Monday, January 23, 2017

Motykas in Asia 2016 Part 3 - Saigon

Our fourth day in was also our first full day with the Motykas on this trip. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) the night before and we took a taxi van from the airport to the hotel. I had read on TripAdvisor that it was best to take VinaSun taxi or Mai Linh taxi in Saigon so we opted for one of those.

I had booked The Luxe hotel through Agoda, located about a block away from the famous Ben Thanh Market. The taxi ride was short and inexpensive. Our first impression of the hotel area was that it kind of looked like a red light district at night. The next morning though, it looked totally normal and bustling with tourists and locals. We had a big breakfast at the hotel before we headed out.

Our first stop was the Ben Thanh Market. It was a large market full of vendors selling all kinds of items. Souvenirs, food, seafood, vegetables, electronics, clothes, accessories, cosmetics, you name it! Right at the entrance we parted ways and gave ourselves 45 minutes to explore before we had to meet again at the same spot.

These earrings were bought from this market. I managed to bargain the earrings down to half of their asking price, but now that I think back I feel that I still overpaid for them. Oh well, at least it didn't break the bank.

After the market we walked over to the Cathedral and the Post office located right across from each other. It was a hot day in Saigon.

On the way there, a coconut juice vendor started chatting with us and asking us questions. He was super friendly. Then without warning he put his stuff on DH's shoulders and suggested that I took a picture. I did, and we gave it back. Then with a quick movement he opened two coconuts and gave them to us even though we said no. Now we just had to buy! He had asked for about US $5 for each coconut to which I said no way! Even in restaurants I estimated it would cost a dollar or two each. In the end we settled on a price. We figured we'd consider it payment for the entertainment. :D

Soon after, we arrived at the Cathedral. We didn't go inside as the gates were closed.

Then, we crossed the road to the Post Office. Crossing the roads in Saigon was slightly easier than in Hanoi.

From there, we obliged to Miss Kiki's wish to see a pagoda. Again, we walked all the way there. The roads were not a busy as the way to the Cathedral. Saigon streets were packed with coffee shops. The number of coffee shops per block reminded me of Melbourne, Australia. We made several photo stops on the way, and also a coffee stop because I just had to have Vietnamese Coffee that day before it was too late!

We finally arrived at the Pagoda. There was a classic ride parked right by the gate. The boys just had to pose with it.

Inside the Pagoda complex, there was a strange tree with flowers growing out of its bark. Look how interesting the flowers were! How I don't have pictures of the Pagoda itself, I don't know. I guess after that long walk it was pretty anti-climactic.

It was lunch time and I wanted to finally have Southern Vietnamese Pho. I was so excited because this time I already had restaurant recommendations from my friend. We went to Pho Hoa Pasteur by Uber. It cost about a dollar for the trip. Why hadn't we thought of using Uber earlier! The eatery was very busy we were lucky to have gotten a table right away. The food was as good as I had imagined it to be so I was very satisfied. Yum! We all ate Pho and fresh spring rolls, but I think I ate the most compared to everyone else. Lol.

After having our tummies filled we took Uber back to the city centre and walked around. After a while, we decided to split up and meet again back at the hotel. In that area, the streets were decorated very nicely with lights and colours. We passed the Town Square, City Hall, the under-renovation Opera House, and of course, Starbucks.

In one of the buildings MM and I found a supermarket so we bought some tea and coffee from there to take home. I bought this Organic Bamboo Leaf Tea to try.

In the evening, we all but one went out for dinner. I chose a restaurant that had good ratings on Foursquare. It was called Ngoc Chau Garden. We took Uber to get there but had to get off the car before we reached the restaurant because the traffic was impenetrable. It was New Year's Eve after all. It felt like almost the whole town came out to that spot to celebrate.

We didn't make any reservations so we had to wait for a while. It was okay though, there were a lot of things to see on the street at that time. So busy!

We got a table on the second floor and I thought it was just as nice as the main floor. The service was good there, our server spoke decent English. We ordered a bunch of food and also decided to try their home made alcohol. One made from Mulberry and the other one made from another fruit I can't remember what it was. One of them tasted so bad that we asked them to exchange it. The food on the other hand was good. It wasn't spectacular, but nicely done.

Home made alcohol


Salad with dried fish

Tofu and mushroom
Fresh spring roll

By the time we finished our dinner the traffic got so bad we decided to not even try to get taxi or Uber to the hotel. We walked instead while Miss Kiki got a prime seat on DH's shoulders. Lucky girl!

In contrast to the previous year, this time we played it simple and had our own little NYE party in our hotel room. Hip hip hurraaaaah!