June 7, 2016
Wow! It’s already been 99 days since we’ve gone. Feels like we should do something special to celebrate our 100th day tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to the Mekong Delta area and staying in Can Tho for a couple of nights before coming back to HCMC.
This morning we got ready, grabbed coffee and juice from downstairs and something quick to eat, and went to find the breakfast stall that Chloe had recommended that served “com tam” (broken rice with grilled pork chop). She told us the stall closes around 10am so we should try to go early just in case. We didn’t make it out early enough because by the time we got there around 9:30am, we didn’t see a stall. We’ll try again tomorrow morning and go earlier. After our failed attempt at getting com tam, we walked to the War Remnants Museum.
The admission fee for the War Remnants Museum was 15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD/person. We spent about 2 hours at the museum going through each of the exhibit rooms and looking at all the photographs captured from the war. I enjoyed looking through the photographs and reading more about the photographers who went to Vietnam to document the Vietnam War. It’s very sad that the majority of them died while capturing photographs that we get to see today (Tim: Lots of photo descriptions include the note “last roll of film” as they came from the photographers’ cameras after they recovered their bodies). About half of the photographs were directly attributed to specific photographers and included their original comments that went with the photos when they were first published. These comments were fairly neutral for the most part. The remainder of the photographs had commentary written by the musem that was very anti-American. My least favourite room was the Agent Orange room which had dead baby fetuses in jars on display. The pictures of all who had been and are affected by Agent Orange was devastating, but I think having the jars of dead baby fetuses was a bit too much. I saw them from the corner of my eye and walked the other way.
While we were still looking around an announcement came on saying the museum would be closing at 12pm and would reopen at 1:30pm. We didn’t realize the museum closed midday, but it did sound like something that would happen since I read that Vietnamese people take lunch very seriously.
Since it was lunch time for everyone else, we decided to have lunch too. We walked to a banh mi stall, Banh Mi Sau Minh, that was recommended by one of Tim’s friends who said it was the best sandwich he’s ever had (Tim: and I take his recommendations seriously). With testimonials like that, it would be an insult not to give it a try ourselves. There were two banh mi sandwiches listed on their menu so we ordered one of each. The owner was really nice and gave us two bottles of a lychee gatorade type of drink and he said it was “no money”. Maybe it was because we looked super sweaty and dehydrated to him.
We took our sandwiches to go and ate in the park we passed by earlier in the day. It was nice and shaded and there were benches all over to sit. In one of the banh mi, he spread “laughing cow” cheese on the bread. It was different but complimented all the Vietnamese deli meat well. As we were just sitting on the bench enjoying the shade, huge gusts of wind swept through the park and all of a sudden it started to pour really hard. We opened up our umbrellas and headed back to the hotel. Even with umbrellas we were both pretty soaked.
We dried off and did a bit of planning for our upcoming few days. With the help from the lady downstairs, we booked our bus ticket to Can Tho (3.5 hour bus ride). The rain continued to come down really hard and we could hear lightning from our room. We headed out for an early dinner to try out another banh mi for our appetizer and finally had pho!
We read online that Banh Mi Hyunh Hoa is one of the more famous/popular banh mi shops in HCMC. It’s pretty close to our hotel and only a street over from the place we went to last night for dinner. We tried to walk by after the park earlier in the day but they didn’t open until 2:30pm (close at midnight). This time, we passed by and they were open. The shop had tons of scooters out front ordering sandwiches for dinner. We ordered one to share and stood across the street under cover while we ate. This banh mi was definitely more hefty than the other ones we had. It had a lot of different meats in it and we could feel the heat from the pickled chili peppers. I think this one was my favourite so far. It was most similar to the ones we have at home. So far, the banh mi that we’ve had so far didn’t have as many pickled vegetables and cilantro as I would like. 2 days in and we’ve had 4 fairly different banh mis already – so delicious!
We walked another 10 minutes in the rain in search of Pho Thanh Chanh. It was recommended by Chloe and also on one of the pho lists that Tim’s cousin, Nick, sent to us. It was also the closest one on that pho list to us so we went there.
Pho Thanh Chanh is a family run restaurant, which I’m guessing the majority of the restaurants in Vietnam are. The Mom is out front preparing bowls of pho and her daughter (probably 15 years old) takes orders and cuts up the limes and chilis, and her two younger sons (probably around 12 years old) deliver the pho to tables. Since we were eating quite early, the boys looked like they just got off school as they went to the back room, got changed and put on an apron. Tim ordered two bowls of the house special (dac biet) pho, one of the few terms Tim knows in Vietnamese. The soup and meat were all very delicious. There was a really good ratio of noodles, meat and broth.
We headed back to the hotel for the night and are continuing to plan out parts the upcoming month. I’m looking forward to seeing the Mekong Delta, experiencing more of the Vietnamese countryside, and getting out of the big city for a couple of days. I really like walking around cities but walking around HCMC gives me slight anxiety. Why don’t scooters and cars obey the cross walks?
Steps today: 14,000