The awesome thing at New Saigon Hostel 2 is that it offers a complimentary breakfast during morning hours.
I mean, who doesn’t like free food?
Even though the food was a basic baguette, scrambled eggs, and Vietnamese iced coffee, it was sufficient to get us out the door and explore the city.
Tip: Look for hostel for perks such as free breakfast, coffee, or bicycles at hostels. These often cost around $1 USD each. If you can get them for free, you can eat a second breakfast, guilt-free!
Although we’ve only stayed at our hostel for one night, we already knew where we wanted to stay next: Le Blanc Saigon Hotel.
Why, you ask. Well, all the guys on this trip are fans of Mark Weins (an awesome food blogger and YouTuber) — fans enough to visit the same hotel where he stayed in a totally non-creepy way.
After checking out the size of bed, we concluded that all three of us could fit and so we booked the room.
The next item on our list was to exchange USD to VND. At first I was worried that exchanging money would be costly, but in our experience, we have not had to pay any exchange fees, and the process has always been less than 10 minutes.
Tip: Exchange enough cash for a few days at a time at different travel agencies, banks, and hotels. This allows you to average the cost of different exchange rates in case you find a cheap exchange rate one day.
With all the business out of the way, the fun can begin. We first arrived at Diamond Mall, a multi-storey high-end shopping complex similar to Nordstrom or The Bay where different brands share the same retail space.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Today is Sunday so we thought we’d visit a church. However they were having Mass and we didn’t feel appropriately dressed enough to enter so we just took a few pictures outside.
Breakfast at Texas Chicken
Of course Jonathan, the Church’s Chicken fanatic, was able to locate one in Vietnam, although here it is called Texas Chicken. We went in and ordered some spicy chicken.
It tasted like home, except our combo included a random scone.
There must have must have been around 80 people in there. It appears chicken places like Texas Chicken and KFC are very popular in Asian as they often have multi-storey establishments in prominent locations throughout the city.
Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office
This post office looks looks like a WWII film set, but it is a fully functional post and parcel office. You can also book tours there and buy souvenirs.
Breakfast #2 at McDonald’s
Due to the cheap cost of food in Asia, and the fact that we are on vacation, a certain degree of gluttony has developed. Not 30 minutes since our first breakfast, we started craving McDonald’s right across the street.
To be fair, McDonald’s menus can be an indication of a certain country’s tastes and is part of the cultural experience.
The menu had the typical burgers and drinks, but it didn’t take long for us to settle on Vietnamese meat and egg on rice. For just over a buck, it was quite tasty and the rice was moist. But, the more I ate, the more I thought, “Hmm, something tastes familiar.”
After looking at meat more closely, I realized it the same meat you would find in a sausage egg McMuffin. The taste difference was coming from the packet of thick soy sauce.
I felt cheated, but at the same time, impressed with the cleverness.
War Remnants Museum
With our stomachs filled, we visited the War Remnants Museum which was largely about the Vietnam war. The pictures and text evoked similar feelings as when we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. We learned about the horrible use of chemicals during the war that caused many birth defects in following generations. We can only hope that nations will be smart enough to avoid chemical warfare at the least, where no one wins.
Museum of Vietnamese History
Being the efficient sightseers that we are, we briskly walked to the Museum of Vietnamese History. The museum had much fewer people than the War Remnants museum. In fact, we were the only ones there save for a group of school children, presumably on a field trip, and a handful of other guests.
I personally like seeing ancient artefacts and seeing how one culture compares with others in terms of materials used, style, and progress. The museum displayed art from stone sculptures to metal coins and shields.
Unfortunately we started touring near closing time and had to rush through the exhibits.
Our Post-Apocalyptic Experience
While making our way to our next stop, the Bitexco Tower, we encountered an entire stretch of road that was blocked for cleaning. It was dark and there were gates set up and guards preventing people from passing. Oddly, the people already on the other side of the gate were allowed to stay in.
We eventually found a small mall that we wanted to waste time in, but ended up discovering an exit that led to the street being cleaned. We made it to the other side!
It was a very odd experience as an entire, multi-lane street was dark and empty with only a few people walking on the streets. I felt like I was in a post apocalyptic movie where only a select few are chosen for the New World.
EON 51 at Bitexco Tower
We heard that there is a restaurant named EON 51 at the Bitexco Tower with a great view of the city. For 200,000 VND ($9 USD) you can go to the top of the building for a city view. Alternately, you can buy a drink and not pay the admission fee. This is obviously the better choice as the drinks can be cheaper than the admission fee.
Once you pay the fee, you are led down a corridor to an elevator to the top. Once you exit the elevator, it feels like you are a VIP. With live music and a great atmosphere, it is definitely worth checking out, even though the drinks are priced like they would be in Vancouver.
We had beers, took photos, time lapse of the city from up above.
For dinner, we ate at a pho restaurant recommended by our hostel. For only $3 we all got a pho and drink. The soup was quite clean and beefy, the beef slices were fatty, but beef brisket were not as good. We also noticed the pho noodles were thin just like in Cambodia.