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Trip to Saigon, Vietnam

Blog_For_Fun Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trip to Vietnam was a total relaxation. Not much money spent but more to connecting with nature and myself (aiseh~ lol!). Before i forget everything that happened during my trip, i might as well share it asap here. So here goes...

Our trip to Saigon or now known as Ho Chi Minh began on Saturday morning of 12th Feb 2011. This time, there were 7 of us and the additional 2 were Ezwan (Cici's fiance) and my Grandma. Due to work, unfortunately BB couldn't join us *sobs*.. but that's ok... we'll be seeing each other everyday starting next year, i might as well enjoy myself SOLO while i can buahahaha *i love you BB* =D
(Contributed by Bobidom)

We had to transit to KL before heading to Vietnam.
Total flying time combined was tiring.
I used to love travelling by plane, but now I wish for 'pintu doraemon' to commute from one place to the other.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh around 4pm and it took about 1/2 hour to reach our Hotel (Hoang Phu Gia) from the air port.
The hotel is situated few KMs away from the famous Ben Thanh market.
After unpacking our stuff, we waited no longer and then proceeded to dinner.

Our Tour guide, Giang (pronounced as Zeng) brought us to one of the Halal restaurants in Saigon called Nha Hang.

As you can see, some of the dishes served are almost the same as what you see in Malaysia.
Fyi, this restaurant serves both Malaysian and Vietnamese food... and to my surprise, there's more restaurant alike around Saigon.

I browsed through their menu for 'Bun Bo', the name of the cold Vermicelli noodle i love to eat in Peppermint Cafe, KK...
but instead... i found MANY bun bo in there... and i don't know which one to choose... =_="
So i chose Bun bo meh (?).. and it came out different from what i expected XD

I was tad disappointed...
Worse is... it came with SO MANY veges!!!
Till I saw what Giang had...

THIS is what i wanted!
The name of the dish was too long for me to remember...
But it came with dry cold vermicelli noodle, with grilled beef and sweet sauce..
Giang promised that he will personally order for me the next day *heh :P*

After we've done with dinnethr, both my parents and grandma called it a night and went back to rest.
As for the rest of us, we decided to hang around near the hotel for sightseeing :)

Cici saw a body massage centre nearby.
She playfully suggested that we go for a massage, and i thought.. 'Why not??'
So we spontaneously went in and asked for the price.. and it turned out OMG super cheap!
RM34 for whole body massage (hand, foot reflexology, body massage, back massage and hot stone) for 90 minutes!
In KK it will cost me RM75 at the cheapest place.
Without thinking, we all signed up for it =D

.. as mentioned in my previous post... it was the BEST MASSAGE EVERRRR!!!!
My neck, my waist and my whole body were twisted and bended like nobody's business.
One thing for sure... we all slept super soundly that night =D
Such a bliss~

We also had fun chatting with the masseuse :)
Even though the conversation was basic and limited, but the constant giggling made the environment lighter.
Ezwan also taught them how to speak Malay WRONGLY... e.g Good morning = Halimah Jongang... Good Bye = Bedukang.
The moment was SO FUNNY i had to control my laughter else they'll suspect we're making fun of them.
Well at least Ezwan did HAHAHAHA. So bad...
I wish i had vcam the moment :P

Oh! The owner is a Singaporean! and he can speak Malay :)

On the next day, Giang greeted us at 8.30am after breakfast.
Our plan for day 2 were more on City tour and a visit to temple, Cu Chi tunnel and Silk shopping!
Along the way, Giang explained to us on some of the infos and histories of Saigon...
but to tell you the truth.. i had to squint my eyes to listen to every word he said...
not to say his english wasn't good... it's just that pronunciation was very 'Vietnam-lish' =P

Along the way, we were stopped by few street vendors and apparently some of them even know how to bargain in Bahasa Malaysia lol!

At the temple, Giang continued to explain the histories..
after giving up on listening, the kids *that's us :P* went else where to play and take photos (poor Giang :P)

Other than the temples, Vietnam is also famous for their cheap yet BEAUTIFUL Silks :)
Next, Giang brought us to Cho Binh Tay market.

In the market, don't be surprise if people shout at you from behind coz they are merely busy with transferring stocks from one point to the other.
Also, be prepared to wear arm protection (:P) coz most of them will not be shy to simply GRIP your under arm and somewhat forcefully pull you into their shop.
One vendor actually did it hard on my sister which I had no choice but to raise my voice at her for her to stop.

