Saturday, July 4, 2015

Revisiting Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is quite memorable for me because this was the last place I visited in my previous (travelling) role. The timing was great because Sofia and yaya Naling were able to travel with me, and we stayed at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon Hotel in District 1 for close to a month.  You can read about that here or browse through all my posts on Vietnam here where we did quite a lot of things including watch the water puppet theater, visit the war remnants museum, visit the spa, and eat at all the restaurants nearby as well as backpack our way to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on one of the weekends.

The check-in process at Intercontinental Asiana Saigon was even more efficient than I remembered. When we arrived, we were immediately escorted to our rooms, which were ready despite our early arrival, and we were just asked to sign forms as part of the in-room express check in.

We had a few minutes to freshen up before going directly to the local office, so it's a good thing we had a great view from the room since one of my office mates, Sha, has never been to HCMC before.

View from our room: Notre Dame Church and Post Office - check!
It's quite interesting to see the back part of the post office,
which looks so much more modern than the front which
has been preserved as a heritage site.
On the far left of our window view, we could see VinCom,
the mall walking distance to the hotel. This was the view
we had the last time we stayed here.

Since this blog is not in any way about work, let me skip that part and get directly to what we had for lunch. Our local office is located in District 7, which is so much more developed now as compared to when I was there 3 years ago. Walking distance is a row of restaurants overlooking the river, and we had lunch at one of the restaurants serving local Vietnamese food, which I really enjoyed.
Spring Rolls are still so much better when you eat them in Vietnam,
and we had this together with shrimps and squid.
Some of the new things I tried was the starter - which was like a shrimp
ball on top of rice cracker, and vegetables local to Vietnam.
For dessert, we enjoyed the local fruits together with the seasoned salt.
I was so full already, but the mango was so good,
(similar to the Thai mango) that I still managed to eat a lot.

Our meetings ended quite late, so Ben Thanh Market was already closed when we got back to the hotel. We decided to go to Saigon Square instead, though I was told that Saigon Square 2, which I preferred to go to before, was already closed.

Vietnam is the source of a lot of the clothes for chain stores like Mango, Zara, Forever 21 and the like, so they have a market for export overruns. Just use your judgement since good finds are also mixed together with obvious fakes. My rule of thumb is I am willing to things that look well-made, and I don't buy them for the brand they claim to be, so this isn't an issue for me.

This is the old Saigon Square I remember, close to Ben Thanh Market.
Interestingly, right beside it is a newer extension that looks like the
Saigon Square 2 that I visited (so maybe that's why it closed!).
We really didn't have much time to look around before the stores started closing around us. I totally rushed to buy something for the kids (Sofia and Karl's kids included since he was busy working some more in the hotel), I was able to buy a nice pair of linen shorts for myself, and I wanted to buy another top - which I couldn't find before we left because I think the store was already closed.
I pressured Sha to also buy something! Hahaha.
They also had one local coffee store, so I bought a small pack of the
medium-strength Blue Mountain blend, so I could try my new Hario toys.
The coffee was as good as it smelled, which was full-bodied with a hint
of mocha. Next time I can buy more! Plus I was so happy the Hario grinder
and V60 drip was so easy to use and clean.
Where's Wally Shopping in Vietnam.
I was telling Sha, when I travel for work, I make sure I
explore we're visiting after the work is done.

Since it was Sha's first time, we opted to walk back to the hotel, so we could see more HCMC's District 1.
Witty Sign
There are a lot of small alley's where they have paintings for sale.
Saigon Opera House at Night, with the people on motocycles,
which you only see at this quantity in Vietnam.
The ironic thing is that their pedestrian light doesn't
really work, so cross the street at your own risk.
Saigon Opera House
Closer look at the Top
I couldn't resist taking a photo. Don't worry, I just pretended to sit,
since it's for display only.

Since we wanted to make the most of our 2 days in Vietnam, I had the concierge make us reservations at Pizza4P's for 9pm. Looking back, I don't really know where we got the energy, since we've been up since 3am (Vietnam Time) to catch the early flight.
This prosciutto burrata pizza was worth all the calories.
In fact, it's the only Pizza I think that's better than my mom's. Hahaha.
Post on Pizza4P's to follow.

On our second and last night, we just went to the restaurant directly from work. This time around I didn't schedule dinner for too late since we were travelling back the next day.
We tried out Cuc Gach Quan, an old house converted into a restaurant,
visited by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and the food was also good.
I'll blog about that separately.

It was two really tiring days, with really good food.
Special mention goes to Intercontinental's breakfast buffet, which is
complete with western staples, local food, and my favorite congee!

Can't wait to visit more places for work, so I can explore more places after work. Good thing sleep is for the week, and I get my strength from shopping. Hahaha. just saying.

Intercontinental Asiana Saigon
Corner Hai Ba Trung , St.& Le Duan Bl , 
Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam

8/15, Lê Thánh Tôn, 
Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

+84 120 789 4444
Reservations recommended

Cuc Gach Quan
10 Đặng Tất, Tân Định, 
Quận 1, 
Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
+84 8 3848 0144

1 comment:

  1. I’m happy that you enjoyed your journey in Ho Chi Minh City. We hope to have a chance to welcome you back soon at our hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, District 1. Please check out our cool hotel deals and enjoy Vietamese cuisine at The Garlik Restaurant (one of the top 3 restaurants in HCMC on Tripadvisor).