Monthly Archives: May 2012


Ho Chi Minh City commonly known as Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). It was renamed as such in 1975.


My 1st time to travel Cebu Pacific internationally and after the “Thrilla in Naia” … and the many warnings from friends, I think I came equipped and prepared. Each time I travel outside, I get myself a travel insurance in cases of delayed flights, lost baggage, hospitalization and even other untoward incidents.  This is for only Php 228.00 (Chartis Philippines Insurance Inc)   – peace of mind for an OC like me.  Be there 3 hours before the flight and make sure you are at the gates during the boarding time or the risk of not being accepted if you are a minute late.  Prepare Php 1620 for travel tax and Php 550 for terminal fee. Of course when flying Cebu Pac on a promo fare be prepared to pay everything from baggage to seat to insurance, etc.  No meals inside the plane unless you will buy from them.  Be prepared also to move from one gate to another … happened to us twice this time.  Aside from the change in gate … my Cebu Pac experience is superb. Staffs are nice and accommodating. Never late … even earlier. I can never forget their legacy to us Filipinos – everyone flies – because it was made affordable and the market has been very competitive ever since and for travel enthusiasts like me – this is a milestone and a gift.

Cebu pacific Gate 109

It is fairly easy to get off the Tan Son Nhat Airport in fact there is no Immigration Card issued on the plane. Through the immigration courtesy check booths and directly in front, baggage can be claimed at the lower level via the escalator.

Even before I go to Vietnam, I wanted to have Vietnamese Dong with me in case the hotel failed to fetch me ( which they did) just to have a money for the taxi.  Lo and behold – none of our money exchange establishment even as big as Sanry’s and Czarina’s … and even banks such BPI – will change your peso or dollars to VND. It will be wise to see who went there and offer to change their VND to peso.  Not even our very own airport exchanges USD to VND.  When you arrive in Vietnam, even how late or early it is … there is a money changer.  The exchange rate is fairly reasonable … and the fact of the matter is … you simply had to. The exchange in the airport may charge a commission as high as 3% but for me, it doesn’t matter really as long as I have VND with me.

I have been warned so many times on how bad Vietnam is … too many rude people who will rip you off your money and belongings even.  I had to be thankful for this … but my experience is a lot better (with much prayers and caution) … I had been known to be as detailed as possible in trips … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And yes, my hotel failed to fetch me … why am I not surprised! Outside the airport there too many people offering everything from hotels to taxis … just don’t talk to them and act as if you are in a familiar territory.  Ask from the airport officials, the ones in brown. Since it is not an English speaking country , have a paper or small notebook  and  ball pen ready to write instead of talk … and it will help you if you will print this blog . You can underline the words that you wanted to ask. Get the map at the airport –  you will  receive a free ‘VN Trip Map – for travel and coupons’ by Vietnamese women wearing the traditional ao dai dress as you are leaving or if there is none, in your hotel or in any Saigon Tourist Center.


This is important because there are taxi companies that can rip you off. In the airport go to Bay 3 that is on the left side of the airport and ask an officer that you want to ride a VINASUN or Mai Linh taxi.  You will then be asked to talk to the person in charge in dark green (they are all over the city w/ the name Vinasun on their necktie).  I can only vouch for Vinasun though. Never ridden any other taxi. Always point to the meter before the ride starts so they will use it, never bargain.  Have the complete address of your hotel written in your small notebook and just show it to the taxi warden in green and show it again to the driver. 

Vinasun Taxi

Mai Linh taxi

Caution: Some gangster taxi group will change the spelling a bit to lure you (know your spelling)  – VinasOn or VinasuM instead of VinaSUN, MEi Linh or Mai Lin or M Taxi.  Various over-price scams target foreigners in particular, usually involving eager touts who will try to get a hold of your luggage. A dishonest driver might start driving without starting the meter, and demand a high fare or try to negotiate for a fixed price at a location where it’s difficult for a tourist to hire another cab.  Taxi drivers earn commission by taking customers to certain hotels, so be explicit about exactly which hotel you want to be driven. To trick visitors into staying at other (commission paying) hotels, drivers may come up with any kind of excuses, e.g., “no vacancy”, “that hotel burned down recently” and similar stories. So have yourself booked … AGODA is highly recommended if you using an on-line booking. Just print the Hotel Voucher and show it to the hotel.  Safe and dependable.