Putting other cons factor aside, what i like about the market here is how fast they can tailor your clothes in 1 DAY.
I know my dad was super happy...
Not only it was cheap, but the many fabric he bought were custom made to his body size in a very short time.
They can also deliver the tailored items to your hotel ;)

For lunch, we all went to Halal Saigon restaurant :)

As promised, Giang ordered my favourite dish ^_^
It tasted quiet alright.. grilled chicken, fried popiah with some peanut sauce... it was something new :)
They also served Malaysian food here... and Siti Nurhaliza's songs were played on loop =_="

(My food!!)

We continued our day to Cu Chi tunnel which took about an hour to reach.
Cu Chi tunnel (pronounced as Ku Chi) used to be a war site located near Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The 'adults' were not so keen on going at first, but we whined and made funny noises and they eventually agreed :P

Rubber trees on our way to Cu Chi

Note: The entrance fee is +/- RM35 our money.

Cu Chi tunnel was built about 4 meter deep and the tunnel system connecting each 'department' are around 1/2 meter in width with 200km in total length.
The system was so complicated that one Vietnamese soldier must remember each entrance and route by heart.
There is no sign indicating where the entrance is located or where each tunnel is connecting to.
With this intelligent system, it amazes me how a tiny little country can defeat big bad American soldiers equipped with bad boy gadgets.
All they had was few supplies of guns, bombs and super cruel traps =D

Giang also showed us how one can enter to one of the small entrances of the tunnel.
Obviously my hip is wider than the tunnel... =_=" so small butt people like Ezwan and my sister had the luck to give it a try.

Each of these tunnels connecting few departments/rooms such as the hospital, kitchen, weapon construction area, meeting room and so much more.
As fancy as it may sound, life was not easy for the Vietnamese soldiers before.
Imagine yourself living underground for more than 20 years with ants, centipedes and other crawling insects around you all the time... not forgetting sickness and malaria as being apart of the second cause of death during the war.
I asked Giang, "what if the bomb hit the spot?"
He answered, "Easy.. they die.."
Well... i got more info about that too.
Apparently one bomb hit can reach 4 meter deep... and that's about the size of the tunnel itself.
So to avoid being spot and hit, the Vietnamese soldiers camouflage their resting tent with the American army clothes/tent that they got from few encounters (to trick the air force) and also cover the tunnel's inside air hole smell from the American hunting dog by doing the same.
Oh! And all the soils digged out from the ground were thrown at the bombed area to avoid being found out by the American soldiers.

After finished visiting the 'rooms', we went to the real tunnel FINALLY.
We were given a choice of 30M length, 70M or 100M.
Nadia was tired halfway and we had to stop at 30M.
Even that, we were all covered in sweat!

Our trip to Cu Chi tunnel was an experience and I'm glad I was there!
I'm truly grateful that i wasn't born during the war time, but i do however respect those who survived it and live long to tell.
The person that I love listening to all the old war stories was from my Grandma and my late grandpa :)

We ended the day with more Silk shopping :)
Did I mention it was cheap and beautiful? =D
My parents spent hours in the shop choosing their choice of fabrics.
If i had known, i would've gone the the salon next door to get a haircut.

We got back to the hotel at 7pm.
While others retreated to their room, i went off spontaneously again and look for any decent looking hair salon.
Found one but was stunned that the stylist looked like a mafia/yakuza with slashes and scars all over his hand and forehead @[email protected]
He didn't understand the hairstyle that i wanted... luckily i got a picture in my camera for him to see.
The result... My diagonal cut hair had been straighten out, shortened and voila~ it looked great surprisingly =D and only RM16 our money with a touch of professional cut.
*I guess he cut many people dy buahaha*

Muehehehe... i like it :)
Now here's our dinner in the Hotel...

On day -3, Giang got us a bigger Van with steps to ease my grandma to get up.
Plus, it is for the convenience of all coz we're setting off for a long journey to Mekong River =D!!! Weeee~~~

The 3rd day of our trip was also Valentine's Day a.k.a Love Day...
Since I wasn't around in KK to have dinner with BB, I secretly arranged with my friends in Boutique Cupcakes to bake love cookies for him ^_^
Mei helped to deliver before he went off to teach his class...
He was HAPPY~~~ ^_^

Happy 'Rabu-Rabu' Day BB~~!!! Hope you love the surprise muehehehehe :P

OK... now back to my trip...

