[TRAVEL] Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – PART I

[Warning… EXTREMELY HUGE PHOTOS coming up. Haven’t gotten the hang of WordPress yet… since I just ported over from Blogger. So… I’ll try to make it more readable in Part II]

Let’s start this post with… I’m a kiasu Singaporean.
Being a kiasu Singaporean, I couldn’t resist when there was a Jetstar Asia sale sometime back in November 2012, and I gathered 3 more friends to go on an excursion to Vietnam with me.

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The Somerset Residences pool in the afternoon

This was our first trip to Vietnam, and I guess we all weren’t too sure what to expect, and we were all definitely not prepared for the trip.
“How unprepared?” you might ask.
Very.
Let’s say… we only booked our accomodations 4 hours before flying off.
So I could think of a whole pile of excuses for this last minute planning, but the top one on my list is that we just got back from NCCL and Boracay.


To be fair, we did look at a couple of places quite a while back, so we hurriedly scanned through some of the listings and decided on a Somerset Service Apartment at Ngyuen Binh Khiem. We were upgraded to a 3 room apartment, fully furnished with dining table, living room, modem, kitchen, washing machine… basically everything we would need for our 8 day stay, and some more. It’s pricier than a normal hotel and there are lots of expat families living there, in particular Japanese and Caucasian expats. The pool is usually filled with expat kids splashing around in the evenings.

I have absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the service provided. I could not be happier with the accomodations. The only minor unhappiness I had was an allergic reaction to something, I’m guessing the bed linen detergent or beddings. But since I’m the only one who got it, I can’t say for sure what caused it. The staff cleaned up our extremely messy and oily kitchen daily, they took the initiative to fix our leaking aircon when they saw it during one of the daily cleanings, and their response is prompt round the clock.
The first meal of our trip was Pho, naturally. The shop that the receptionist recommended we try was also listed on trip advisor as one of the best Pho places around.

Pho Hoa
http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/ShowUserReviews-g293925-d1232846-r133281083-Pho_Hoa-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html

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My bowl of Pho after I was done adding stuff inside

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Our table of food…

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the other tables waiting for food or eating.

After trying most of the different permutations of meat, we’ve decided unanimously that the “Raw Beef” is the best. We had spring rolls and other side dishes too, but I’d recommend the Raw Beef Pho. The coffee there is kinda overpriced, but still relatively cheap compared to Singapore. So just get one!
Trung Nguyen is on everey street corner, and they sell their special roast at every one. If you have the chance to pop by a supermarket like Big C, they might have better prices because, like all supermarkets they have daily specials and super savers. Just remember to buy a Long Cam too! That’s the metal contraption which they use to filter the coffee.

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a coffee filter at Trung Nguyen opposite our apartments.

Stark Tower and Bun Bo Hue

On one of our random walk abouts, we decided to visit what we all the Stark tower, which is actually called Bitexco Financial Tower (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bitexco-Financial-Tower/203803992991729?ref=stream)

On the way there, we got hungry. Holidays always make me permanently hungry… So we popped into a shop that looked promising.

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The beef. Sweet, and surprisingly tender, despite how it looks on the plate.
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Fried beef with chillies, peanuts and all kinds of yummy fragrant greens. Was meant to be eaten with the bean/rice biscuits, but we enjoyed it with our rice.

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My bown of extremely nice dry beef noodles.

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And after eating and harrassing the kittens at the shop (yeah, the mummy cat at the restaurant had some kittens… which we were playing with) we trotted off to Bitexco Tower.
I can’t really say there was much to do there, we went to Top Shop and looked around a bit… and apparently you can pay some money to take a lift up to survey the city, but we didn’t.

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Doesn’t it look like Stark Towers?

 

Other random walkabouts and discoveries

Took a walk along the river, there are restaurant boats and other large marine vehicles. This ojne happened to catch my eye. The river is teeming with life, you can see little fish zooming around, and the surface is carpeted with water plants, especially in the sheltered areas. The river flows pretty quickly though, and looks a little murky. But I guess that’s to be expected of being downstream.

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The Opera House

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Random bakery with a little Nemo!

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A shop that makes and sells miniature boats for display. It’s somewhere near the Opera House, if you wander around enough you’ll pass by.

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Steet side beef noodles at Ben Thanh marketP1060704

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Meat instant noodles at Saigon Square 2. (the newer one) and This isn’t nice to eat. So don’t eat it!

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Crossing the street outside Ben Thanh is not really that hazardous an affair as it looks. We’ve learnt that if they honk at you, it means they want you to stop. If they don’t honk, just continue walking slowly and they’ll sorta flow around you.
It’s pretty safe too, no snatch thefts occured.

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At a random SPA which uses Dematologica products. We did a mix of facial and massage, and one of us did hot stone.
It was much much better than expected! And it cost about 400,000 Dong per person for the facial and massage package.

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A home cooked dinner consisting of fresh shishamo, toasted baguette, supermarket bought crossaints (not nice… get from the local bakeries!) and a 250g piece of Rib eye which I procured after a huge amount of gesturing and sign language.

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a 9 USD Deuter bag. It’s really quite a good buy! Very well made. Drop by Ben Thanh Night market and look around.

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The front of the bag

 

 

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[PHOTOBLOG] Punggol Promenade

As part of my new healthy living regime, I will get outdoors more and be up earlier in the mornings.
Heh.
Have no idea how long my resolve will last, but it sucks to keep getting sick.
Anyhow, early mornings provide nice photo opportunities…
Presenting my latest haunt:


Punggol longkang is now a dam, and fishing, swimming etc in it, is now prohibited.
There’s a red bridge leading to Lorong Halus (ie, the other side of the river) for those with lots of stamina.


The broadwalk, carefully landscaped, with wooden planks for the jogging path.


A small bridge over a smaller inlet.
I like the plants here. These cattails (?) appear to be of a reddish variety, which matches the bridge prettily.


Ripples, from the many fish which flip around excitedly as they kiss the surface.


Sun kissed boy. Looking very sinewy…


Cattails of a greener variety, against a checkered morning sky.


Water-side plants.


There’s a nice chill out place near Punggol Plaza – there’s popeye’s, a Jap restaurant, a cafe, some seafood restaurants…
There’s also a pool hall, and a 24hr prawning/fishing/crabbing pond(s). The prawning ponds are opened by hai bin as well – the quality of the catch is not bad, as good, maybe better than their Bishan branch.

[PHOTOBLOG] Marina Barrage

A relatively unknown sweet spot on this island, Marina Barrage attracts many, for different reasons.


Car Park B is where you will be redirected to when the main car park outside Marina Barrage is full.
Overgrown n and teeming with bird life.


Birds, bird enthusiasts, bird photographers.


A little Peaceful Dove strutting around the parking lot.


Marina Bay Sands as seen from Marina South.


From the inside of the Barrage.


The highest point of the arch.


With an owl nestling at the highest point of the arch.


The Singapore Flyer, through a sculpture.

And random other scenery shots:


A Tesla Roadster, uses less electricity than a desktop, takes just one hour to charge up, and runs for a few hundred km.


Sunset! 🙂


And a parting shot.

[PHOTOBLOG] Daryl’s Cats!

Paid Daryl and his 2 kittens a visit. Although I’m not extremely fond of very young kittens, I have to say it was a pretty good photography session.
Hyperactive small animals are very difficult to photograph. But I think I managed to get a few decent shots, in between switching devices – my lx3 and an iPhone.


Evening started with a sunset and dinner.


Owner of the meows.


Then we started on the meows…


This is the photo taken by the iPhone in the previous picture.


Meows are much easier to photograph when they are sleeping…


Goodnight!