This morning my wife had some work appointments, so the little guy and I did a few tourist things (independence palace, war reparations museum), and met up with her for the afternoon.
First we went to what is apparently the first real Pho restaurant. To me this seems like a bit of a stretch, but we’ll go with it because then we will feel special. The place is called Pho Hao Pasteur (on Pasteur street) and it was a really cool experience – super popular, and it looks like even with the popularity, it is still a family place.
Then we went to the famous market called Ben Thanh Market. I have been to markets all over the world, and this one is not anywhere near my favorite. It was packed with tourist stuff, and there was little feeling that locals would have a reason to go here (unless they feel they need a t shirt that says “I heart Vietnam”. Part of the thing that makes markets cool is feeling like you are getting a glimpse of local customs, and that was largely missing. It was hot and stuffy, so as we had the little guy with us, we were not keen to stay for long. Nonetheless, there were some noteworthy items:
- Cinnamon sticks in raw form. Cinnamon is a tree bark, and I found some pieces for a very good price.
- Snake/scorpion wine: apparently this makes you more verile (as does everything unappealing)
- Coffee and tea – coffee especially, since they are famous for their coffee here.
After that we went to another market called Saigon Square, which is more focused on clothing items, with a few electronics places as well. Apparently the factories in Vietnam use the excess fabric they have left after they make the quantities that are ordered by the brands, and this is where they sell those items. They claim the items are not knockoffs, but the reality is, the vast majority are, with a few exceptions. We were unimpressed by the prices – higher than we thought they should be – but then again maybe we have been spoiled by Hong Kong.
Finally it was time to go home and feed and put the little guy to bed. While my wife finished with the bedtime rituals for him, I ventured out to buy dinner. Can’t be too hard, right? Ha! I did not find many restaurants that I could order food to takeaway – most were similar to the Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong and China – lots of people at a large table eating a large meal. There were also street food places, but my wife wouldn’t be happy if I did that – she miracously rarely gets sick when traveling, and one of the reasons is steering clear of the super local food (while I on the other hand usually try it and occasionally get sick).
I had an ok-looking restaurant picked out, and all I had to do was cross the street to get there. I arrived there 20 minutes later, after feeling like I just played a real life human game of “frogger”and with my heart pumping fast, only to find out the place is a steakhouse (and I don’t eat cow meat). So, I ended up finding a place right next to the hotel after all.
It was a fun day with all 3 of us in Ho Chi Minh. I’m glad we have had the opportunity to come here and spend this time together. People do not talk much about Ho Chi Minh, but I think it’s definitely worth the trip here if you are in Asia already, or if you are looking for a few days to stopover as part of a larger trip.