Tag Archive: saigon

A whole week in Vietnam. From Manila, Ho Chi Minh City was our first destination but we were really excited over our first time in Central Vietnam. This is our story covering Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), the Imperial Citadel in Hue, Langco Fishing Village, the Cham Museum and beaches of Danang, the preserved Ancient Lantern town of Hoi An and the Ruins of My Son. Staying a couple of nights each in Saigon, Hue and Hoi An, we took day trips to nearby attractions and maximised our time without really forgetting we’re on holiday. It’s not about ticking off from a list, but we left room for some spontaneous and serendipitous adventures. Including trips prompted by food cravings 😊

Saigon City Attractions:


Cu Chi Tunnels:


Hue Attractions:



Hoi An Attractions:



My Son


In case you feel like checking out previous blogs on earlier trips to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoa Lu, Tam Coc and Saigon, here are the links:





It’s been nearly a decade since I visited the tunnels. Yeah, did the “duck walk” inside and came out alive, gasping for breath. A decade later and here I am, older, weaker knees, agonizing whether to go with my grandnephew down the tunnel and risk losing oxygen. But he won’t go without me. Clingy? πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ So off we went!

Took us all of 2 hours getting here from Ho Chi Minh. Like the last time, I’m dripping in sweat just a few minutes after arrival in Cu Chi, meandering through the bamboo forest trying to imagine how the Americans set up camps while them Vietcongs survived underground. Like the last time, I’m still in awe of Vietnamese ingenuity and courage. And cringe at their horrible weaponry and victorious psyche war strategy. They used whatever was available (sharpened bamboos, nails, wood, etc) and it’s hard to wrap your head around these torturous war traps and combat gear without cringing.

Martin had his history lessons on the πŸ‡»πŸ‡³ Vietnam War in a day with this visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, followed by a visit to the War Remnants Museum. I tried to wriggle myself out of the latter, but ended up sharing that horrible feeling one experiences reading war trivia and viewing all those war photographs by courageous war journalists and photojournalists. This is the real #buwisbuhay (life-threatening) job. After such a visit, you head home (or back to your hotel) feeling drained. Hopefully Martin gained a good appreciation of how there is clearly NO WINNER, NO REAL VICTOR in any war. Enough said. Enough seen.

Off to see Uncle Ho again. And perhaps work on my pho and banh mi fix. Throw in some Bun Bo and those barbecued meats and pancakes too. With those in mind, we took our late (and an hour delayed) flight into Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh where we’d cool our heels the first 2 nights. Maybe retrace our steps to those food adventures we remember to this day, squeezing them into our mini-tour of the very French-looking Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office plus the War Museum and Reunification Palace. The planned site visits are for the benefit of my first-time visitor grandson and my bff’s hubby. I don’t mind revisiting the Cathedral and I do admit I was completely charmed by the Central Post Office, but I’d likely enjoy a beer somewhere while they check out the Palace and Museum😁. Enough war history for me. Of course I can always go shopping for some Vietnamese coffee, a new suitcase, boho bags for my girls and dried jackfruit while the boys escape the summer temp in the air conditioned museum. Now, let’s hope the humidity doesn’t get me!

You’d forgive me for the lack of enthusiasm for this visit to this former capital. We’ve been here before (check out my previous blogs/click on highlighted items), both to the north and south, and we’re really just stopping over Saigon on our way to Central Vietnam where we plan to spend more holiday time. So there. Best that I reserve my excitement — and energy — for the former imperial capital of Hue, the sandy beaches of Da Nang, the ancient heritage town of Hoi An and the ruins at My Son.

It’s summer but the rainy season has set in. Thankfully, it rained while we’re in the van, when inside the Museum, or when we’re back in the hotel. Best of all, it rained while we dined in this fabulous place called The Chopsticks Saigon Restaurant. The restaurant was the former home of Tran Van Huong, who was President of Southern Vietnam before it was surrendered to the communist forces of North Vietnam in 1975. Mr. Huong was President for only a week, but he stayed in this villa much longer. The beautiful wrought iron gates and windows, the sweeping staircase, the elegance and charm of this lovely villa all add to the ambience. It also helps that the food is good, and the staff friendly. Can’t complain.

Ho Chi Minh is still called Saigon by most locals. I feel that 2 days here should be enough to check out the attractions before one is tempted to engage in retail therapy. As for me? I ended up joining the first-timers in visits to Notre Dame, the nearby Central Post Office, and the War Remnants Museum. I skipped the Palace and chose to shop instead for coffee, a new suitcase, boho bags and a few summer blouses. Later in the day, I tried the Nail Parlor and Spa next to our hotel. Not bad for Day 1. And oh yes, we went to Cu Chi Tunnels too but let me cover that in a separate blog. 😊

Here are a couple more shots from the resto’s website. Don’t miss this restaurant when in Ho Chi Minh.