Getting around the city can be by foot, bus, taxi, motorbike  or a ride on a cyclo, which is sort of akin to a reverse tricycle with the passenger sitting in a front seat, through downtown HCMC is a great way to see the city the way the locals do. But I just don’t have the heart to try this. 

Caution: Be careful with your cameras and bags while walking . There are also unscrupulous locals who can get pass you and get your valuables while driving their motorbikes.

Crossing in Saigon  can be a nightmare. It is always scary, for some they will get used to it quite quickly. If ever in doubt, Saigon’s Tourist Security  officers (guys in marked green uniforms) will happily help you across or answer your questions. They made me change my mind about Saigon because of their courtesy and helpfulness.  A quicker way of getting across is to simply follow the lead of a local crossing the street. Never hesitate when crossing so that the drivers can read your moves. Remember, Vietnamese people value life very much as well and they regard killing another as bad luck .

No Traffic Lights


The Bicycle in Front of Motorcycles


This is tough … they can’t understand you or you can’t understand them. Use the small notepad or calculator when shopping.

Hello: Sin Chao\ Excuse Me, Sorry: Sin Lao\ What is this/that?: Die La Kai Gee \Thank You: Come Ong \Very Good: Ra Tot\ Bye: Tam Byet


Depending on the budget and the purpose of the stay … there are numerous hotels and inns in Vietnam.  I saw the Sheraton, Intercon, Sofitel etc for  the 5 star experience. There are 3 Star hotels that can cater to your basic need – sleep and bath.   There are also backpacker’s inns available.

We stayed at Thien Xuan Hotel – and I can recommend this – the room is on sale in Agoda.  This is centrally located in the business and commercial district . This is 30 meters away from Ben Thanh Market, 20 minutes away from the airport, 10 minutes away from Reunification Palace and 15 minutes away from Notre Dame.

Entrance Thien Xuan Hotel


They provide good breakfast and a clean place to sleep.  They  can also accommodate 3 pax in a room.  The staffs are nice and try very hard to please the customer.  For me, this is a good thing.  They always try to warn you about not taking your passports while shopping or providing a Vinasun taxi to take you anywhere. You can also ask questions that they tried very hard to answer … again with the small notebook in hand.


My trip to Saigon is not to see the tourist spots or immerse myself in the war tours. It is simply a food trip but  here are a few that you can see :

REUNIFICATION PALACE (Di Tich Lich Su Dinh Doc Lap) . Entrance is at  135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. Open daily 7:30AM-11:00AM, 1PM-4PM. Also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). This has been restored and it is like walking in the time warp to the 60s. This was formerly South Vietnam’s presidential palace … the war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 crashed through the gate. A replica of that tank is now parked on the lawn outside.  


The Gate

The war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 crashed through the gate. This is a replica of that tank .

Be sure to check out the recreation room, featuring a circular sofa, and the eerie basement, full of vintage 1960s phones, radios, and office equipment, supposedly left exactly as it was found when the North took over. There is also a photo gallery and a propaganda film recounting how the South Vietnamese supporters and American imperialists succumbed to Ho Chi Minh’s indomitable revolutionary forces, upon which point the South Vietnamese supporters were forgiven and everyone lived happily ever after. Tour guides are available and are free if there are ones available. Entrance Fee is  30,000 VND.  Since I am not a  fan of Vietnam War … I can do away with this.  This is just like touring the Malacanang of the North.

Dancing Floor

Banquet Room


Caution: Bring towel or fan or a bottle of cold mineral water. This can be a very hot and humid tour. It can be suffocating.   If you are allergic to musty smell, skip this.   Whatever you like in their shop, buy it specially the replicas because you won’t find it anywhere else.   

TAO DAN PARK – this is the park from the Palace to the Notre Dame where you can rest and watch the locals eat and date.


