Friday, 4 April 2014

What to do in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam


The mummy blogger went shopping, eating and sightseeing in Vietnam

Early last month, I got to spend a 5-day holiday in Vietnam with my family. This was my first time to see Ho Chi Minh and I was really excited to explore this country, or at least the city of Ho Chi Minh. This is also a first for my son so it's very memorable and thrilling for all of us. The trip included my husband, my in-laws, my brother-in-law and his wife and daughter. Well, yeah, it was a big family trip.

The plane ride from LCCT to Vietnam is just short, around 2 hours (but I actually hate plane rides as I get headaches so 2 hours is already long for me). Luckily, my son slept half the time and he only had a minor fussy moment when we were almost there.  For those who will travel with kids, it helps to have some sweets to curb off the uneasy and nauseous feeling for toddlers. I also had some entertainment stuff like small toys and a small picture book.

We stayed at a small, cozy but convenient hotel named Dream Hotel located at District 1 of Ho Chi Minh. The location is great if you want to be near market shopping, street food and tourist spots. At that time, the hotel was undergoing some renovation so there are a few inconveniences but overall, it was worth it staying here mainly for its location and friendly staff.

Excitedly, of course, my first agenda is to explore Ben Thanh Market and do some first day shopping!

image-ben-thanh-market-vietnam-ho-chi-minh
Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (photo from Wikipedia)

This is very near the hotel, which only takes a 3-minute walk to reach. The weather outdoors at that time was just nice --- warm and sunny but not scorching hot. The Ben Thanh Market is very popular among the tourists because this is where you can find good souvenirs, local handicrafts and good local food, too. But take note, bargaining is a must at this place. Lucky I have a very competitive hubby who is still my best shopping buddy.

image-ben-thanh-market-vietnam-ho-chi-minh
Colorful merchandise of all sorts inside the Ben Thanh Market
There are so many things to see inside the Ben Thanh Market. Colorful items will capture your eyes. Different textile items are for sale such as bags, hand-painted cloths and other decorative materials.

image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-souvenir-dolls
Beautiful collectible dolls in Ben Thanh Market
I saw these really cute, adorable dolls with hand-stitched clothes and hand-painted face. Yes, you’ll see a lot of creative handiwork in this market and if you are the type who loves to collect beautiful items and use them to decorate the house, this marketplace is a good shopping destination.


image-ben-thanh-market-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-coffee
Various choices for coffee lovers
Vietnam is also famous for their delicious coffee and the Ben Thanh Market has a lot of coffee sellers. Wow, just look at these choices. This is just one of the sections of rows and rows of stalls selling coffee.



image-ben-thanh-market-vietnam-ho-chi-minh

There are stalls selling sweets and other different dried fruits. Here you see some bargaining action between a customer and a seller. It can get very stuffy and hot inside this market so if you’re not comfortable, you can explore night “marketing” instead. At around 8PM, the Ben Thanh Market will close but the sellers will be setting up outside so tourists and locals can continue shopping. There will be fewer stalls, definitely, but you can still find good buys at the night market.


image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum
Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum
Another place to see is the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum. This is also just walking distance from our hotel. Of course, if you don’t want to be exposed to the sun and if you don’t want to fight your way through the busy streets, you have the option to take a cab. The thing about the streets around where we stayed at District 1 is that crossing the streets can be very challenging and scary.


image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum
Sculptures
image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum

The Fine Arts Museum has 3 floors of historic collections of different art pieces that reflect Vietnam arts and culture. It showcases paintings, relic items, sculptures, potteries and furniture.
image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum



image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum

What do you see?

Check out this painting. Do you see several figures, too?



image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fine-arts-museum

Chinese Furniture in Fine Arts Museum

The craft of the Chinese wooden divider on the left is so intricate and yet this piece has been well taken care of. The table on the right consists of well-made inlays and very fine designs. It’s amazing to see a product of much creativity and hard in one magnificent piece of work.

Entrance fee to the Fine Arts Museum is very affordable. If I remember it right, it was only around RM3-5 per person.


Walking on the streets, you’ll find fresh fruits sold almost everywhere. Look at this enticing display of colorful fruits…
image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-fresh-fruits-by-the-street

Fresh fruits, anyone?


Exploring the culture of Vietnam won’t be complete without reminiscing the Vietnam War. The War Remnants Museum, located at District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, is quite famous among tourists. This museum primarily showcases exhibits relating to the American phase during the Vietnam War. My son was so excited when he saw those real-life helicopters, planes and tanks displayed outside the museum building.
image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-war-remnants-museum

War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-war-remnants-museum

image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-war-remnants-museum

image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-war-remnants-museum


Inside the building are more items such as the potteries below, old photos, ammunition and other historical materials.
image-vietnam-ho-chi-minh-war-remnants-museum



After walking and enduring my son’s tantrums, I definitely needed to have good food to eat. People might find it weird that I didn’t crave for local food. I’ve always been enamored by the French culture as well. And since I was in a country that has some French background, I have to take advantage and enjoy some French food!

image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh

French Cafe in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

My husband brought my son, my mother-in-law and me to a French café called Une Journee a Paris, which is located near our hotel back in District 1. The pastries and the bread are all so mouth-watering.

image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh
Mouth-watering French muffins and bread

image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh
French cakes
image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh

Well, the French names alone are enticing: Citron Meringuee, Chocolat, Pain Au Chocolat Amande.


image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh

The best omelette I've had in my life!

I ordered this delicious omelette: Omelette Jambon – Fromage with French Ham and Cheese, and loads of freshly cut tomatoes. Served with bread, this omelette is amazing. I was so amazed at how such a simple-looking dish can be sooo good. The tomatoes had some sauce and olive oil that made it taste amazingly sumptuous. The omelette itself is so tender and the cheese just blended so good with the French ham and egg. OMG, I am lost for words. I just wish I know how to cook, hahaha!


image-french-cafe-and-restaurant-in-ho-chi-minh

Quiche Lorraine from French Restaurant in Vietnam

My mother-in-law ordered this Quiche Lorraine served with the same freshly cut tomatoes and some green vegetables. I tried a bit and it was just heavenly.


image-hair-salon-in-ho-chi-minh-vietnam

Enjoyed my hair cut, wash and blow dry in Ho Chi Minh!

Hair salons are also conveniently accessible to our hotel. I barely have time in Malaysia to do my haircut so I took my chance here in Ho Chi Minh. I had my haircut then had my hair washed, which came with good head massage, too.


image-hawker-center-in-ho-chi-minh-vietnam

To complete our Vietnam holiday, we went for some authentic local food at a hawker center called 155 Nha Hang Sinh Thai. The place was full of customers but we were lucky to find a place to sit and order. Ordering was a challenge as not a lot of them can understand and speak English. My husband and brother-in-law struggled for around 20 – 30 minutes for our orders to be taken.


image-local-yummy-food-in-ho-chi-minh

Well, it was worth the struggle and wait, I guess. These were some of the dishes (or at least half of it).


I didn’t have much time to go around, as my son got sick on the second day. But I still managed to do some shopping, mostly for shoes (!), slippers and souvenirs to bring back to KL. I had a wonderful time, spending most of it with my naughty but adorable son. My husband was even busier than me, going out with the rest and then buying back food for me, and of course, taking me for some shopping when we have the chance.


Overall, Ho Chi Minh is really a wonderful city to visit. There are lots of good food, French pastries, value buys and amazing places to see. So if you’re thinking of another city to visit nearby Malaysia, consider Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. It’s worth your time and shopping money.


Oh, and by the way, I shopped for 2 pairs of ALDO shoes while in Vietnam. I’ll share the photos and prices soon!