I was asked so many times which country did I enjoy the most during my Indochina trip, and without any hesitations I always answer “VIETNAM”. Not only that I have enjoyed their food, especially their coffee, but it is also a place where I can call myself a millionaire. Haha! Well, Vietnam has a lot to offer, from food to historical places down to the hospitality of the Vietnamese people. There’s so much to like about the country, and I have totally fell in love with it.
As a female traveler, going out alone takes a lot of risks. My mom have warned me so many times about going out of the country alone, even my friends asked me if I’m going nuts for backpacking solo. But neither of these has stopped me from traveling. A place has to be experienced, not just a simple like on Instagram or a share on Facebook.
I honestly didn’t feel alone in Vietnam even if I am traveling solo because the hospitality of the locals were just amazing. I met few Vietnamese who spared their time just to show me around. One of them is Hau, an International Economics student, who offered to pick me at the airport first thing in the morning. He didn’t mind the distance of the airport from down town, he also mentioned that he only had about 2 hours of sleep but he still came to pick me. I also met 2 amazing Vietnamese girls (Maggie and Grace) who I was with the whole day. They made me feel like a local trying their delicacies, they told me things about their culture while having a cold Saigon beer. It’s like I’ve known them for years, and I am so thankful that I met these girls.
And if you think that it’s only a place to gain Vietnamese friends, well guess what? I’ve met Dutch, Taiwanese, Brazilian, German, Colombian and Korean during my stay. There are a lot of travelers in Vietnam, you just have to go out and make friends. Don’t be shy to start a conversation, and just be spontaneous.
One thing that I liked about Vietnam is their culture, it has been preserved in such a way that you can see a piece of their history in every corner of the country. Some of their old traditions are still lived and followed by the locals.
Non La, an Asian conical hat that is known in Vietnam. Locals still use this especially when going around to protect them from the sun, and most of the foreigners who visited Vietnam has probably tried wearing one of this as well. Another is the Ao Dai, a tight-fitting dress worn over pants. My Vietnamese friend who was raised in the US told me that she still uses it. I remember her telling me she’d wear it to work which surprised me cos most of the traditional dress from other countries are only worn during special occasions. It’s amazing how some people are still wiling to practice traditions that have past lived their lives.
PLACES WHERE I LEFT MY HEART
Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon, is a young and busy city. You can see how it was westernized by the influence of the French through the colonial architectures in the city. However, it has remained to have its own taste despite the colonization that has happened to the country.
The tourists spots in HCM are just near each other so if walking is your friend, then you’ll save bucks from renting a bike or taking a cab. Here are few of the things that you can see in the city.
Since it has always been my tradition to visit a catholic church whenever I am in a new place, Notre-dame is on the list. The church was made during the French colonial and its design aims to show the influence the French colonization. Even the materials used were directly imported from France.
In front of the Cathedral is the Virgin Mary status which is said to have shed tears back in 2005.
SAIGON CENTRAL POST
The post office is just across Notre-Dame cathedral so it’s likely to be visited at the same time. Its classic design is just fascinating. This isn’t your typical post office where you send letter, but you’ll see cool stuff inside too!
Like ATMs that are inside a telephone box stand. There are also agencies where you can book your tour and vendors who sell things to give as pasalubong like fridge magnet and shirts.
SAIGON OPERA HOUSE
My Vietnamese friend told me that during Sundays there are street musics played infront of the theater but unfortunately, we arrived late for it. They usually play at around 7 in the morning.
REUNIFICATION PALACE (Independence Palace)
The Independence palace is a not-to-be-missed during your visit in Ho Chi Minh. It isn’t much used for government functions anymore, but it’s now open as a tourist destination. They are open everyday, 8am-11am and 1pm-4pm. Entrance fee is 30,000 dong. It is big enough that it will take you about an hour or two to go around and see the whole place.
HO CHI MINH CITY HALL
Unfortunately, the city hall is not open to public BUT you can still take thousand of instagram-worthy photos outside. The city hall looks better at night as it is surrounded with lights but would also be surrounded with a lot of tourist. I was there in the morning which only had at least 2 more people aside from me.
PHAM NGU LAO (Backpacker’s street)
If you are a party person, likes night life and drinking, Pham Ngu Lao is a good spot for you. Most of the bars and chill places are found in the backpacker’s street. This area is also where you can find cheap hostels, and most backpackers are staying here. The street name makes sense.
FOOD IS MY FIRST LOVE!
What to eat is an easy question to answer when in Vietnam. Food is something that I really enjoyed during my stay in Ho Chi Minh, not only that it is cheap but all are sumptuous, you’ll get more than what you’ve paid for.
The VIETNAMESE COFFEE is very popular in Vietnam. It’s a strong black coffee that is sweetened with a condensed milk. As a coffee lover, I like how the bitterness and the sweetness of the two main ingredients compliments each other. It’s also easy to find as most of the stores sell this kind of coffee, it’s literally everywhere!
BANH MI is also one of the famous sandwiches in the country. It’s made of a baguette that is loaded with ham, sausage, liver spread, vegetables, and some cheese. I tried it once in the Philippines but the legitly made in Vietnam Banh mi was really good.
PHO is also a must try! It’s a noodle soup made of broth, herbs, meat and noodle rice called Banh Pho.
And you can also have it with SPRING ROLLS and a cold coconut juice which is my favorite. I highly recommend eating at the Ben Thanh street food which is just behind Ben thanh market. Cheap with a lot of food varieties to choose from.
If you’re more of the adventurous person who wants to try exotic foods, add SNAILS on your list. Snails in Vietnam are cooked in a lot of ways. The one that I’ve tried was sauted in oyster sauce, garlic and some spices. It’s sweet and spicy which goes well with the Saigon beer.
I must say all the Vietnamese food are appetizing. I’ve also had some local desserts in Thanh Binh store which are just mouth watering. The store is located at Le Thanh Ton street. I tried 3 different desserts which was recommended to me and I loved it so much that I even tried to find some in the Philippines.
BANH FLAN is like the Filipino leche flan but instead of caramelized sugar, they add coffee and ice with it.
CHE SEN NHAN, this one is new to me. It’s a lotus seed and longan with crashed ice and caramelized sugar. Its somewhat similar to the Filipino Halo-halo but it was my first time to try lotus seed. 5/5 for this dessert!
RAU CAU DUA, is a 3-layer gelo inside a coconut. The gelos has different textures and colors. If you love coconut meat, you need to try this.
These are just few of the things that I love about Vietnam. And if you’re planning to visit the country, make sure to add these on the list as it is highly recommend especially the FOOD!!!