A Local Praying the Rosary in the Park

SAIGON NOTRE-DAME officially Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is just a 5 minute-walk from the Reunification Palace. Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi (next to the Post Office). Closes at 11AM  and on weekends. A French-built Catholic cathedral in the city centre. All building materials were imported from France. This was finished in 1880.  The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille.Tiles have been carved with the words Guichard Carvin, Marseille St André France (perhaps stating the locality where the tiles were produced). Some tiles are carved with the words “Wang-Tai Saigon”. Many tiles have since been made in Ho Chi Minh City to replace the tiles that were damaged by the war. There are 56 glass squares supplied by the Lorin firm of Chartres province in France. The cathedral foundation was designed to bear ten times the weight of the cathedral.


In 1959, Bishop Joseph Pham Van Thien, whose jurisdiction included Saigon parish, attended the Holy Mother Congress held in Vatican and ordered a Peaceful Notre Dame statue made with granite in Rome. When the statue arrived in Saigon on 16 February 1959, Bishop Pham Van Thien held a ceremony to install the statue on the empty base and presented the title of “Regina Pacis”.

“Regina Pacis”

Trivia: During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral. However, the top clergy of the Catholic Church in Vietnam confirmed that the Virgin Mary statue in front of a cathedral did not shed tears, which nevertheless failed to disperse the crowd flocking to the statue days after the incident. The reported ‘tear’ flowed down the right cheek of the face of the statue.

SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE is a post office near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century. It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area. This is where Nicole’s parents met and fell in love.


Foodie Notes: It is enchanting to drink coffee on the shops located in the vicinity like Coffee Beanery , NYC  Dessert Cafe  or May Coffee.  It is surrounding yourself with Europe’s architectural wonders and Saigon’s coffee experience.

NYC Dessert Cafe

CITY HALL, end of Nguyen Hue Street. Originally called the Hôtel de Ville and now formally re-branded the PEOPLE’S COMMITTEE HALL, it’s a striking cream and yellow French colonial building beautifully floodlit at night. No entry, but the statue of Uncle Ho in front is a very popular place for photos.


SAIGON OPERA HOUSE was built in 1897 by French architect Ferret Eugene, the 800 seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam after 1956. It was not until 1975 that it was again used as a theatre, and restored in 1995. Shaped like the Opera Garnier in Paris. The façade is shaped like the Petit Palais which was built in the same year in France.



CHợ BếN THÀNH AKA BEN THANH MARKET – recognizable because of the big clock tower on a large traffic circle.  This is divided into 2 – wet and dry market (for souvenirs). This is trap for tourist – know the price. Home of home decors made of lacquer, Khai Silk, etc.  They mark up their prices up to 100%. Don your haggling caps. While some sellers are rude, there are also nice ones. Call them friend and get discounts.  They know words like ganda, mura , etc.


Top View of BTM

Shopping Tip: If you have the luxury of time, browse over 1st , ask the price so the you will know the range.  If you haggle, make sure you will buy it or you will hear nasty things (that you don’t understand, anyway).  It is also very helpful to carry with you a printed conversion table (VND to Phil Peso) because the decimals are too much that it gets so complicated.  Bring a shopping bag so you can place all your loot in one container. Be wary. It is better to be paranoid or get yourself robbed in a foreign country.

For coffee and other food items, I would suggest that you go to supermarkets for a better deal.  Cheapest is that one from Thuong Xa Tax in 135 Nguyen Hue, Dist 1 called Sheu Thi Tax . There is also a supermarket in  Vincom Center called Select.

NIGHT MARKET (just outside of Ben Thanh Market). Open from 6pm-12mn (when the Ben Thanh Market closes).  The 2 major streets surrounding BTM are full of stuff that you can buy. You can also eat here.

SAIGON SQUARE – this is a better shopping alternative- opens at 9am to 9pm – air-conditioned bazaar place. Nice place for clothes and bags.


CHợ BÌNH TÂY in the Chinatown – they said the cheapest in prices but I never get to see this.

VINCOM CENTER – Jimmy Choo, Armani, Mango, Zara, Versace, Swarovski, Make Up Forever, Furla, Just Cavalli, Shoebox New York, Replay, Karen Millen, Face Shop, Yves Rocher, Orlane & Annayake, Debenhams, Gap, UCB, Vera, Charles & Keith,


PARKSON – in front of Vincom Center – Guerlain, Coach


DIAMOND PLAZA – near Notre Dame , home of Omega


REX ARCADE  – Chanel, Ferragamo, Rolex


The LOUIS VUITTON STORE is located 161 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.


