Sunday, 1 April 2012

Tet 2012 Celebration

After a quick dessert at XCream Cafe, we went to Renaissance Hotel to prepare for the New Year's Eve Celebration.

At the right side, my bed, and my mess!
Renaissance organized a pool party especially for this Tet Celebration. It was an international buffet dinner plus free flowing wine or any drinks until dawn. You have to pay to join in on the fun.
International buffet dinner at the pool area

They have a nice river view where you can witness the fireworks display at midnight. 

While waiting for 12 midnight, we went outside to see a street filled with flowers.

There were a whole lot of flowers, the street were filled on both sides. I wish I was able to capture photos of them during daytime.

Then finally, the clock strikes 12!
Happy New Year!

And look at how many people watched the fireworks in the city...
The view from the top

These are motorcycle riders on the streets after the fireworks display. Looks like every family in Vietnam owns at least one motorbike. The good thing is they can go out and watch the fireworks without worrying if there is public transportation available.

The traffic was dispersed quickly. If those were cars, I bet it would take hours before the streets would be cleared.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Ho Chi Minh City Tour and XCream Cafe

After our lunch at Lemon Grass, we went to Ben Thanh Market by foot to burn some calories. It was a good decision to just walk, as we were able to enjoy the city views.

City Hall (I think)

A flower festival on the streets. 

Random street vendor

Then finally, Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market
But lo and behold, the market was closed. A few shops beside the market were open so we took the opportunity to buy a travel backpack. To ease our disappointment, we had dessert at XCream Cafe.

Strawberry Crepe
2 scoops of Ice Cream
 It was great! Definitely better than Magnum! :))

XCream Cafe
212 A2 Nguyen Trai
P. Nguyen Cu Trinh 
Quan 1 TP

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Where to eat when in Saigon: LemonGrass

We arrived late for lunch in Ho Chi Minh City after our Cu Chi Tunnel tour. I didn't have any exact restaurants in mind so we just picked up one recommended restaurant from Lonely Planet book. We asked the cab driver to drive us at 160 Pasteur Street.

And to our surprise, it was the same restaurant where we had our lunch during our first day in Vietnam. We did not realize it because the place's name in the book was different. So we  decided to pick another one in the area. After a few minutes of walking, we stopped at LemonGrass.

The first floor of the restaurant is a bit small, with only six tables. Anyway, the food was a hit and miss. I super loved the crab meat appetizer but I didn't like their seafood soup. Also, it was a bit pricey compared to Nha Hang Ngon (see previous post here). 

Our fruit shakes were initially served. I  liked my Strawberry Shake at Nha Hang Ngon more than my Grape juice here.

Neanne's watermelon juice
Then the salad and appetizer...

Yummy Beef Mango Salad
My most favorite dish served here - Crab Meat
Super Yummy. Served with Chili Sauce.
For our main dish, we ordered Braised Pork and Seafood Soup. I was expecting a Tom Yum or Sinigang type of soup but their soup was bland.

Braised Pork
Seafood Soup

Overall, we enjoyed the food and were satisfied. We spent 844,345 VND (around 1,750 PHP). Not bad right? After the meal, we were energized to walk around and explore Ho Chi Minh by foot! :)

4D Nguyen Thiep
Ho Chi Minh City

Friday, 23 March 2012

Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

Our second day in Vietnam started early. We woke up at 7AM to visit The Sinh Tourist as we have a booked half-day Cu Chi Tunnel Tour. With our experience, I can recommend Sinh Tourist. We left their office on time, their buses were in good condition most particularly their air-cons, and they even provided us bottled waters. However, the problem with all of the group tours was the hidden itinerary: there were several stop-overs to souvenir shops. It was such a waste of time! Good thing that during our tour, we only stopped at one shop and stayed there for only 30 minutes.

Cu Chi Tunnel presents how the South Vietnamese people won against the US army. We watched a short video presentation before going to the main area. Afterwards, we toured around the forest and was amazed on how the soldiers survived and won the war.

A camouflaged hiding area

Sample trap used by the Vietnamese
Tunnel Air Hole
Posing at one of the tank
Rubber sandals
Pretending to be a guerrilla for a minute, we ate what they ate: steamed tapioca and hot tea
Before the tour ended, we crawled on the 100-meter long tunnel. At first, it seemed easy but as we moved further, the tunnel opening kept getting smaller. The strength of our legs were tested with us doing the duck walk! I have felt how hard it was for the soldiers during that time to hide under the tunnel.

We arrived at Ho Chi Minh City at 1:30PM. Time to fill-in our stomachs with some Vietnamese specialties at the Lemon Grass Restaurant, details on my next post. :)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Vietnam Charm - Day One

I booked a ticket to Vietnam for Jan 20 - 25, which I thought were excellent dates because of  the Chinese New Year holidays in Singapore. But then I learned that during those days, the Vietnamese celebrate Tet (their New Year), which means shops and restaurants are closed for the whole week!

Good thing I didn't changed my flight. It was a great experience to witness their new year celebration. There were some establishments that were still available, as well as public transport. If you happened to book for this period, you can spend your time at Mui Ne, just like what we did.

We toured around the city on our first day. Shops were still open since they wouldn't be closed until the 24th. We stayed in a resort-like house, thanks to Neanne's (my sister-in-law) godmother. And the bonus part is we had a free tour around Vietnam.

We went to Nha Hang Ngon for lunch.

If you've read the Lonely Planet book on Vietnam, this place has a different name written on than on the book, but it's referring to the exact same place.

160 Pasteur
Our orders...

Lotus Salad

Fresh Salad Roll with Shrimp and Pork - 14,000 VND per piece (29 PHP / piece)
Seafood Fried Rice

Grilled Shrimp wiith Lime and Chili Garlic Salt - 130,000 VND (266 PHP)
Grilled Beef with Chili Salt served with seasoned toast -  125,000 VND (255 PHP)
Fruit Shake. I really loved the Strawberry Milk Shake at the right.
All were fantastic! And it was inexpensive, our total bill was only 671,000 VND (1,373 PHP) for the four of us. No wonder there were a lot of diners here.

After a great lunch, we headed to Reunification Palace. 

A quick tour around their numerous meeting rooms. :) 

One of the many meeting areas around.
There is an entertainment area in the upper level which includes mini theater and piano. I was thinking maybe while the husbands were on a meeting, their wives were entertaining themselves at the upper floor.

Hunting memorabilia are also displayed.

At the basement, there is a network communication system used during the war.

And a kitchen with a giantic mixer. :)

Afterwards, we went to War Remnants Museum.

It was heartbreaking to see stories about the victims of the war :-(. To cheer us up, we dropped by Saigon Square for some shopping.

We wanted to go to Ben Thanh Market but we were invited for a dinner at Cham Charm. Who are we to resist a free buffet dinner with free-flowing wine right?

The highlight of the dinner...
Grilled Lobster with cheese

Drink-All-You-Can Wine
We ended the night with a photoshoot around the area.