Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Saigon Story: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Day 3)

Read about my Introduction about Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and about Days 1 and 2 HERE

DAY 3: We  basically went to the places
that we passed by and we marveled on when we rode the cyclo the previous night.
We walked along the streets of Le Loi, Le Thanh Ton, and Dhong Koi.
Wearing the dress I got from Saigon Square and the sandals I got from Luu Van Lang. :') 
Went inside boutiques... and art galleries too since we were looking for a (legit) Vietnamese painting. We found "the one" hrhr during our last night in Vietnam. 
Behind us is the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee formerly Ho Chi Minh City Hall and its iconic statue. It is an official government building and is not open to the public. Hence, us just outside. ;p
It's equally beautiful during the night and during the day.
It is located at one end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard on Le Thanh Ton street.
The park in front of Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee is so beautiful, clean, and relaxing.♥ Cooler weather please. :'p
Rex Hotel - famous luxury hotel in Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam.
We went and took photos in front of the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City, also know as Saigon Opera House, just near Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee
My cyclo driver said that many couples take their wedding photos and pre-nup shots here. And whaduyuknow, we saw just that. 
The Saigon Opera House is also beautiful at night. Vietnam's city lights complements the lovely French colonial structures beautifully.
Then, we walked going to Dhong Koi street. Went inside boutiques.
We actually battled the streets of Dhong Koi with a mission –to go to Ipa-Nima. Mom's mission. LOL
Ipa-Nima has 3 branches in Vietnam: 2 branches in in Ho Chi Minh City and 1 branch in Hanoi. It also has branches in other countries namely Japan, Germany, Mauritius, Malaysia, and Singapore. Bongga, diba?!!
Ipa-Nima sells and is known for their handbags purses, clutches, hobos, totes, bucket bags & wallets and other fun accessories.
We actually went to Ipa-Nima during our 3rd day and 4th day. Hence mom wearing a red blouse on one photo. #momsfancies :"p
♛ Ipa-Nima in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam:
(1) 77-79 Dong Khoi street, District 1 -where we went
(2) 71 Pasteur street, District 1
 Ipa-Nima in Hanoi, Vietnam:
73 Trang Thi street, Hoan Kiem District

They say that to understand the Vietnamese perspective on the Vietnam War, you have to go to the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, and visit Cu chi Tunnels, but due to the hot weather, we rented a taxi and we decided to just pass by them.
They say it's worth to visit them. :)
Oops. Selfie. :"p I was trying to take a photo of Reunification Palace as my background. 
Reunification Palace
135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Practical Direction: Situated in the heart of District 1, a short walk from Ben Thanh market - follow Le Loi away from the market circle and turn left onto Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. source
Open Daily - 7 :30 am to 11 :30 am (closes for lunch) and re-opens 1 :00 pm to 5:00 pm. 
Entrance fee: VND 2,000 (child) and VND 15,000 (adult)
War Remnants Museum
28 Vo Van Tan, District 3, Hi Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Practical direction and information: 
Located in District 3, but still relatively central; walking distance from Ben Thanh market. It's only a couple of blocks behind the Reunification Palace.
This exhibition shows some of the true horrors of the Vietnam War, a one-sided account perhaps but still captivating and poignant. source
Open Daily - 7 :30 am to 11 :30 am (closes for lunch) and re-opens 1 :00 pm to 5:00 pm. 
Entrance fee: VND 2,000 (child) and VND 15,000 (adult) source
*photo of War Remnants Museum from google images*
After our city ride, we asked our cab driver to drop us off to a good and known restaurant in the city. He dropped us off to a seafood restaurant. We went inside. There were only few customers. The menu didn't look appealing to us. We looked for another one. We walked and walked. Nothing seemed to tickle our fancies and tummies, hrhr. Then, we saw Pho No, a nicely interiored Little Prince-ish restaurant. We ate here for the lack of options since we also did not do our research. :-p I can't remember how the food tasted, though. 
Please excuse my face. I was eating the local fruits in my drink. I forgot what they call them, but it was good. :)
To cap off our 3rd day, we went around and had dinner at Ben Thanh Night Market.
Ben Thanh Market is just few walks away from our hotel -Thien Xuan. Sweeeet. 
Please excuse my head the awkwardly cropped photo. ;p I just want to show you the many food stalls in Ben Thanh Night Market. :')
Ben Thanh Night Market opens at 7 PM till midnight.

There are a number of Night Markets in Ho Chi Minh City namely:
Ben Thanh Market, Le Loi, District 1
Ba Chieu, 40 Dien Hong, District 1
Hoa Hung, 539a Cach Mang Thanh Tam, District 10
Cho Lon, Hai Thuong Lang Ong, Ward 11, District 5
Ky Hoa - Thong Nhat Stadium, 138 Dao Duy Tu, Thanh Binh
but, we only went to Ben Thanh Night Market :)

I feel like this post is long already. I'll just make a separate post about our last day (day 4) in Ho Chi Minh City. :-)

WHEN: November 4-9, 2012

Related Posts:
about Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Postal Office, Vincom Center, Wrap and Roll, street food at Nguyen Trung Truc, shopping at Saigon Square, haggling in Vietnam, Luu Van Lang, Ben Thanh Market, Water Puppet Show, cyclo city ride, and Dinner Cruise on Saigon River.