SAIGON CENTRE  don’t mistake this for Saigon Square . Mango , Nine West, FCUK, Nha Xinh



My journey took me to Saigon … home of the Pho, spring roll and coffee.  General rule of thumb is – a local Vietnamese do not necessarily have to eat anything worth over VND 50,000 (Php 101.00)  on a good meal.


Pho Bo ( Beef Noodle Soup)  – My best Vietnamese Beef Pho (soup) which I found on the side street in the Le Thanh Ton corner Ph B. Chau (just below Song Anh Hotel  right across Ben Thanh Market in front of Noa Hang Mon Hue) … but let me warn you …. this place isn’t what you can call decent. It is one of those street food places that spring after the establishment closes (a jewelry store).  They have small chairs and tables (like the ones used by kids – plastic type).  The food is cooked in the food cart. Since it is near the market, it is not so sanitary looking and the smell isn’t of the peppermint aroma therapy level.   We saw a rat in fact. But this is Ra Tot! After tasting more than my year’s quota of Pho – I can rightfully say this. But this is quite expensive for a street food – VND 40,000. This price is for mid-budget Pho in a good restaurant already.  After eating this – I never had a stomach upset or anything – so this must have been boiled well to get rid of the unwanted elements. 😉 Soft drinks (the country is more of Pepsi products than Coke ) : VND 10,000

The Best Pho Bo found on the side street in the Le Thanh Ton corner Ph B. Chau , HCMC

Trivia: Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). The broth for beef phở is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. For a more intense flavor, the bones may still have beef on them.  Seasonings can include Saigon cinnamon or other kinds of cinnamon as alternatives (may use stick or powder), star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The broth takes several hours to make.

The Best Pho Bo in Saigon

Typical garnishes for phở Sài Gòn are: onions, chili peppers, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and Thai basil.

Vietnamese dishes are meals typically served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, it may also be served with a black substance called Hoisin Sauce. The dish is garnished with ingredients such as green onions, white onions, Thai basil (húng quế) (not be confused with sweet basil, Vietnamese: húng chó or húng dổi), fresh Thai chili peppers, lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts and coriander (ngò rí) or cilantro (ngò gai). Fish sauce (nước mắm), hoisin sauce and chili sauce may be added to taste as accompaniments.

Several ingredients not generally served with phở may be ordered by request. Extra-fatty broth (nước béo) can be ordered and comes with scallions to sweeten it. A popular side dish ordered upon request is hành dấm, or vinegared white onions.

THIEN XUAN HOTEL  – along Le Thanh Ton a stone-throw away from Ben Thanh Market

Flat Rice Cake – to be eaten placing the flat rice cake 1st then put the sauce (vinegar) , pork slice (cha lua) , lettuce, and crunchy  onion

Flat Rice Cake

French Baguette – this is one of the best tasting ones – very crunchy and flaky on the outside and soft . It is the symbol of France in every country but it varies on the place – the Vietnamese bánh mì uses a high proportion of rice flour. Just with butter or jam – this is superb.

French Baguette

Trivia: Bánh Mi is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread. Fillings may include meat and soy fillings such as steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, or tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form. Spicy chili sauce is normally found in bánh mì sold by vendors in Vietnam. In southern Vietnam, homemade mayonnaise is commonly added to the sandwich. Laughing Cow cheese is also a popular filling in Vietnam.

There is a Bánh Mi Bistro in Vietnam in 76 Vo Thi Sau, District 1.

 Soup w/ Scallops and onions – this you have to put green onions

Soup w/ Scallops and onions

Vietnamese Congee – taste is bland but with the caramelized onion w/ pieces of meat – this is good!

Vietnamese Congee

PHO 2000 – where President Clinton ate his Pho. This serves Pho along with other Vietnamese dishes. One is located directly in front of Saigon Centre.  You won’t miss the neon pink signage.


