STOP 3 | Day 7 to 10 |
Much to A’s delight it cost about the same to fly from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) versus taking the train, so for everyone’s sanity (mostly J’s) we flew. Once arriving we took the local bus ($0.50USD for both of us) to our hotel which was located near Ben Thanh Market in District 1. You could quickly see how HCM is the largest city in Vietnam by population, including the metropolitan area it consists of approximately 10 million people (with about 7.5 million motorbikes!). Our first food stop was for some pho at Pho Quynh – which of course did not disappoint. After wandering the city for the rest of the day we ended up at Bep Me In for dinner. The restaurant is located in the back of an alley and gives off a “street food” experience vibe, without the concern about sanitary conditions! Although it caters more to a touristy crowd the prices are reasonable and we enjoyed our first Bánh Tráng Nướng (Vietnamese pizza), it was delicious!
The next day we spent on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels (approximately 1 hour outside HCM). Travel Tip – when booking tours the prices vary considerably ($5USD-$25USD) depending on the size of group. Larger groups can be approximately 20-30 people where as a “luxury” group would be around 10. There are tons of tourist information stores in HCM where you can compare vendors/times/prices for various tours. The tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels was very informative as to the country’s history and many years of war. J managed to squeeze into an entrance into the tunnel (barely… shouldn’t have done shoulders at the gym the day before), we saw the various booby traps used by the Viet Cong and had the experience of “crawling” through the tunnels (albeit we only lasted 20 meters). J was disappointed to learn that the shooting range was shut down just the past week, our tour guide noted that guns are heavily regulated in Vietnam (even the police generally do not carry guns) and as such the government stopped allowing bullets to be supplied to the firing range. Back in HCM we enjoyed an amazing banh mi at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa , you can tell it was a local favorite as you had to be a bit aggressive to order as there isn’t much of a queue. It was worth the jostling though as the sandwich was loaded with layers of meat (although A accidentally ate one of the green peppers which lit her mouth on fire and brought on a few tears). For dinner we walked by Quan No.96 – Lau & Nuong (which means Hotpot & Grill) and was intrigued as it was packed. Looking at the menu though it was all in Vietnamese, luckily the owner spoke English and was more than happy to guide us through the ordering process (chatting with him we also found out he was born in Montreal!). It was great to enjoy a local eatery.
We spent Day 9 on a full day Mekong Delta tour. On route to My Tho (about 1 hour southwest of HCM) we stopped at Vinh Trang Temple where there is huge Laughing Buddha statue (Budai). We then took a boat to Dragon Island where we were shown how the locals make coconut candies. A horse and cart then took us to our lunch stop, which also oddly had an animal area with crocodiles, porcupines and snakes. After lunch we headed to Unicorn Island and visited a bee farm, tasted the honey in a lemon tea, took a picture with a phython, ate some fruit while listening to local performance of Vietnamese songs and instruments and finally took a bamboo boat ride back to our boat. Overall, although the day was pretty touristy for $11USD (for two people) it was a good trip to check out the Mekong area. We also met a few fellow Canadians who kindly invited us for dinner that night with their local friends!
Our last day in HCM was spent wandering around the city, we stopped at the War Remnants Museum – which was very educational and heartbreaking to see, especially the depiction of the impact of Agent Orange used by the US during the Vietnam war. That evening after the gym we stopped by Ben Thanh Street Food Market for dinner where we tried Banh Khot (miniature pancakes of rice flour and coconut milk served with herbs and vegetables and spicy sweet fish sauce for dipping).