Our journey took us around an hour plus to reach the port.
Did you notice the yellow flowers below?
According to Giang, it is a lucky flower to the people of Vietnam...
you can see them basically in every shops and hotels.

We also stop at the rest house for toilet break and some souvenir shopping.
One tips when shopping in Vietnam, bring lots of USD and less Vietnam Dong.
When you pay in USD, you'll save rm3 or more for each item.
The higher the price, the more you'll save.

Upon arrival, Giang explained to us the route that we'll take using the motor boat.
First stop was to Unicorn Island for honey tea, light snacks and fruits while listening to traditional music.
After that, those who wanted to experience the Mekong river can take the river boat before going to next Island which is the Lo San Xuat Island for lunch.
Obviously, my siblings, Ezwan and I wanted to go on the river boat... so out of concern, my mom joined us as well *yey*

The after taste of the honey tea was refreshing.
The ingredient was 1 table spoon of honey + Bee Pollen + Lime and Vietnamese Tea.
As mentioned, we were entertained by traditional music and fruits right after :)

After river cruising, we proceeded for lunch at Lo San Xuat Island.
There we were served with fried fish, vermicelli noodle and traditional vege (ulam) wrapped in Rice paper.
To me it's a great dish to lose weight :P
For some like my siblings and mom, they desperately need rice everywhere they go =D

While waiting for us to digest what we consumed, we decided to take a stroll using the free bicycle facility available near the restaurant.
It has been awhile since i last rode a bicycle..
Was difficult to balance with Nadia/Cici sitting behind me... which resulted us falling down twice when I tried to break (HAHA) XD and one involved falling on a group of Mat Sallehs ="3

We also went for a Pony ride and visited the coconut candy working area.
I bought Coconut Candy in Durian flavour... sedap! =D

After happily sipping our coconut drinks on our way back, Giang brought us to one of the lacquer factory in the city.
There i saw the process of making the lacquer board from A-Z and it was very impressive.
No wonder it is sold at a high price coz the amount of details and workmanship involved were a lot!
But according to Uncle Izham, you can purchase cheap ones in Ben Thanh market...
So we didn't buy anything from the factory :P

Did i mentioned that Vietnam is overpopulated by motorcyclists?
Here, traffic was rather chaotic and it can scare the shit out of first time visitor.
But not for us though, coz we've seen those in Manila... but with cars.
Nevertheless, crossing the road was still scary XD

Uncle Izham accompanied us to our final shopping at Ben Thanh market.
You can find a lot of things there and as usual, you can bargain like there's no tomorrow :)
I bought few items for my friends and some souvenirs for my uncle, BB and his family (which i'll present it to them tonight at Chap Goh Mei's dinner ^_^

We stayed in Ben Thanh market till it closed at 7pm.
Since our hotel is few blocks away, Uncle Izham suggested that we walk back and experience the night life walking in Ho Chi Minh city.
While walking, we saw many cute shops especially those selling colourful helmets in many shapes, style and sizes.
We also had to be really careful with our bags coz we've been warned that snatching happened in the city.
Plus, traffic was crazier at night especially during week days because people are rushing home after work.

Our feet were super tired and I had bad headache after reaching the hotel.
To end our trip in Vietnam, we all decided to go for another round of body massage and this time with my Mom and my Grandma :)
It was so relaxing and we didn't talk much during the massage compare to our first visit.
I guess everybody was so tired and took the opportunity to relax and take a short nap here and there.

Our body massage ended at 11pm, just in time for them to close down.
Back in hotel, we final check every item to pack in our luggage bags before jumping on our bed to sleep.

Next day, I woke up at 5am, popped a panadol after breakfast (yes, still bad headache.. ) and ready to go to the airport.
Of course, saying goodbye has never been easy even if it's a short trip.
Giang exchanged email and facebook with all of us to keep in touch and HOPEFULLY he can drop down to KK for Cici's wedding end of this year or mine next January :)
'Kam en' Giang for everything! (Thank you in Vietnam)

Till then, we hope to see you again Vietnam!!
Next trip, HANOI!

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