PHO 2000

 MOCHI SWEETS – Vincom Center –  Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and moulded into shape with fillings of your choice and ice cream in the centre. Sakura, their signature mochi is very good for VND 22,000 (Php 63.00)


Trivia: In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time

CHOCOLATE GRAPHICS – Vincom Center – a chocolate store that combines treats and art.  This is also often used as a souvenir for weddings and birthdays


LONG MONACO CAFE – located in Vincom Center B3


1. Com Truing Chien – Vietnamese Omelette – VND 45,000 – with a generous filling of enoki mushroom, meat, onions, shrimp, and bamboo shoots served with sticky rice and garnished with cucumber, parsley and tomato. This can be eaten with Tuong Ca (Tomato Sauce) and Tuong Ot ( Hot Chili Sauce )

Com Truing Chien

2. Suon Nuong sa Kho – VND 62,000 served in a pot , this spare ribs is good nestled in a generous serving of rice ( which was stickier for my preference ) garnished with cucumber, parsley and tomato.

Suon Nuong sa Kho

3. Bo Xien Que Com Chien – Beef BBQ – VND 62,000 – great tasting beef barbeque skewers w/ green bell pepper and onion served with a cup of rice and an egg.  This is the best I have tasted in this restaurant.

Bo Xien Que Com Chien


1.      Nuoc Ep Dua Hau – Watermelon Juice – VND 25,000 – real watermelon goodness

2.      Nuoc Cam Tuoi Da – Orange Juice – freshly squeeze

3.      Dua Tuio Uop Lanh – Cold Fresh Coconut – VND 25,000 – fresh in its shell


Foodie Notes: if you have your wet wipes with you or tissue paper, just use that, the ones in a plastic packs which are wet wipes will be charged to you if you use it for VND 2000.

Wet Wipes

THAI EXPRESS- There are 3 outlets of this restaurant: – Vincom Center B3, Le Thanh Ton, and Crescent Plaza in P. Tan Phu


1.  Hu Tiu Sup Nau Dac Biet Voi Rau Muong – Sen Lek Nua – VND 85,000 – a Thai adaptation of a classic Loatian dish – stick noodles w/ sliced beef in beef broth.

Hu Tiu Sup Nau Dac Biet Voi Rau Muong

2. Khao Kluk Gapi   – Bagoong Rice – this was dubbed as the King’s favourite … and mine – so good! Rice has been flavoured with their classic Thai shrimp paste with shrimp. squid and beef incorporated while being fried served with a lemon wedge, slices of scrambled egg, tomato, cucumber and shrimp paste.  

Khao Kluk Gapi

 3. Beef Curry – it lacks the curry taste that this dish should have.

Beef Curry

4. Fried Tofu w/ Basil Leaves & Spring Onions – this is also very good.  Crunchy outside and flavourful as you bite in each piece of tofu. It has a tinge of chilli and spring onion in it which makes it more exciting to eat. It is served in a bed of lettuce w/ tomato and cucumber as garnishing.

Fried Tofu w/ Basil Leaves & Spring Onions

 5. Thai Iced Tea – iced tea with milk – our version is better.

Thai Iced Tea

PHO 24 – located across the Ben Thanh Market.  This was also widely reviewed across the world by visitors. The interior looks clean. Servers are nice and accommodating. Very good photo murals – the best I’ve seen in fact.

PHO 24

1. Pho Bo  – VND 52,000 (Php 148.20 )  with a choice of Tai (fillet) , Chin (well done flank)  and Nam (brisket)

Pho Bo

2. Cha Gio – Fresh Spring Rolls – VND 42,000 (Php 119.70). This is the must have in this restaurant for me.  This is cooked crisp and fresh.

Cha Gio

3. Pho Xio Gion – Crispy pan fried noodles – VND 55,000 (Php 156.75) This is good as well.  The noodles are crispy (expected) and with a good amount of veggies and meat. 

Pho Xio Gion

4. Drinks :

Mineral Water – VND 18,000 (Php 50.00)

Soft drinks – VND 22,000 (Php 68.00)

Ca Phe Sua Da – Iced Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 30,000 (Php 85.50)

Ca Phe Sua Da

 MON HUE – Le Than Ton St., Ben Than Ward, Dist 1, HCMC



1.      Nem Huong Euon Bánh Trang VND 66,000 (Php 188.00) – Minced BBQ pork served by rice paper and herbs.  There is too much herbs though, I’d say. This is the best dish during this meal.  The beef is tender and tasty.  Beef is wrapped in rice cakes w/ herbs and the yellow sauce in it.

