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blue pin: visited; yellow pin: transit;

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) - Singapore

After we had our breakfast, we went to visit the clothing shops nearby. There were so many of them but the better ones were those imported clothes from Korea or European countries and they were quite expensive. The rest were selling fake Guess, Versace, D&G and so on. We saw one t-shirt with LV logo and D&G word together. I should have taken the photo hehehe..

It was too late when I discovered a shop at Zen Plaza selling clothes of local designers. Those were quite nice and unique.

Actually I didn't expect much from HCMC, I watched a travel documentary before I came and it didn't look interesting. But when I arrived here and experienced the food, culture, the architecture and the people, my heart grew fonder. At first we thought HCMC was like Medan (my hometown), but gradually we upgraded it to Jakarta. :) It wasn't like Jakarta yet, but it has the potential to be one.

The traffic here was chaotic, I don't think Singaporean dares to cross the road here. Some won't stop even the traffic light turns red. You just need to have faith to take the first step (like Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and the motorcyclists will manoeuvre around you and you will get across safely. I also saw the greatest number of motorcyclists here.

Who needs a car?

Motorcyclists rule!

If you think you are an experienced electrician, you could apply a job here.

How come there is a wheel up there?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City

We joined a half day city tour to visit Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnel was at Cu Chi district which is about one and a half hour from HCMC. We booked it from our hotel and it cost USD 5 per person. I just couldn't believe it to be so cheap!! Last night I saw the brochure of the same tour for Japanese market, it cost USD 35. Just a word of caution, don't bother to buy in advance from the internet, they were all above USD 30. There are also plenty tour operators along the backpackers area (Pham Ngu Lao) offering it which we didn't know until that day.

We had a stop at the lacquer wares factory midway to Cu Chi. It really took the artist a lot of time to finish one piece of art. I saw these lacquer wares at Ben Thanh market too and it wasn't that expensive. Unless they were not handmade anymore then it make sense.

Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnel is the huge underground maze that used by the Vietnamese guerrillas as their living quarters when they had war against the American. The tunnel had medical facilities, supplies and weapon warehouse, they could even cook inside there!! It was 200 km long and three levels deep with some parts under the American quarters.

The flag of Vietnam and photo of Ho Chi Minh

Booby trap with bamboo spikes

Not as simple as what you see here

A big fat centipede

The tank

Nasty booby traps

We could even try shooting experience with guns like AK-47.

Bullets for sale, 5 for SGD 10.

The making of rice paper. Used mainly for spring rolls.

Dried under the sun

The highlight of the tour was to go inside the tunnel. It is only about 1.5 m high, which is only high enough to squat. Some parts of tunnel is completely pitch dark which made you growing with fears. To make it even harder, there are steps but we couldn't see them. We were in for about 5 minutes, but completely sweating all over. Our legs even went soft when we tried to come up afterwards. (The leg pain only goes away 4 days later, what a work out!) Could you imagine how hard life for them in the past?

This is definitely scarier and harder than go inside the Egypt Pyramid.

Enjoying sweet potato with tea

The old bombs

Com Tam Cali
After came back from Cu Chi, we had our lunch nearby the hotel.

Rice with 7 flavours

Rice noodle with spring rolls and grilled pork

Lime juice, avocado with wheat grass, and sour plum juice

It was another good lunch. :D

Saigon river
We took a cab to Saigon river and continue our sightseeing. Not much to see here.

Dinner cruise

From the riverside we walked back towards the city center. We were going back to that restaurant that was closed yesterday which is the highlight meal of our trip here.

Before the trip, I have already thought our trip will not be complete without going to one of the French restaurant in HCMC. So here we are. :)

Grilled duck confit

Rabbit with red wine

I even thought that this could be the cheapest French restaurant in the world hehehehe... and so far it is...

The food was really great, the duck was so crispy on the outside and soft inside. And as for the rabbit, I could taste that the meat was completely soaked in wine. It was a perfect evening to mark the end of our trip here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City

Giac Lam Pagoda
The oldest pagoda in Saigon, built in 18th century. Totally overrated, nothing much to see here and it is so far away from the city center.

Binh Tay market
A wholesale market in Cholon (Chinatown area). I love the hats section, they came in so many varieties. Never see so many hats before in my life.

Binh Tay market


I don't know that LV also make helmets. ;)

More LVs in different colours.

Adidas too!!

Snack paradise

We had our lunch at a coffee shop in Chinatown recommended by Lonely Planet. According to the book, every dish here only cost about SGD3-4. The place looked so old with no air-con and it cost us SGD 23. It was a rip-off!!

The weather was so hot and humid, we decided to head back to hotel for shower, had a rest and continued our sightseeing in the evening.

Sightseeing Part II
We walked towards the Reunification Palace and passed by this condo below. It is one of the best I've seen in the city.

Concert Hall opposite the condo

Reunification Palace
The palace is named after the merge of North and South Vietnam.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The side view of the cathedral

The interior

These people were also attending the mass.

Central Post Office
Located next to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The interior

The People's Committee (Hotel de Ville)

Vietnam was once colonized by French, that's why the buildings here have distinctive style of European architecture.

The shopping malls

Other than the Pagoda, all the landmarks are in the city center and within walking distance from one to another. We had a wonderful time visiting these places.

But afterwards, we had a very long walk to find three restaurants, also recommended by Lonely Planet. One was closed that day, and the other two has been closed down. :( So in the end we took a cab back and had dinner at the ice cream cafe next to our hotel.

This was so yummy, fried rice with crab meat (not crab stick), a big chunk of fried chicken fillet, prawns, omelette and decorated with strawberries. It only cost SGD 4 with free flow of ice tea!! We finished our dinner with gelato. SGD 1.20 for each scoop. How to get it in Singapore??