Just have to write a separate blog about this. Food is most certainly part of the adventure and guided by Filipino expats living in Ho Chi Minh, we found a few dining places worth visiting.


Be W.A.R.N.E.D.


Nha Hang Ngon

Our first lunch in Ho Chi Minh was in Nha Hang Ngon. Coming in cold, we were initially struck by the prices quoted in thousands. You see, US$1 here is equivalent to at least 20,000 Dong. Our expat friends suggested we drop the 3 zeroes and multiply by 2 to get the peso equivalent. So that means 100,000 Dong is approximately 200 pesos. Hmmm, that’s pretty neat.


Lunch at Nha Hang Ngon (Ngon means delicious)

Now going back to the menu in this place, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the prices are in fact very reasonable for a place oozing with local ambience, food so fresh and resto crew smiling 24/7. Nha Hang Ngon (“ngon” means delicious) has a quaint architecture and the periphery of the building is lined with foodstuff from appetizers to soups to mint-flavored dishes, to various barbecued meats and vietnamese rolls to desserts. It was a chore to choose from among the foods on display. Our version of “turo-turo” (point – point) where a diner does the mandatory circling of all food stalls and orders which ones should be served on their table.


Turo-Turo, Vietnamese Style. More Veggies, Less Meat.

The Refinery

Fine dining in Ho Chi Minh? Try The Refinery. It is the former headquarters of an opium factory which now houses a French Bistro, a Frenchy Bar and a Vietnamese outlet serving fusion cuisine. We tried the latter. Hoa Tuc is also a Saigon Cooking School much like we have CCA back in Manila. The red motif all over the place is very Frenchy, but the portions are not. No way we’d get small Frenchy portions with our Vietnamese dinner here.


Formerly an Opium Refinery in Saigon. Say what?

Want some cooking lessons? Then eat what you cook!


We left the ordering to my friend’s expat daughter and her friends. And what a selection! We enjoyed our sugarcane drink, our minty soup which tastes a bit like its Thai equivalent, the variety of barbecued meat, the fish in some savory sauce, the birthday noodles (3 of us were birthday celebrants), the crispy floured squid in tamarind sauce, the many vegetables, and the decadent , moist chocolate cake! If that dinner won’t energize you for a few rounds of walking, I don’t know what will.


Dinner at Hoa Tuc @The Refinery

Pho 2000

Naturally, we were also drawn to try this chain noodle house — rare in that it benefits from a Presidential endorsement. Ex-President Bill Clintonn once tried this Pho 2000 noodle house and raved about its Pho. No wonder his photos hang on all its walls. We tried the seafood pho, the beef pho, the chicken curry with baguette, their equivalent of the halo-halo (with fresh fruits rather than ours which are cooked in sugar syrup) , their coffee. The one we tried was at the corner of BenThanh Market.


Found one near Ben Thanh Market!

Ben Thanh Market

Yeah, right. This is a market where the shopper in you gets resurrected. While shopping for our Vietnamese coffee, cinnamon slippers and dried jackfruit slices, we found a few stalls serving desserts. Easy to grab one of those rice cakes, but we found the cold desserts most refreshing. Fresh fruits like cubed granada, papaya, watermelon were mixed in with gelatine and ice shavings — just right to make one forget all that heat and humidity inside this crowded shoppers’ paradise. We didn’t hesitate to claim a stool and partake of these sweet desserts to refresh ourselves. Besides, all that walking and shopping drained us of all energy.


It's Halo Halo without the syrup. Just plain fresh fruits, milk & ice!


Also, don’t forget to buy the fruits. Either have them as your dessert, or have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I kid you not. Fresh custard apples (Atis) so solid you can just peel off the moon crater-y skin and eat the fruit like an apple. Or the macopas, and the mangoes. There were also big-sized chicos and tiny apples (manzanitas) which we enjoyed.


Grab a pack and go!


Β Food Courts At The Malls

Then there are the food courts to be found in the Malls. If you wish to have a quick fix in an airconditioned place, check out the food courts in the malls. I tried one of their hot pots, in an effort to stay “healthy”, but really, I soon discovered that it is easy to eat healthy here in Vietnam. Their food is more veggies than meat. And all that mint must explain why I didn’t meet any local with an unpleasant body aroma. Drenched in sweat in a hot, humid market, or exposed to the sun while scootering or biking around the city, I was expecting some body scent to alert me of sweaty bodies. Can’t explain it, and neither can I explain why I didn’t find too many flies in the wet market where I found seafood on display. Must be the hygiene or level of sanitation. Or all that mint. Tempts me to use my mint breath fresheners all over my body!

You may also want to check out my blog on Ho Chi Minh……..


And do try that beer too!

Vietnamese Coffee Rocks! (They have weasel and squirrel coffee beans too!)


Atis with Every Meal. Eat Them Like An Apple (Without The Skin)


Typical Banh Mi (as in Panini?) Vendor