June 11, 2016
We both got a better night sleep at the Platinum Hotel than we did in Can Tho. It helped that we had more than just a thin blanket when the A/C was on all night. We didn’t have much planned today in terms of sightseeing. Saigon doesn’t have that many “must see” attractions around the city. The ones that we thought were important to see, we already saw on our first two days here. Since we didn’t have a set plan, we planned our day around what restaurants and food we wanted to try. We went downstairs for a quick breakfast and some juice before starting our walk to our first food stop, Tay Ho.
The walk to Tay Ho was about 20 minutes or so. We passed through Dong Khoi and Notre Dame again (the nicer areas in Saigon).
Tay Ho has been around since the 1960’s and specializes in “banh cuon”, which is a rice roll filled with ground pork, shallots, and minced wood-eared mushrooms. Banh Cuon is originally from Northern Vietnam, but we heard good things about Tay Ho so we wanted to give it a shot. We just ordered one “dac biet” (special) to share (they give you a menu with prices), and it was plenty for the two of us. It was really tasty and was quite filling. We dipped the banh cuon in the fish sauce that was on the table (they had a jug on the table).
When we sat down they put cold wet wipes on our table to use. So far we haven’t been charged while in Saigon to use them so we opened them and wiped our hands and neck. When it was time to pay, they charged us for them (3,000 VND each). So now we will never use them again! I’ll bring the wet wipes I bought from Australia with me from now on.
Our next stop was another pho restaurant, called Pho Phuong 25. We read on a couple of blogs about the restaurant and it was also recommended by a friend. It’s just down the street from “The Lunch Lady”, so we were already familiar with the area and how to get there. We walked along the Saigon River, and were actually the only ones (as far as our eyes could see) walking along the water. I guess it’s way too hot to be walking around at 11am.
Once we got to Pho Phuong 25, we decided to just share a bowl of pho. We knew we wouldn’t be able to finish a bowl ourselves since we just had banh cuon about 30 minutes ago. Tim ordered the “dac biet”, which is usually our go to thing to order since it’s their house special, and if we’re going to order one thing the house special is a good choice. We also shared a Vietnamese soda, which turned out to be sarsaparilla. The pho came shortly after and the bowl was quite hefty and full of a variety of brisket, beef balls, tendon, and braised animal part that we weren’t sure of (but it was very tender). It was good that we shared because I could barely eat half of it. We both thought the pho was better than the one we had on our second night at Pho Thanh Canh.
We decided to head back to the hotel for our afternoon reprieve from the scorching sun. On our way back we shared an iced milk coffee (14,000 VND = $0.80 CAD) and then passed by our orange juice lady from our first day in Saigon. She recognized us and suggested the passionfruit juice. We agreed and then also ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice (both 10,000 VND = $0.57 CAD). As we were leaving she said she’ll see us again soon. So I guess we’ll be coming back in July! Her juices are really good and she makes them (cuts the fruit infront of you) on the spot as opposed to a lot of street vendors we passed by already who have the passionfruit in the cup and ready to have ice and water mixed in.
Originally we thought we would go to this fried chicken and rice place for lunch but we were full and the sun was getting pretty unbearable so we decided to save that for dinner tonight.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed by Ben Thanh Market again. Since we were going to be in SE Asia for another month and a bit, I bought a hat. I regretted not bringing a hat from home for this portion of the trip but I guess this makes for my Vietnamese souvenir. I ended up buying a bamboo fedora from a stall at the market. I tried on a bunch of sizes and finally found one that fit me properly. The girl working asked me if I was Vietnamese. I said no and she said I looked Vietnamese. So far on this trip, two Vietnamese people have told me they thought I was Vietnamese. One today and one from the Vietnamese restaurant in Adelaide. Any how we bargained and I got my hat for 40% of what she was asking for originally. I’m a really bad bargainer so luckily Tim was there to make me “walk away” before she called us back with a much lower price.