A Saigon Story: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Day 4 and *Regrets*)
- about walk to boutique shops in Le Thanh Ton to Le Loi street, Saigon Centre, Pho 2000, Vietnamese 3D Greeting Cards, Vietnamese Painting from Kim Do Art Gallery, Regrets: Mekong Delta and Halong Bay

Inspirational Video: The Bridge Master and His Son

My auntie test-played a video entitled The Bridge Master and His Son for an event they'll be having today. 
I watched it too.
I held back my tears. 
My heart broke. :'(
I was reminded and I felt the greatest kind of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness altogether.
I suggest you watch this 5-minute video too. 

The video is adapted from MOST which is a 2003 Czech short film. "Most" in Czech means "The Bridge". Gotta see Most / The Bridge now. :')

Awards: Most (2003)
● 2003 Sundance Film Festival: Official Selection
● Palm Springs International 2003: Winner ~ Best of Festival
● Maui Film Festival 2003: Winner - Best Short Film; Audience Award - Best Newcomers
● Heartland Film Festival 2003: Winner ~ Crystal Heart Award
● Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film.

Watch MOST in YouTube here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Saigon Story: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Day 1 and Day 2)

✽ It is the Motorcycle Capital of the World. Just kidding. Or is it really? There are many motorcycles and scooters everywhere.
✽ It brims with street vendors, portable food carts, shops, coffee shops, and French colonial structures.
✽ It is warm in Vietnam, pretty much like the Philippines. 
✽ I was not looking forward to shop here, but I enjoyed going to Saigon Square each day. I scored a number of clothes.
✽ Haggling like a pro in Vietnam is ~seriouz buzinezz~. It is perfectly acceptable and expected even to haggle in Vietnam. I will tell you more about this below.  
✽ I absolutely loved Vietnamese food and the freshly made sugar cane juice. A trip in Vietnam is definitely not complete without experiencing and tasting the street food. 
✽ I am a millionaire in Vietnam. $.$ *kaching kaching*
✽ Philippine time is 1 hour ahead of Vietnam.
These are the things that I remember about Ho Chi Minh City formerly Saigon; they renamed it after the war in 1975.
While walking, we saw a hawker coconut vendor. He sold us one coconut for VND 250,000 which is 10 times more than the legit price. Ugh.
He opened the coconuts right away (usual tactic even in the Philippines) so we didn't have a choice, but to get them.
Beware of such opportunistic vendors when walking around touristy areas and streets in Vietnam. 
Coconut in the main parts of Ho Chi Minh City just costs around VND 25,000-50,000. 
We walked right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh to visit
Notre Dame Cathedral (left) and Central Postal Office (right).
It's so beautiful inside the Central Post Office. I felt I was in ~Europe~ for a while minus the fact that I was shedding sweat because it was hot. I felt I was more-like in a train station than in a post office. ;p
There are souvenir shops inside. We bought two books about Vietnam among others. For trinkets and other stuff, I suggest you just buy in Ben Thanh Market since it's cheaper there.
For instance, mom bought lacquerware here and it was cheaper in Ben Thanh Market. Vietnamese fan costs VND 80,000 at the Central Post Office while it retails for VND 50,000 in Ben Thanh Market.
*Photos of Central Post Office from Pinky Parra*
After, we walked and walked and stopped by:
(1) Coffee May - a random coffee shop just near the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. We had fried spring rolls and drinks (traditional Vietnamese coffee, grape shake, and lime juice).
(2) Random hole-in-the-wall shops and bookstores which caught our attention.
(3) Vincom Center which is located just between Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. It is the newest mall in District 1. It is an 8-storey high-end mall.
Inside Vincom Center, we saw and ate at Wrap and Roll which is known for their spring rolls.
Wrap and Roll has 7 branches in Ho Chi Minh City, 2 branches in Hanoi, and 3 branches in Singapore. I loved the food.
(4) Lastly, Nha Hang Mon Hue where we had dinner. It has 8 branches across Ho Chi Minh City. Verdict: I tasted better Vietnamese food. We ate here only because it's near the hotel.
No. 1 rule when choosing a place to eat when you are out of the country: Eat where many locals eat.
There were a great number of locals eating here and it did not disappoint. We ate here almost everyday.
These photos were taken during our 2nd day; the 2nd time we ate here.
The vendors do not understand English, though. We had a hard time when we ordered the first time.
We didn't know what to order; they do not have a menu. Thank God someone helped us and ordered for us.
So, this time around, we just pointed our orders out.
We always order dry noodles or rice noodles served without soup here namely bun thit nuong (rice noodles with grilled pork) and bun cha gio (rice noodles with deep fried spring rolls). 
This is located in Durong: Nguyen Trung Truc street. It is near the intersection/stop light. It is the last food stall before you cross the highway going to Le Loi street or Caffé Fresco in #121 Le Loi, Q.1, Tp. It is adjacent to the street going to Saigon Square. *Phew* I hope my directions are clear enough. ;p
After eating, we went to Saigon Square. #shoppingtime
Then, we went to Luu Van Lang which is referred to as the shoe street. It is a small alley right next to Ben Than Market.
Next, we went to Ben Thanh Market and bought coffee maker with coffee beans (but was cheaper in Co.op Mart), bracelets, Vietnamese fans, wallets, peanut candies in red wrapper (VND 80,000 per kilo) for pasalubong. We got those peanut candies in particular since Dingdong Dantes buys that for pasalubong too. ;p It's actually good.
We went back hrhr to Saigon Square afterwards.

