! Quickest way home? By taxi! p.s. GRAB is cheaper but I am too lazy to wait. Furthermore, some GRAB cars had too small a boot to hold my luggage! 

Since it was still early, time to deliver some souvenirs for my parents!