Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mission Saigon: Day 1: 26/03/11

Ah I don't even know how to start, so much happenings, so many things to write! ;)
I suggested that we have a sleep over at Azni's place at D'sara Perdana as we have a morning flight the next day to Ho Chi Minh City @ Saigon. But in the end it was me who missed it as I finished late from MGMT's concert. So I only came in the next morning. Sorry Jue, I didn't mean to ditch you...

Our flight was scheduled at 0910 am, so we took off from Azni's place at 7am. Ah yes, we have a mission this time around. Our troupe consists of myself, Azni and Jue. Another partner – Nani won't be joining us though

Anyway, back to the trip. We didn't get to sit together for the flight to Saigon. We were very hungry on the flight, as we were in a rush in the morning, plus we didn't pre-order our meals. When the steward finally came, the overly friendly passenger next to me had lots of things to say to the steward. I was becoming slightly annoyed (remember I was really hungry by now), so I cut their conversation short hehe..sorry fellow passenger :-p Later after enjoying my meal, the friendly lady chatted with me. She's one heck of a travel bug, she has at least 5 trips per year with different groups, would always eye for Air Asia's free ticket promo and had already a booked a trip a year from now. This trip to Saigon was booked a year ago, woah! She payed about RM50 for taxes only.

We arrived on time at Saigon at 10.10 am local time (Saigon is 1 hour behind Malaysian time). We took the taxi to our hotel – An Tam hotel near to Ben Thant market which cost us USD9 (1 USD = 20,000 VND = RM3). Our taxi driver was quiet weird, he suddenly swatted a mosquito (or a fly), and at one point of time, was babbling to himself, or maybe to us, but we couldn't understand him.

When we arrived at the hotel, it was only 11am. We couldn't check in until 12 noon, so we decided to go straight to Ben Thant market. It is so near to our hotel that when we step out the door, we could immediately see Ben Thant's door #5. This would become our daily routine for the next 4 days.

We surveyed around Ben Thant quickly, eyeing for our mission items (I will only reveal this in my next post! So you have to stay tuned!) Then we went to the shoe shops outside Ben Thant as Azni wanted to buy some Crocs sandals. I'm not sure whether these are originals, but most probably not, but they are good imitations. I think Azni went in and out this shop for the next 3 days to change / buy new shoes / Crocs / jibbitz lol! The shopkeeper could recognize us already!

The Crocs

Now, feeling hungry we went searching for food! We saw a very nice looking bakery – Tou Les Jours (it's French for “Everyday”). But crossing the road was a nightmare! The traffic was never ending, we had to ask for “abang hijau”'s assistance. We felt like we were in a scene from Friends' Central Perks, having buns and smoothies at the cafe. I had the strawberry banana smoothie (USD2 or RM6) as I wanted to compare it with KFC's Krushers. Verdict? Tou Les Jours' tasted leaner, sans the milk. So I prefer the 'unhealthier' version i.e. KFC's hehe. But then Azni loved her mango smoothie.

Abg hijau

Our smoothies

Hunger pangs satisfied, we moved on in search of Sinh Cafe Travel agent. It was recommended by Azni's friend Erni (who will be joining us later) to take a tour through the agent. But it proved to be quite a challenge to find it – not everyone knew the place. We asked almost everyone that we could find, but in the end a hotel receptionist was able to point us to the right direction. If we were in the Amazing Race, we would have been eliminated! Actually I did take this agent during my previous trip to CuChi tunnel, but the location just somehow slipped off my mind.

Finally finding Sinh Cafe, we decided to take the CuChi tunnel + Ho Chi Minh city 1 day tour for USD8 (RM 24). This doesn't include the entrance fee to the places that we would be going – only covering the bus transportation and the guide fees.

We then walked back to our hotel only to find that our deluxe 3 bedroom was still not ready. We were told to wait for a while, then given a 2 bedroom (room # 501), and told that an extra bed would be sent later. Upon inspection, we were satisfied with the size of the room – it was spacious for the 3 of us, and still looked new. After resting and prayers, we were up and about again. We would be meeting Azni's friend Erni at the hotel, then she would be taking us to eat and shop hurrah!

We asked the hotel again for our extra bed, but were then told it was still not ready. After we voiced our disappointements (we paid for 3 beds – through Agoda for RM123 per room per night), the hotel agreed to change our room to Room# 301. We got our 3 beds, but unfortunately, only later we found out that the room's hot shower wasn't working! We were too lazy to change rooms again, so we stuck with it till the end of the trip.

Our room

Hotel kami yg kurus

At our hotel lobby

When Erni came, she took us to Halal@Saigon restaurant. (Taxi cost about USD2) We had Ban Xeo as appetizer (a floury savoury eaten with leaves and sauce – very healthy!), Clam soup, Talapia sambal (this is a Malaysian dish) and Thien ly garlic. All cost us USD30 (RM90 for 4 persons, not bad!) The food was nom nom!

Happy eaters @ Halal Saigon

Ban Xeo appetizer

Clam soup

Talapia sambal

Thien ly

Everyone happy and full, it was time to embark on our mission. What is it actually? Let it remain a mystery ;) We almost snapped up everything hehe..well not everything, just the range that caught our fancy ;)

Day 1 mission was a success! When we finished, it was then time for Earth Hour at 8.30pm local time where participating outlets would switch off their lights to support the campaign. Erni told us that her apartment Somerset was participating, so she brought us back to her home. Boy, was it dark! We were escorted by torchlights to the swimming pool where candles were lit and the residents were having BBQ. Nice! Btw, this is the second time I'm celebrating Earth Hour in Vietnam, last year was at Ha Long bay.

Next Erni brought us to a very nice cafe nearby to her house – Take cafe where we had our current addiction – ca phe sua da (pronounced ca-fe sher-da) or iced coffee with milk. We had a photo session thanks to the very helpful waitress (I suspect she was bored – as she just readily entertained our requests for all sort of poses).

Take cafe

Ca phe sua da

We went back to Erni's place to meet up with her mom who was accompanying her for a few weeks. Although still full, she served us with more food – fruits and keropoks. At the end of the day, we might have piled up a few kilos already – and it's only Day 1! We then said our goodbyes and went back to our hotel. We would be meeting up with Erni again the next day.

Ah, a note I forgot to mention - WiFi is easily accessible here, everywhere you go, it is available! And it's free! However, facebook is blocked in Vietnam. You would need to do some tweaking to be able to access it.

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