Can Tho/Saigon (Day 102): Back to the Big City!

June 10, 2016

It was our last morning in Can Tho before heading back to Saigon (I’ll call it Saigon now instead of HCMC, since we’re in the south). The lady downstairs reserved seats for us on the 1pm Phuong Trang bus, so we had a bit of time to get something to eat for breakfast/lunch. We wanted to eat somewhere close by and both agreed that we wanted more of the Bun Bo Hue. The one bowl that we shared yesterday wasn’t enough.

Bun Bo Hue for breakfast
Bun Bo Hue for breakfast
Delicious soup and noodles (30,000 VND = $1.70 CAD)
Delicious soup and noodles (30,000 VND = $1.70 CAD)

We found a seat inside the restaurant this time and ordered two bowls. As we were eating, the ladies began packing up the soup for the day. It looks like they open for breakfast and then close during the day and probably open again at night. We’ve learned that almost all Vietnamese dishes that we’ve had can be eaten at all times of the day. There’s no distinct “breakfast food” or “dinner food” food. Tim and I both agreed that this Bun bo Hue has been our favourite noodle soup so far. It’s too bad it’s our last day in Can Tho. The broth is amazing, all the meat is cut to order, and the noodles are perfectly cooked. Tim drank his broth and mine (I usually stop drinking my soup when I don’t have any noodles left).

After a delicious brunch, we headed down the street to take a peak at “Saigon Bakery”. The hotel had a list of restaurants/shops close by that they like and the bakery was on the list. It looked good but it was just like a Chinese bakery with sweet buns. We were full from the noodles and didn’t really feel like buying anything for the bus ride. We went next door to a coffee shop and both got ice coffees instead. The man and woman at the coffee shop didn’t speak any English so we had to try to act out what we wanted (he understand that we wanted coffee but we had to describe ice coffee and to go). The girl behind the counter thought this was hilarious and was just standing behind him laughing. Tim asked for milk (“sua”) but the guy didn’t understand. Luckily Tim pulled out Google Translate and typed out milk to show the guy. Obviously Tim originally pronounced it incorrectly, so the guy didn’t understand. Then Tim showed him his phone and the guy said it properly and the girl started laughing harder. In the end we got what we wanted and everyone had a good laugh.

Ice Coffee with Milk (Can Phe Sua) - 15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD
Ice Coffee with Milk (Can Phe Sua) – 15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD
Waiting in the lobby for the shuttle bus
Waiting in the lobby for the shuttle bus

We headed back to the hotel and packed up and went downstairs to wait for our shuttle bus to the bus station. The shuttle bus finally came around 12:15pm (supposed to be at noon). There were already some passengers in the van when sat down. The bus driver went on to pick up 10+ people. The bus was super cramped (as per usual). We finally made it to the bus station at 12:55pm. We ran into the station to the Futa Bus counter to get our tickets. There was no line up. It was basically how aggressive can you be to get to the counter first. Since we ran directly into the building before a lot of others, I helped Tim block out people from the side so he could get in there first. Then I took his bags and stood back to get out of the crowd. Only one of us needed to be subjected to that. I sat back and took pictures.

Can you spot Tim's blue Canucks hat?
Can you spot Tim’s blue Canucks hat?

Our seats for this bus ride were 10 and 11, so we weren’t at the front of the bus for the ride back. This bus driver wasn’t as crazy with the horn as the other one we had, so the ride was a bit more enjoyable. It took closer to 4 hours to get back to Saigon because of traffic. There was really slow WiFi on the bus, so I spent the four hours sleeping a bit and then reading old blog posts. Taiwan seems like so long ago! I was reminiscing about the high speed trains in Taiwan and Japan while sitting on the bus. If Vietnam ends up building their high speed rail (eventually), the ride from Can Tho to Saigon would probably be less than an hour (171 km distance) instead of 4.

Tim mentioned that he feels like Vietnam, from what he’s seen so far, is what Taiwan was probably like in 20-30 years ago. Even now, while walking around Can Tho and Saigon, it does feel a bit like (a dirtier/chaotic) Taiwan. The street food culture, the look of many street restaurants, and all the scooters. Taiwan had a lot more scooters pre-MRT days and a lot more stray dogs just like Vietnam. Tim took some videos and will show his parents to see what they think.

We finally arrived at the chaotic Saigon Bus Station and didn’t want to take another one of the Phuong Trang shuttles so we just got into a Vinasun taxi (one of the honest/reputable cabs) and took it to the Platinum Hotel. The bus station is farther away from District 1 than the airport, so our cab fare was 150,000 VND = $8.50 CAD. We’ve taken two VinaSun taxis and both have been good/not sketchy at all. Their meters are actually legit!

We were welcomed back to Platinum Hotel and asked how Can Tho was. We’ll be staying here again for the next two nights (in the same room as before) before flying to Danang. We got the rooms for even cheaper this time at $28 CAD/night. We settled in and looked up a place to eat for dinner. One of our favourite Vietnamese dishes to eat at home are the dry vermicelli bowls with grilled meat and spring rolls (bun thit nuong) so that’s what we were going to have for dinner. We found a place that was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel so we set out to find it.

The restaurant’s name is Chi Thong and it was on Co Giang Street, which turned out to be a really cool street with a ton of street food. It was basically just locals walking around and we saw sugar cane juice for only 5,000 VND (half of what the price is usually in more touristy areas). We’ll probably keep this street in mind for future meals. We finally made it to the restaurant and sat down and ordered two “buns” and two spring rolls. The bowl was filled with fresh greens and herbs on the bottom and everything was super refreshing. The spring rolls were really delicious. I think we’ll go back again when we come back to Saigon at the end of our trip. Our dinner was 119,000 VND = $6.80 CAD for our two bowls, two spring rolls, and a soda.

Chi Thong on Co Giang St.
Chi Thong on Co Giang St.
We didn't get a break down of the price per item, but we think each bowl was 40,000 VND = $2.28 CAD and each spring roll was 15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD, and Tim's drink was 9,000 VND = $0.50 CAD
We didn’t get a break down of the price per item, but we think each bowl was 40,000 VND = $2.28 CAD, each spring roll was 15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD, and Tim’s drink was 9,000 VND = $0.50 CAD
Each bun came with 3 skewers of grilled pork and a huge bed of lettuce and herbs on the bottom. You pour fish sauce over the top and mix it together.
Each bun came with 3 skewers of grilled pork and a huge bed of lettuce and herbs on the bottom. You pour fish sauce over the top and mix it together. My favourite meal in Saigon.
Walking back to the hotel. So many scooters!
Walking back to the hotel. So many scooters!

We headed back to the hotel for the night, chilled out and watched some Vietnamese TV. Actually, there were a ton of English channels with Vietnamese sub titles. We watched “England & Ireland’s Next Top Model” and “Fast & Furious 7”. I’m starting to pick up on Vietnamese words… Mainly food and drink related. It’s a lot easier for English speakers to learn Vietnamese words since they use the same alphabet vs. many of the other Asian languages. It’s just the pronunciation is probably off but at least you can try to say the words.

It’s almost been a week since we’ve been in Vietnam and it’s been growing on me. The best thing here is definitely their variety of good food. I’ve enjoyed every meal we’ve had so far. It’s hard for me not to keep comparing it to Thailand since it’s the only other SE Asian country we’ve been to together. I’m actually enjoying the food in Vietnam more than Thailand (it’s also a bit cheaper for the most part), but I do think Thai people overall are much friendlier.

Steps today: 8,000

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