After nearly 2 months travelling we made it to Southeast Asia. Our first stop was Vietnam, for a few days in Saigon.
It was a great feeling to see the city coming into view from the plane window. It had been 3 years since we’d visited our favourite country and we’d been looking forward to coming back ever since.
We weren’t planning to do much sightseeing in Saigon, as we had been before. It was purely going to be a few days to meet up with Katy’s mum and partner, who were arriving for their holiday the same day, and also see some more of Katy’s family at their house in Saigon.
After we arrived at our guesthouse in Pham Ngu Lao, our first task was to make our way to Katy’s mums hotel, a mere 2km away, which we decided to walk in the extreme heat, not our best idea when taxis are so cheap in Vietnam. Rather sweaty, we eventually made it, and after a drink we headed to the family house in one of the outer districts of Saigon for a wonderful meal.
On our first day though we managed to go somewhere we didn’t manage last time – the War Remnants Museum.
It was absolutely fascinating, and very sad, though it is fairly low budget compared to some of the better museums.However for someone interested in the war like me, the photos and memorabilia are more than enough. It is of course very biased against the US, and could do with being a bit more balanced in places, but on the whole it is hard to argue too much – there is no denying there were plenty of atrocities committed against the Vietnamese people and they are still living with the legacy of them today.
In the evening we took a trip up the tallest tower in the city – the Bitexco financial tower. We decided to go for the Sky Bar rather than just pay for the viewing gallery, so we could enjoy the view with a drink.
It was a great view, though hampered slightly by the incredible loud pumping music…the Vietnamese interpretation of a bar is a little different from ours. Also a word of warning – drinks are not cheap, in fact they’re on a par with London prices. But with free entry, it’s well worth a visit.
On our second day we took a trip out of the city with Katy’s family, to Binh Chau eco resort near Ba Ria, a few hours southeast of Saigon. This is a quite a bizarre place to say the least. As the name suggests it is a resort where people can stay, but the main attraction is the various hot springs. There are a series of small 82 degree pools in which you can boil eggs, a 40 degree swimming pool and some 37 degree foot baths.
We started with the eggs. We’d bought some from a shop beforehand as we feared the eggs for sale on site would be really expensive. However the first thing you see are huge signs forbidding you from using your own eggs, so we had to be careful with our contraband. We hired a basket and lowered the eggs into the egg shaped well, and after about 20 minutes (which seems rather slow to boil an egg) they were finally ready. The anticipation was almost unbearable as everyone cracked them open and found they were slightly undercooked. Luckily there was plenty of other food such as Banh Bao (Vietnamese steamed buns) and Xoi (sticky rice with mung bean) to feast on.
After lunch we briefly looked at the steaming 40 degree swimming pool, which didn’t seem too appealing when it was 36 degrees outside already, before heading to the footbaths. These were actually pretty good, they’re supposed to soften all the hard skin on your feet. We spent a good half hour in them and it was a nice feeling when we got out.
For the afternoon we headed to the beach near Vung Tau for some relaxation. The beach itself wasn’t great but it was great fun for swimming, with loads of awesome waves to play in. Tired out, we begun the long journey back to Saigon.
So that was it, but I have to mention one more thing we spent a lot of time doing in Saigon – eating Banh Mi. If you don’t know what this is I’ll make it simple – it is the BEST sandwich in the world, no question. A fresh, soft yet crusty baguette filled with pork pate, pork roll, pork belly and sometimes dried shredded pork as well. Then topped with pickled carrot and mooli, coriander, cucumber, chilli and soy sauce, for the princely sum of 15,000 dong each (44p).
We’ve been obsessed with these for years, and always regretted not eating more last time we were in Vietnam. You can get them easily in London but you’re looking at £5-6 a pop, which diminishes the enjoyment somewhat. Needless to say, at that price we had one at every single opportunity in Saigon, while still trying to fit in some other Vietnamese food! The saddest thing is, I didn’t take a single photo of one! Will try to find one and add it to here.
Where We Stayed
After some bad experiences in the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao last time we stayed, we tried hard to find one with great reviews this time. And it paid off. We stayed at Ly Loan, which is in a small alleyway but close to loads of restaurants and shops. The room was large, spacious and clean, but the best part was the extremely friendly family who run it, especially the daughter, Phuong, who was so helpful and gave us loads of advice. Amazing guesthouse!