We arrived in Ho Chi Minh at 8AM in the morning after a 4-hr flight from KL. This is actually our first time to skip a time zone so it was very cool for us. We knew we only had so little time to spend because we had to catch the 3PM bus to Phnom Pehn. Because of this, we had only 3 major things that we highlighted for our very short time in Ho Chi Minh.
1. Have coffee at highlands coffee
This was highly recommended by a colleague who lived in Vietnam for a short time so we made sure we did it. Good thing for us, we didn’t have anything to eat before our flight so we went to Highlands coffee as soon as we bought our tickets to Phnom Pehn. Their food was definitely good, I just don’t know if it was authentically Vietnamese since I rarely eat Vietnamese food. But their coffee was good too! And our waitress was so nice, she had a hard time communicating in English but she was nice enough to explain to us their menu (since some of them were named in Vietnamese). I think prices in Highlands coffee are a bit expensive compared to the street food in Phan Ngu Len but if you like coffee, it’s a must try.
2. See the War Remnants Museum
Since there aren’t that many sites to see in Ho Chi Minh, we headed straight to the War Remnants Museum. I’d like to think that our trip there was enlightening because it gave us an insight about the Vietnam war. As someone who wasn’t alive when it happened with not much interest in history, it was very educational. Because not only did I learn of what happened during the war, but there were also a ton of pictures and personal stories in the museum. We had a strong reaction to what we saw and made us kind of tear up to realize what happened during and after the war. It was depressing to find out that most people who died in the war were civilians, and worse, disemboweled children. It’s very unfortunate to know that these kind of things happened during the course of human history; that there be such brutality to humans by their fellow humans just to prove power. The museum also had remnants of the war and a replica of the prison cells that they had during the war.
3. Shop at Saigon Square
After an emotional trip to the museum, we tried to brighten our spirit by the prospect of shopping, so we headed for Saigon Square. Our very helpful driver informed us that there were actually 2 Saigon Squares and asked which one we needed to go to. Since we were not aware which one, he told us that the 1st one has cheaper sells than the 2nd so we went there. Saigon square is mostly like the 168 mall in Divisoria, where you find stalls upon stalls of clothes, bags and etc. And being the shopaholics that we were, we needed to shop at an efficient rate so we don’t miss our bus. To this, we made a list of the important things that what we needed to buy. First, we really needed backpacks and one of the reasons we went to Ho Chi Minh was to purchase North Face backpacks and jackets. We canvassed for the cheapest buy among the stores and found a good price for our backpacks. (Tip: You can ask the store seller if the bags are original or class A, they will tell you which one it is.) With a change of bags, we took a 1 pass through every corner of the mall to buy anything that we liked at a price that we can afford keeping in mind that we had to carry it on our backs in 4 other cities. We made some good purchases of shirts, but we couldn’t buy any authentic North Face jackets or Kipling bags so we decided not to buy those. All in all, we had fun going around the mall to buy some clothes and then went back to Pham Ngu Len to catch our bus.
What to remember
- Ho Chi Minh is a very inexpensive city, you can take a taxi anywhere and it will not cost much.
- Make sure you haggle with what you buy, you can always get a discount.
- Check what you buy, since this is a divisoria type set up, always make sure that you are not buying damaged goods.