Now, let me tell you about the crazy haggling culture in Vietnam: You should haggle when shopping for goods and even availing for services (like cyclo ride and vehicle rentals) in Vietnam. 
When haggling for goods, automatically slash half (50% off) the price they'll initially tell you. 
Haggle until you come to a good price. 
It helps if you know the market/going price before hitting the market. Try to slash 10%-20% off more than what you think you should be paying, and then work your way up from there.
Walking away can work too. There was one instance when the seller looked for us around just to tell us that she'll give the dress at our price. Walking away works most of the time, but not all the time. You can always go back anyway. 
It pays to be friendly and in good terms with the merchants. Build rapport with them. Enjoy the shopping and the haggling process that goes with it. :-)
For services, negotiate a price before the service is rendered. If not, you are generally responsible for paying whatever is asked. I think this is one general fair rule anyway.
Around 6:00 PM, we went to Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre to watch the famous Water Puppet Show (mua roi nuoc)
Vietnam's Water Puppet Show has won many international puppet awards. It is highly appreciated and was performed in Art Festivals in different countries such as Switzerland, Greece, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Hongkong, Japan, Australia, America, Brazil, Korea, Iran, France, and other more, and even in the Philippines in 1998. 
 Upon entrance, they will give you the Show Guide which come in handy since everything is delivered in Vietnamese. There's a live Vietnamese ensemble narrating and playing folk music using traditional Vietnamese instruments.
It is a 50-minute show. Some could find the show quite boring, but this is something you have to watch if you're interested in local culture.
What's so amazing about it, you say? Imagine and come to think of it, they control the puppets which are submerged in water from behind a screen.
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater
55 B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
*Saigon Square facade photo and Water Puppet Show photos from google images. Ben Thanh Market photos and some Dinner Cruise in Saigon River photos below from Pinky Parra*
After the Water Puppet Show, we rode a cyclo to see the city at night. Our guide suggested that we give our cyclo driver an extra. We gave them VND 100,000 each as tip.
The cyclo dropped us off at the dock for our Dinner Cruise on Saigon River. Took snapshots of city lights and the panoramic view of the riverside of Ho Chi Minh City while on board. On one end, the city only becomes blinking lights as the boat moves further and further away from the dock.

We availed of a tour inclusive of the Water Puppet Show, Cyclo Ride, and Dinner Cruise on Saigon River at our hotel (we stayed at Thien Xuan, booked via for US$40.00 per person.

And that ends our day 1 and day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I will blog about days 3 and 4 on a separate post. :-)

WHEN: November 4 - November 9, 2012

Related Posts: 
- about a walk in the streets of Le Loi, Le Thanh Ton, and Dhong Koi, Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee, Saigon Opera House, Ipa-Nima, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Pho No, and Ben Thanh Night Market.

A Saigon Story: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Day 4 and *Regrets*)
- about walk to boutique shops in Le Thanh Ton to Le Loi street, Saigon Center, Pho 2000, Vietnamese 3D Greeting Cards, Vietnamese Painting from Kim Do Art Gallery, Regrets: Mekong Delta and Halong Bay

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All that is to come

First of all: Hello, Blogger! I am back! ;p After 1 year and 6 months, I am posting again. I have too many backlog! *crymeariver* I have been busy and lazy and in limbo for the past many months, but the urge to blog (to share, to impart) has always been there.

Blog posts and reviews of random, diverse people help me A LOT: (1) when I plan sojourns and itineraries, (2) when I want to buy and try something (mostly on beauty products and services), (3) where to eat, (4) where to go. I always consult blog posts for my what, where, when, and whathaveme questions, generally speaking. Blog posts and reviews are my Top of Mind go-to reference. ;)    

As an I-am-back-to-blogging-yehey start, I will be blogging about all the places that I have been to from November 2012 until March 2014 which are as follows: 
(1) Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 
November 4-9, 2012
(2) Taipei, Taiwan
March 28-April 1, 2013
(3) Amanpulo 
April 27-29, 2013
(4) Singapore
February 22-26, 2014
(5) Camiguin-Bukidnon-CDO
March 12-15, 2014

I hope that I will be able to publish my first post this week and I hope that all of you still want to see my posts on your dashboards, to check them out, and not unfollow me. Haha. :'p 

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