Nem Huong Euon Bánh Trang

2.      Com Am Phu VND 51,000 (Php 145.35) – Hue style rice (this one I prefer) and BBQ Meal.  This is good as well but the fish paste, unlike our local paste, has too many big chunks of fish in it.  The pork is just steamed and as usual this was served with an almost-too- generous amount of herbs. 

Com Am Phu

3.      Banh Khot – savory rice cake  with bean sprouts, onion, red bell pepper, parsley and a yellowish sauce.


Banh Khot

TRES LES JOURS XIN JAO – located in Vincom and Le Loin – This is the home of all baked goodness.


1.      Cream Cheese Pastry – VND 16,000 – the best tasting cream cheese pastry.  This is a must try for cream cheese lovers.

2.      Pizza Baguette – VND 45,000

3.      Red Bean Bread – VND 16,000

4.      Baguette – VND 15,000

Trivia: Baguette is “a long thin loaf of French bread” that is commonly made from basic lean dough (the dough, though not the shape, is defined by French law). It is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust. A standard baguette has a diameter of about 5 or 6 centimeters (2 or 2⅓ in) and a usual length of about 65 centimeters (26 in), although a baguette can be up to a meter (40 in) long.

KEM BACH DANG ICE CREAM – located in front of Saigon Square where you can sit down and be amazed at how the motorcycles in throngs pass by without hurting each other. I got curious – I just had to try … ice cream parlours are everywhere maybe because of the “very” hot weather.  This is the only place in Asia that triggered a headache for me. But honestly, I would still vouch for Blue Bunny, Arce and Haagen Dazs.


1.      Kem Chaoux – Puffs and Ice cream ( Kem va Bánh Su) – the ice cream is in between the cream puffs w/ cream and a fresh slice of watermelon-  VND 65,000 ( Php 182.25) with coconut flavoured ice cream which I like.

Kem Chaoux

2.      Cafe Liegeois – Coffee Shake w/ cream on top and chocolate bars and slivers – VND 65,000 ( Php 182.25)

Cafe Liegeois

Foodie Notes: unlimited cold iced tea served for FREE.

FREE Iced Tea

TOKYO CREPES – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court


            Crepe with Nutella Filling – VND 25,000 (Php 71.25)

Crepe with Nutella Filling

KITCHEN JAPAN – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court


Kep Bánh Mi – VND 36,000 (Php 102.60) – Shrimp sandwich w/ tomato and lettuce served with French Fries

Kep Bánh Mi

TAPIOCUP – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court


Tapiocup Raspberry flavour – bubble tea


Tapiocup Raspberry flavour

LOTTERIA – Parkson’s Le T Ton food court. Their version of McDonald’s – even the colours was reds and yellows. Serves burgers and chickens.


1.      Bulgogi Burger – your typical beef burger with an Asian twist served with French Fries – this is good!

Bulgogi Burger

2.      Cheese Burger – universal junk food – but Jollibee tastes better

Cheese Burger


Vietnam is the world’s 2nd  largest exporter of coffee after Brazil, and cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese. It’s a paradise for coffee-lovers. The local style is strong and sweet; key words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot, pronounced “nowm”). I am no coffee drinker/lover – but this time – I just might change my mind.

Coffee Shops: (among hundreds)

1.      The Coffee Bean

2.      The New York Dessert Cafe

3.      Trung Nguyen Coffee

Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop

            Coffee Brands:

1.      Hai Khanh Tuong – taste like coffee with chocolate in it ( the best I have tasted but we failed to look for its store)

Hai Khanh Tuong

2.      Gourmet Blend of Trung Nguyen Coffee –  Formerly known as House Blend, this is Trung Nguyen’s famous Gourmet Blend of all four bean varieties: Robusta, Arabica, Carimor, Excelsa., in two 250-gram foil vent bags within decorative boxes (500 gram total, 1.17 pounds). This is the traditional House Blend coffee served at over 1000 Trung Nguyen coffeehouses throughout Southeast Asia. -TN

Gourmet Blend (Trung Nguyen Coffee)

3.      Trung Nguyen – S –  Chinh Phuc – Cafe Rang Xay Thuan Viet –Considered a “Home Blend” in Vietnam, this special blend is a slightly milder version of the Gourmet Blend. We obtained a limited amount of this stock, usually not available for export.

