Scooters all over the highway of Saigon were crazy like speedster rushing to meet the justice league to save the world. And just because the motorcycles were like racing doesn’t mean I had to. My goal was to take everything slow and I hate to say that I rushed from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to Cu Chi Tunnels with my backpack on my first day in Vietnam! That spur of a moment that you want to squeeze as many sights as possible but end up being exhausted. Ugh, I hate that! My second day in Saigon was no rush, though. I’m glad I booked at Ho Sen 2 Hotel. It’s near to almost everything.
I took advantage of the free breakfast buffet at Ho Sen 2 Hotel. Not the best breakfast but enough to brightened up my morning. I spotted the Opera House from Ho Sen 2 Hotel, it’s going to be about a few minutes walk from where I was. There was somewhat orchestra where people gathered in front of the Opera House. The opera house was a good area to start my walking tour around Ho Chi Minh City. I strolled through Hotel Continental and headed to Notre Dame Cathedral with no map in my hands only photographic memory from this very helpful Vietnam720 blog.
The Cathedral was closed. I met a couple of Filipinos touring Saigon. They’ll be attending a mass. They asked me a lot of questions like why are you traveling alone? Are you married? Do you have a life insurance, would like to get one? Turns out they’re working on a life insurance company in Davao and they’re pitching a sale to me. Across the cathedral is the post office. I was delighted that I don’t need to walk too far. The loveliest post office I’ve seen so far. They say it was designed by the same architect who designs the Eiffel Tower.
I walked through the back of the Cathedral and behold the sight feels like Europe. I sauntered not far from the cathedral is the famous Trung Nguyen Coffee and stopped there for a cup of Ca Phe Sua Dua (Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Milk), as an ex-barista and a coffee lover I must say I was pretty impressed with their coffee. I became a lazy bum for two hours at the coffee shop. No rush, no stress, no pressures, no guidebook, just me, my cup of coffee and Mr. Marlboro red. Their wifi seems pretty fast too.
I meandered on the west side of the Notre Dame Cathedral where my feet traveled back in time to Reunification Palace. I paid 30,000 Dong to see the palace. Although it doesn’t really look like a palace to me, the furniture and the structures were really notable. The English tour guide took us to every part of the floor for free. It was raining when I left the palace. I sat outside the ticket booth and watched the rain.Ho Chi Minh Street’s shaded with green trees. I saw people running away from the park to avoid themselves from soaking under the rain.
The rain stopped and I headed to War Remnants Museum not far from the palace. I paid 20,000 dong to transport me back to the second Indochina war. The aircraft, tanks, and guns used from the war greeted me. Inside the museum were requiem photographs that will touch one’s heart. History, truth, and victim of imprisonments during the war through documentary photos were posted promoting say no to war.
I walked a few blocks back to Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street towards Saigon River. There were floating restaurants on the river, benches along the walkway and some food stalls. I love walking around Saigon, the wind touches my hair and the trees were soothing to my eyes. I stayed there for a couple of minutes and bought some water. I realized Saigon River is so close to my hotel. I didn’t stop there, I walked straight and reached Ben Thanh Market and bought some souvenirs for friends.
I wandered just anywhere my feet leads me, seems like I’m going back to the hotel but while walking I heard some people looking for People’s Committee Park. I followed them. I realized the Park’s near my hotel and the opera house. I’ve been going round in circles or something. It appears that the park is one of the most relevant spots in Saigon. I walked around the area to hunt for food but the district was full of expensive restaurants. A Vietnamese motorcycle driver approached me; he said he’ll tour me around the city. I told him I’m done. He said he’ll take me to some places I’ve never been for 90,000 Dong. I wasn’t sure if it was cheap so I pretended I don’t need him. He insisted on taking me anywhere. I haggled that he’ll take me to Sinh Tourist Café to purchase a bus ticket to Cambodia then he can tour me anywhere for one and a half an hour. We agreed 70,000 Dong. Barney Stinson’s voice echoed in my head — Challenge accepted!
I realized I didn’t hesitate to ride a motorcycle after what happened to me on my way to enchanted River. After all, what’s Vietnam without trying out their motorcycles? While on the road, the driver was a real conversationalist. We talked a lot of things about Vietnam yadda yadda. We passed a bread store and told him I want to buy something to eat. I was surprised he took me to authentic Vietnamese cuisine. He bet Pho Hoa Pasteur is the best local cuisine in town. My table was loaded with bread, basil, bean sprouts and whatnot but I only ate the well-done brisket Pho Chin perfect on a foggy afternoon. I can’t really justify if it was the best Pho I’ve ever tasted because it was the only Pho I tried in Saigon but for the record — for 50,000 Dong it was deliciously cheap! Tra da (Vietnamese iced tea) was good too.
Son Nguyen the driver took me to Jade Emperor Pagoda, a small temple where birds flocked and hundreds of turtles at the entrance. It was a quick visit as I did not find it really interesting. Cho Binh Tay Market was our next stop. Unluckily I did not find what I was looking for. We headed to Cha Tam Church. The church looks familiar and until now I still haven’t figured out. We then headed to Thao Cam Vien area. We reached the Thien Hau Temple. It was the usual Chinese temple with elegantly shaped yellow incense coils overhead.
Finally, we traversed to Sinh Tourist to purchase the bus ticket to Siem Reap. It was just a breeze. Next thing I know, I was stepping into the hot bubble tub with a bottle of Saigon beer in my hand and a punk rock music at the background. What happened to my curiosity of discovering a shindig in town? Must be one of the signs of getting old. But oh, that nightlife I struck in the bathroom was epic.