I came to HCMC for a business conference and I decided to extend my stay for 2 days in order to catch-up with some old friends. I took Singapore Airlines (sponsored, if not I would definitely just take a budget airline).
I stayed in Sheraton Hotel (again, sponsored during the conference period). I had to say Sheraton is one of the best hotels in HCMC with grand interior, excellent service and the comfort I had was undeniable.
We were welcomed by the HCMC University of Technology – Business Faculty Dean and members. The dinner was hosted at a decent restaurant overlooking the Independence Palace. And that night (Sep 2nd) was Vietnam Independence day. We enjoyed the gorgeous fireworks and the festive atmosphere of the night.
I started the day with a few swimming laps and a warm sauna. The pool and gym were rather small. Breakfast was delicious with a decent variety of choices. I chose pancake, coffee and some fruits. The dessert bar was awesome!
After the meeting, we were lucky to have Nguyen and Phuong (Vietnam delegates from the University) bring us out. Some major attractions were just a stone throw away from Sheraton. We went to Notre Dame Cathedral but it was closed. We went to explore Post Office and sent some postcards home. We even crashed a wedding photo-shoot! (It was really fun.) We walked around for about two or three hours before heading back for Dinner.
Late night, I met some good friends of mine and we headed to Sheraton rooftop bar for Ladies’ night (2 free Cocktails for Ladies). Drinks were generally good, not something fantastic.Not so many guests there, only a group of US youngsters, a group of Korean businessmen and a few pocket tables. However, the DJ was really cool as he jammed Billboard hits and engaged the crowd well. View from the bar was stunning!
After the long meeting, I was about to head out with the other delegates then the heavy downpour started. It was horrifying. Looking down to the pool, I can see bamboo chairs and tables “flying” and the trees were shaking violently. I cannot imagine it was deadly hot and humid just an hour ago or so.
We waited for nearly two hours until the rain got smaller. We just took a cab to Ben Thanh Market for some shopping. We bought Trung Nguyen coffee, some shirts and also had good dessert there.
Early evening, leaving Sheraton, I moved to De Tham street and settled in a highly recommended hostel. De Tham and its surroundings are known for backpackers and super touristy ambience. I took the night strolling around and emerging into the local life.
I settled for a Banh My and a chat over coffee with some of my friends at Highland Cafe just around the corner of De Tham.
My itinerary for the day was pretty simple. I had Dung Ha and Helen (good friends of mine in Singapore but they settled in HCMC now) bike me around. They both are enthusiastic photographers and I ended up with a few GB of photos for just a day!
We had breakfast at Hai Thien Pho. The interesting thing about this restaurant is that they use natural colour from vegetables (banana leaf, sesame, etc…) to dye the noodle. The taste was briliant!
We then headed to Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office. The Cathedral was opened and I managed to explore what I missed the other day.
They introduced me to the park nearby for “student-sitting-cafe”. I ordered iced Lemon tea and seriously, it was awesome! It was Sep 5th, school reopening day in Vietnam (in general) and the streets were filled with school kids, students in uniform.
Ha and I wanted to celebrate Helen’s birthday a day in advance so we brought her to Haagen Dazs for ice-cream. Helen had dance class, Ha and I continued our adventure for the rest of the day.
Ha and I went for a movie (Vietnamese movie). We drove around the city and we had dinner at a restaurant owned by a renown Vietnamese writer – Nguyen Nhat Anh. The restaurant is specialized in central Vietnam cuisine.
We ended our “full day trip” at Cooku’s nest Cafe, where local artists and bands perform nightly. You pay for the drinks and a minimal service charge and you can enjoy a 2-hour of awesome music and ambiance.
I enjoyed the short trip so much and I was really grateful to have my good friends meet up and bring me around, show me the charm of Ho Chi Minh city.