We stayed inside for the remainder of the afternoon (as locals do), worked on the blog and I researched more about the Hanoi portion of our trip. We booked our hotel for Hanoi and narrowed down which boat tour we were going to go with for Halong Bay. We’re deciding to splurge for the Halong Bay boat tour and take a 3 day 2 night cruise with a highly rated (on Trip Advisor) company. We heard horror stories about the cheaper ones, so I’d rather pay more to be comfortable, especially on a boat. Vietnam has been really cheap so far so it’ll be a nice treat.
After a productive and restful afternoon, we headed out for dinner. The chicken place we wanted to go to was about a 25 minute walk from our hotel. The restaurant is called, “Quon Com Ga Xoi Mo Su Su”, which has a really interesting way they fry their chicken. The owner created a one of a kind deep fryer than is basically like a waterfall of oil that crisps the chicken. All the chicken has already been cooked once but before it’s served, it goes through the oil waterfall and then served with rice and a really good brown sauce (which we have no idea what it was). They have a choice between a leg and thigh or a wing and breast. We memorized what the dark and white meat options were called but when we got there they only had the wing and breast left. White meat is always the leftover meat in Asia.
We both ordered our own dish this time and lucky we did because everything was super delicious. It reminded me of crispy skin chicken at Chinese restaurants except it was juicier and piping hot as it came straight out of the oil waterfall. They had wet wipes on the table but we didn’t touch them, but at least the menu on the table said they were 1,000 VND each. After we ordered the waiter came by again and said “rings”. We were confused and weren’t sure what he was saying, he said it again and we were just like, sorry, we don’t understand. Then he left. Then a second later, I realized what he was trying to say. He was saying, “drinks”! Oh well.
I would go back there again for their chicken, maybe for lunch when they have dark meat left. We headed back towards the hotel and wanted to find coconut ice cream for dessert. We basically looked at a food tour itinerary and googled where to find certain dishes. On the way to the chicken place, we passed by an ice cream shop that looked crowded and it was exactly the dessert we were planning on getting (at another location farther away), so this worked out well.
The dessert place was called, Ca-Rem. It looked like a more hip restaurant and probably the nicest restaurant/cafe we’ve eaten in our entire time in Vietnam so far. We shared one of the coconut ice creams and it was delicious! If we go again, I would want my own. The coconut cream ice cream comes in a half coconut shell that has all its flesh scraped to eat, fried coconut flakes, corn, palm fruit, sticky rice, and peanuts. The inspiration behind Ca-Rem is Thai coconut ice cream. When we were in Thailand, we had this quite a bit from street vendor but it wasn’t as fancy. This was definitely a more refined version of the ones we had in Thailand (for only $1 CAD or less). The waitress gave us a glass of what we thought was water and it turned out to be coconut water from the hollowed out shell. At first I thought it was just regular water so I drank it and realized it was coconut water. There are only two items on the menu: ice cream and coconut water. After I drank it, I was like oh no, I didn’t want to pay for it (15,000 VND = $0.85 CAD, I know it’s not much), but it was too late. But then after we paid, it turns out that was included in the price (phew!).
We passed by a Missha (Korean cosmetic store that I bought a lot of stuff from in Seoul), so I went inside to see what the prices were like. I expected it to be on par with the prices in Korea since they were pretty cheap and most things in Vietnam are cheap. But after seeing the price of the face cream I bought, I was very wrong. I paid $12 CAD for a face cream in Seoul and it was $50 CAD here! Face masks were $2.40 CAD each, and less than a dollar in Seoul (when they were on sale). Missha and Korean products are definitely for the more wealthy Vietnamese people. We noticed there are a lot of Korean restaurants and cafes here. There’s a Tous les Jours, which is from Korea. I remember going into one and thinking it was overpriced and left, so when we went into one here, I had deja-vu since I did the exact same thing.
We’re back at the hotel for our last night in Saigon before coming back here in July (before heading home!). The hotel left some Vietnamese snacks for us with a note saying that they hope we enjoyed our stay in Vietnam. That’s nice of them! We washed up (basically have two showers a day here) and I ate the rambutans that they gave us for our welcoming fruit.
We’re heading to central Vietnam tomorrow and looking forward to seeing a different part of the country. Our flight is at 1pm tomorrow, so we’ll probably just have an easy morning and then head to the airport!
Steps today: 20,000