Saigon. It’s hot (thanks Captain Obvious!)… I wouldn’t even dare to venture out in the open between 10am and 3pm anymore. The first two days were ok b/c we were hanging out somewhere indoors at a restaurant, the pool, or the War Remnant Museum. The third day however, I was completely exposed out in the sun on my way to “The Lunch Lady” a la Bourdain. My shirt was completely drenched and it took me forever to cool down once I get into an AC environment.
I flew down from Hanoi to Saigon (about 2hrs) to meet up w/ my friends Margaret and Barry who flew in from the US. My flight got there a little late and theirs got there a little early, plus the hoards of people waiting to pick up passengers outside the international terminal was really intimidating and I was worried at first I wouldn’t be able to find them.
Margaret used her points and we stayed at the Renaissance Riverside, where we had super nice breakfast, pedicure (first time ever), or just hang out at the pool. Definitely not roughing it. The 2nd part of our time there I checked into a budget hotel on the southwest part of District 1 near Ben Thanh Market.
We met up an acquaintance of Margaret, Troy, an expat working in Saigon who gave us quite a few good recommendations (I love recommendations from locals!). We went out to eat at nicer restaurants and drank a lot more than I had planned (which is my nice way of saying I didn’t plan for it at all). I think I blew through my budget for the week my first night. We went to Zan Bar, a really nice middle eastern restaurant w/ hookahs for dinner, some random bar called Xu, the roof top bar at The Rex Hotel, and Apocalypse Now.
Apocalypse Now was not what I expected. Troy had described it as “good clean fun” but it was pretty weird. There are a lot of expats of course, but judging by the amount of security guards in there and the fact they told me to turn my camera off while I was taking a short video, I wouldn’t be surprised if prostitution, drugs and other funny business go on there.
Blew through the sights in Saigon pretty quickly. Opera House, Notre Dame, Post Office (really cool w/ the French influenced iron work and architecture), Ben Thanh Market, War Remnant Museum, walked by the Reunification Palace but didn’t really go in because we had enough of anti-America kool-aid by that point.
(Whoever recommended Pho 24 to me owes me an apology. This is the worst bowl of pho I’ve had in Vietnam. Never eat at franchised restaurants even in Vietnam. The broth was bland b/c they don’t take the time to let it develop flavor and just churn it out to the customers. My spring rolls were dry to the point the wrapper was hard… seriously… it was probably some gwailo friend that was too scared to eat anything other than Pho 24 while he was here in Saigon)
(I love the fruits in Southeast Asia. Normally I’d punch myself in the face for ordering a drink like this, but it’s lychee!!)
(Jaspas for brunch one day, another one of Troy’s recommendations. Sit out on the balcony with some eggs benedict and iced vietnamese coffee to take Saigon in slowly)
(Pho 2000, right across from the Ben Thanh market on the southwest side. Famous because Bill Clinton visited there. It was good, but the best pho I have is still in Hanoi)
(First banh my in Vietnam. It’s more of a southern Vietnam thing. Saw bunch of people lining up across from Ben Thanh, grabbed one for 20,000d and bunch of other drinks from a convenient store for another 40,000d)
(Banh xeo and pork dumplings at Wrap & Roll. Haven’t had banh xeo until now. This one was way too oily.)