Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Sunday, November 6, 2011

City Tour - Saigon (District 1 Only), Day 1

I came up with this draft of itinerary prior to the visit of my two girlfriends.  Two plus one becomes three, it could be the three musketeers or Charlie’s Angels, whatever name we can call this trio, it is sure that they would have fun exploring the city.

"Draft of Itinerary" for the City Tour in Saigon (District 1 Only)

Karena pesan sponsor dari teman-teman adalah pengen jalan-jalan di kota, foto-foto, lihat-lihat souvenir, ngopi-ngopi, wisata kuliner, jadilah jadwal dadakan ini dibuat.  They have indicated their interests of what they wanted to do in Saigon such as walking around the city, taking pics, windows shopping for the souvenir, enjoying coffee and having local culinary experience, then this ‘draft of itinerary’ was made.  I still call it ‘draft’ as it is adjustable depending on the travel mood and everyone curiosity on how many places to be conquered in a day.

Please notice that all of the tourist attractions visited below are all in District 1.  They are in the city center.  Most places are within walking distance.

Day 1

Meeting point was their hotel’s lobby which was near Ben Thanh Market.  I introduced my friends to Mr. Vinasun who became our driver for that day!  I brought all the notes of where we planned to go, especially its Vietnamese names, to make it easy for Vinasun taxi driver to take us.

Pho 24

We started the day with at Phở 24.  Why Phở?  Phở is very identical with Vietnam. It is Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà).   The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Vietnamese basil, mint leaves, lime, bean sprouts and if you like sour and spicy you can add lemon and chili to the soup. Yummy….  Enak….  By the way, talking about chili; cabe rawit ijo (green small chili) like the ones in Indonesia does not exist here. However, cabe rawit merah (red small chili) exists and it is hotter than Indonesian’s ones.

Pho Ga = Chicken Pho

Local coffee is no doubt so good. First introduction to Vietnam through F&B like Phở and coffee especially the Vietnamese iced coffee with milk (cà phê sữa đá) is perfect.

We went to the Phở restaurant in Nguyen Du Street which is near to the Cathedral – Notre Dame.   It is strategic location because after our stomach was full, we could walk to the Notre Dame, looked inside the Cathedral which was open in the morning, it was beautiful.

Front part (left). Back part (right)

Second destination is the Central Post Office.  Why Post Office?   That’s the common reaction that I got from people.  Pic will tell everything, so take a look at these beautiful pics…

Front part (left). Inside part (right). Yes, that's me and my girlfriend!

Inside the Post Office, there are two souvenir shops (fixed price shop) that offer many types of local handicrafts, lacquers, some girlish jewelry, T-shirts, etc.  After comparing the souvenirs in these shops and the stuff at the Ben Thanh market, we agreed that the souvenirs here are better quality and have better designs.  In terms of price, quality and design pay the price. For the same stuff at the Ben Thanh market, the stuff here is slightly higher.  It was too early to shop, so we did the window shopping only.

Inside parts of the Post Office

Walking and walking, that was our activity on that day.  Passing the garden on the way to the Reunification Palace is relaxing.  Taking pics from this garden area is fun.  There is a spot where we could have the street names on top of our heads, Notre Dame on the right side and Diamond Plaza on the left side.  It is a perfect view of old and modern buildings.

The two restaurants in front of the park. Both have fresh outdoor chairs.

Walking on this side, we could see two restaurants on the left side.  One is specializing in the creperie and the other one is a French bistro.  Both have nice outdoor concept facing the garden.  As Indonesian in Vietnam, I like this concept very much.  It is my favorite place for weekend brunch.  In Indonesia, outdoor concept facing big garden is not easy to find.

Reunification Palace

By the time we arrived at the Reunification Palace, it was unfortunately during the lunch break. So we could only take pics from outside, which was still not bad.  Best spot to take pic is to wait until the wind blows the flag on top of the palace…. Then you get a nice background.
Can you see the flag on top of my head?

We proceed to the Zoo and Botanical Garden by taxi.  Target is to visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum History and the Temple of King Hung Vuong* Please refer to separate posting “Museum s– Part 1 (Saigon)” in this blog.  We took pics from the front part of the Museum and Temple.  We could not get in as it was lunch break.

Ho Chi Minh City Museum History (left). Temple of King Hung Vuong (right).

So it was a good excuse to have our lunch break as well.  Decision was to have local food, in a different ambiance, not a boring place i.e. in a building and preferably unique.  In Indonesia, it is uncommon to find a restaurant in an alley.  Venue is very critical when it comes to restaurant location, having a restaurant in a hidden place like an alley, the image might be questionable. 

So, we took a taxi to Hai Ba Trung Street.  There is an area where after the front gate called The Refinery we can see some restaurants.  As a first-timer passing Hai Ba Trung, we would not notice that inside this gate there is a rather big alley or a pass heading a complex of good restaurants.  But once we find this place, me, I go back here more than a few times.  PS:  location is next to the Park Hyatt Hotel.

There are 2-3 western restaurants, one Japanese restaurant, one Vietnamese restaurant and one Lebanese restaurant to be opened soon.  Most restaurants have both indoor and outdoor areas.  The unique thing about the place, it used to the opium refinery during the French colonialism.  Isn’t it cool?  #Sesuatu….

Grill chicken (left). Vegetable (some kind of flower) sauteed. Crackers.

So, the three musketeers enjoyed their lunch at Hoa Tuc Vietnamese restaurant.  They sat outside under the tent and plants, strengthened their legs, had cold fresh drinks, ate local dishes, touched up their make ups and discussed where to go next…

The nearest tourist attraction place nearby is the Opera House in Dong Khoi Street, and that’s we’re heading.  It was a shiny day and we were there around 2pm!  The sun did not discourage girls from posing like the Next American Top Model, LOL.

Opera House

Dong Khoi is a must visit street for visitors.  It is quite enjoyable walking around this street for window shopping.  I felt like walking in Orchard Road a la Saigon #smile.  There are many souvenir shops along the street.  We stopped at a girlish shop selling so many handicraft, cute pouch, beauty case, etc.

Dong Khoi Street and the shops

Shopping Part 1 was completed.  We then continued to the next place….

It was so fun visiting the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum with girls…  We took a taxi from Hai Ba Trung Street to Museum which is located near the Ben Thanh Market.  It is a lovely old building with beautiful paintings and of course it is a perfect place to take gorgeous pics.  * Please refer to separate posting “Museum s– Part 1 (Saigon)” in this blog.

Beautiful building of the Fine Art Museum

We did a trial to cross the street at the opposite of the museum toward Le Cong Kieu.  Just to check what they have there.  It is a small street, a joint Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street and Pho Duc Chinh Street.  There are antique shops along this street offering an abundant choice of antique from colonial and pre-colonial times.  It is quite interesting street.  In my home town Jakarta, there is a similar concept whereby there are many antique shops all along Jalan Surabaya-Menteng.

Ben Thanh Market

The closing agenda for Day 1 was to visit Ben Thanh Market as Shopping Part 2.  We just crossed the busy street et voila!  A good way to end the day by shopping at Ben Thanh!  * Please refer to separate posting “Ben Thanh Market” in this blog.

Day 2 – to be continued in a separate posting i.e. “Pagoda” and its good luck myth.

No comments:

Post a Comment