Our first time visiting Vietnam was awesome.
We had the most amazing 3 days in Ho Chi Minh, full of super delicious food, hanging out with new friends, shopping, and street photography. I thought it would be fun to share our experiences there and maybe give some useful pointers to some of you who have never visited and would like to (maybe one day) check it out. And of course share a bunch of photographs that we took while we were there...I'll be dividing this post into 3 sections: 1) Planes, Cars, Rooms, and Visas, 2) Food, and 3) Street Photos. :)
Anyways, time to talk about traveling!
1) Planes, Cars, Rooms, and Visas
It cost us $300 round trip for the 2-hour flight from Singapore to HCM on Jetstar which is pretty reasonable...we took the 7am flight out on Saturday and returned on Monday at 12.30am. :) You'll want to check if you need a visa to visit. We got ours easily through Vietnam Visa Pro which turned out to be reliable. After you land in HCM you have to line up for a visa at the counter (costs an additional $45 each on top of Visa Pro's fees) upon which you go through immigration. Visa Pro offers an express service for $15/person which is probably worth it if you are arriving at a peak hour otherwise I could imagine you might end up waiting a few hours to get your visa (they have guys wait for you at the airport and do all your visa processing for you).
We also booked a studio through Airbnb at just $50/night with Thu. Just $50/night gets you a newly renovated studio setup with everything you need right in the heart of District 1, in the middle of the city. Highly recommended. Thu turned out to be this really cool Vietnamese guy from Boston who bought out the entire apartment block and rents out a bunch of rooms, some on long-term lease and some through Airbnb. He took care of us throughout the trip and was extremely helpful. The other tenants there were mostly from Australia and the US, and we ended up making friends with some of them and hanging out, which made for some great times!
Cab ride from the airport was just $10. We found that cab rides were way cheaper to book through Uber (you can get an unlimited SIM card for like $10 at the airport) and on average we were paying just $1-$2 (yes $1-$2) for Uber cab rides to get from point to point through the city! That turned out to be really important because to get to and from all the places in the city you’ll want to cab it pretty much anywhere - public transport is practically nonexistent and walking between districts is too far.
Ok now on to the fun part haha...
We only had a few days to check out everything so we were locked in on trying the best of the main Vietnamese staples as much as we could. That meant trying to find the best pho, banh mi, broken rice, and iced coffee! We couldn’t believe that all the food we tried was so cheap - about $5 or less including drinks for 2 of us. The only exception was the pork chop broken rice at Com Tam Nguyen Van Cu which was about $10, but that was definitely more than worth it. Here’s a rundown of the our favorite joints:
Pho Le @ 413 Nguyen Trai Street - This was easily the best pho we tried in HCM, hands down (thanks David for the rec!). The broth has this awesome sweet kick that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Nowhere else really comes close. Plus the lady who owns the shop is like 50+, collects all the cash and holds it in her hand in one humongous stack…while rocking the most giant diamond bling necklace. How awesome is that.
Cafe Vy @ 277A Le Thanh Ton - The coffee here is nothing short of phenomenal. I had 2 glasses and they were just 90 cents each. Plus it’s an awesome hangout spot. We ended up running into a Harry, a Vietnamese guy from Orange County, who told us that this was the absolute best spot for Viet coffee.
Com Tam Nguyen Van Cu @ 167 Nguyen Van Cu - Easily my favorite restaurant in all HCM, and the foodie highlight of our trip. In 3 days, we went back 3 times, and I had 5 plates of pork chop broken rice. They grill the pork chops outside on the sidewalk over charcoal. Our buddy Andrew called this ‘some next level pork chop’ - it is incredibly juicy, tender, and has the marinade they use is some next level marinade. This is the one dish that will make me want to go back to HCM. The place has been around 20 years in the same spot but will be moving location down the street in a few months opposite the KFC. Also, I should mention that if you’re having a broken rice craving, I wouldn’t recommend going to the chain stores like Com Tam Moc or Com Tam Cali. We tried them and their pork chops were as flat and dry as a McDonald’s hamburger patty. Com Tam Nguyen Van Cu is the real deal, and I reiterate, a next level pork chop. :)
63 Ltr Coffee @ 63 Le Thi Rieng - Another 90 cent coffee joint (can’t believe the stuff is so cheap!). Compared to Cafe Vy, the coffee here is a much smoother blend. If you like your coffee more powerful, you’ll want Cafe Vy, but if you prefer something that won’t get you as wired then this place is it.
Banh Mi Heo Quay Lien Thai @ 95 Tran Dinh Xu - You won’t be able to find this place online but luckily I captured the address - it’s in green on the cart below haha…much props to Andrew/Danica/Adam for taking us here as it’s down a side street and we would definitely never have found the place otherwise. To give you a bit of background, banh mi comes in either a roast pork, bbq pork, or cold cut variety. This one is of the roast pork variety and each roll is filled to the brim with pork crackling which makes the sandwich crunch with every bite. This is some next level banh mi and I can’t wait to have it again. Btw the most famous banh mi place in HCM is apparently Banh Mi Huynh Hoa (aka the lesbian banh mi, because it’s run by, well, lesbians) but we didn’t get a chance to try it - it only opens at 3pm and we were too hungry at 12 to wait that long for it to open. Maybe next time!
Posey Cupcakes @ 53G Nguyen Du - Ok I know this isn’t Vietnamese food but I’m a cupcake fanatic and after dinner on our last day in HCM I was craving something sweet. So 3 hours before our flight was supposed to take off we Ubered a ride across the city through the rain in tons of traffic to scoop up a bunch of cupcakes as I had read awesome reviews about this place earlier on. On top of that the cupcakes were pretty cheap, just 90 cents each, in this day and age of $4-5 cupcakes. Turned out to be totally worth it. The best one was easily the coconut cream cheese red velvet. WOW.
Can’t wait to share some street photos next post…HCM is such a great place for street photography - so vibrant, chaotic, and too many things always going on at once!