The Buon Me Thuot Special is a blend of Arabica, Robusta, Chari (Excelsa) and Catimor beans. In traditional Vietnamese roasting and flavor balancing style, Trung Nguyen created a trademark “every occasion” coffee with a rich, broad flavor and buttery mouthfeel, with excellent aftertaste and keeping qualities. This is a highly affordable coffee with great heritage, sophisticated balance and many hints of chocolate, fruit and nut. – TN

Cafe Rang Xay Thuan Viet

4.      G7 Ca Phe Hoa Tan – also by Trung Nguyen. G7 instant coffee is extracted directly from the coffee bean, which gives a better cup of coffee than conventional freeze-dried coffee crystals. -TN


5.      Kozi Coffee – Moka – since 1968. You can buy in a pouch and may come with a Vietnamese Coffee Press


Kozi Coffee

Kinds of Coffee and Prices:

  1. 1.      Ca Phe Den – Black Coffee – VND 24,000 (Php 68.40)
  2. 2.      Ca Phe Da – Black Coffee w/ Ice – VND 28, 000 ( Php 79.80 )
  3. 3.      Ca Phe Sua Nóng – Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 28,000 ( Php 79.80 )
  4. 4.      Ca Phe Sua Da – Iced Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – VND 30,000 ( Php 85.50)

Caution: Since ice might or might not be made with purified water, strictly cautious visitors should avoid it, though long-term residents consume ice from reputable cafes and restaurants all the time.

The Phin Filter  is made up of a little metal cup on top of a coffee cup.  It has holes in the bottom, acting as filter.  A few teaspoons of coffee are placed inside the press. On the cup condensed milk is placed.  Fill the press with boiling water then let it drip atop the condensed milk. This will be completed 4 minutes or so. After this stir it, it can be taken hot (ca phê sua nóng) or traditionally it would be poured over ice (ca phê sua da)

Phin Filter with Coffee Bean Grinder

It is good that I didn’t listen to those who were telling me that HCMC isn’t a good vacation destination … because for me it is … if you are into the arts, architecture, food and coffee – this is your place, this is my place.  Every corner there is am art supply shop, art gallery or a small bookstore. This is the nearest you can get to Europe … in Asia.  Most people aren’t rude, they just find it hard to speak in English and the frustration that they can’t convey their message turns into exasperation. When you lived all your life in Manila – these warnings aren’t new. Just be careful so as not to ruin your vacation and have a space for patience and a little understanding- you are there to enjoy anyway.  Yes, there are also people who aren’t nice (they are everywhere in the world and not in Vietnam alone) and would rip you off your Vietnamese Dong … but know your prices, be smart. I was able to haggle even inside a department store – this is my ultimate test of how good a haggler I am.  

Travelling in a foreign place takes a lot of precautionary measures but don’t let this ruin your perception of a place.  I was never a believer that one thing can be judged wrongly by another and that you have to believe it. Give it a chance!  Cebu Pacific and Vietnam are two words that has a bad reputation that precedes them … I would say so otherwise … I’d fly Cebu Pac again … I’d go to Vietnam again.  The experience is a once in a lifetime adventure – I’ve put in so much joy and importance to simple things at this point in my life … it makes me too easy to please that is why I am happier. And I think it is better.

My 1st Broadway debut on stage is a role of a bar girl in Miss Saigon staged in Hotel Intercontinental Manila.  Not in my wildest dream have I imagined myself that I’d go to Saigon and see it myself … smell their coffee, walk in their afternoon drizzle or  experience the hot sun.   It was a gift … it is precious to me … it is a personal journey … it is a gastronomic delight … it is where one of my best friend’s roots is  … the place is close to my heart.

If you’d ask me if I’d go back there? … yes, a hundred times more and back … in my bicycle wearing Ao Dai ( dress )  and Non La (Conical Hat) 🙂

Vietnamese Lady wearing Ao Dai and Non La

 Mahaha dinn Bru (goodbye, till we meet again) , Vietnam!

Some Trivia Source: Wiki