Notre Dame Cathedral – Ho Chi Minh City

The Notre Dame Cathederal in Ho Chi Minh City was established by French Colonialists following the conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon.

It’s design is somewhat reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris, with the exception of the spires on both bell towers, and the color. All of the materials were imported from France during construction.

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Vendor

As you can imagine, this is a big tourist spot. Combined with the Saigon Central Post Office being located across the street, this is a prime breeding area for vendors and scammers.

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Visiting Hours

The cathedral does have limited visiting hours.

The entirety of the cathedral is also not accessible to tourists.

The interior is artfully decorated in white with wood accents.

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Tourist Hot Spot

Notre Dame Cathedral is well worth a visit, but prepare to be patient if wanting to take a picture without any tourists invading your photo.

Chi Hoa – Ho Chi Minh City

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Chi Hoa

Chi Hoa is an unassuming restaurant that does traditional Vietnamese cuisine with a slightly modern twist.

The restaurant sits in a small space that is four stories tall. Each room is small, and tables are somewhat close together, creating a cozy atmosphere.

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Cafe Su Da

The Café Su Da (32,000 dong) had a nice dark color, signifying strong, dark coffee with not too much sweetened condensed milk. Loads of ice also made the drink pleasant on hot, sweltering days. This caffeine booster would surely bring about more energy.

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Fried Vegetable

The meal started out with a complimentary dish of some side of fried vegetable. It was crisp and somewhat chewy at the same time. It was nice to have something to munch on while perusing the menu.

The Goi Cuon Tom Thit (Spring Rolls) (52,500 dong) came four to an order and were bursting with vibrant shrimp through the opaque rice paper wrapper. The pork was slightly on the dry side, but the fresh veggies and noodles helped to offset that. The one thing I noticed in Ho Chi Minh City when ordering spring rolls is that the rice paper wrapper was much drier than what I am used to, almost making it crunchy. The sauce had tons of crushed peanuts and fried shallots giving it a lot of texture.

The Bun Thit Bo Xao (Rice Noodles with Beef) (85,000 dong) was presented a little differently to what I am used to. The noodles were nice and springy. There were tons of onions, carrots, and radish along with some scallions, fried garlic, and mint. When I order this back home, it is more like a salad since it comes with a bunch of lettuce, beans sprouts, shrimp paste, and an egg roll. The beef was nice and tender. The accompanying sauce had a huge fish sauce flavor on the finish. This was radically different than what is served back home, but it was very good.

Service was friendly, and they spoke English. Nothing on the dessert menu looked super interesting so I passed on that. The entire bill for the meal was just under $9 USD, which is a great deal. I know you can eat on the street for much cheaper, but for a sit down meal this is well worth it.

Fanny Ice Cream – Ho Chi Minh City

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Fanny Ice Cream

Fanny Ice Cream gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I think the rave reviews have more to do with their Instagram presentations on some their dishes, rather than for the ice cream itself.

First of all, this is gelato not ice cream. In the sweltering heat, having something cold seemed like a great idea.

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Mango & Coconut

The mango had a nice, vibrant fruity taste and was not overly sweet. My only complaint was that it was really soft and on the verge of becoming soupy in a matter of seconds.

The coconut had a deep, rich coconut flavor but was a little too sweet for my taste. There were flecks of coconut throughout. The ice cream came with a little cookie.

This is not the best “ice cream” that I’ve ever had, but eating something cool on hot humid days is hard to beat.

I found their prices to be on the higher side for what it is. I guess their presentation commands top dollars by Instagramers.

Banh Mi 362 – Ho Chi Minh City

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Banh Mi 362

Based on the reviews, I was somewhat surprised after walking into Banh Mi 362. Their banh mi is highly praised, but the Subway style set-up was not expected.

The staff is friendly and English speaking. The display case features fresh vegetables.

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Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork)

The Thit Nuong (Grilled Pork) (35,000 dong) banh mi comes with a thin slice of grilled pork with the juices still running out of it. Veggies include cucumbers, carrots, radish, cilantro and jalapenos. The bread has a nice thin super crunchy crust, and a soft chewy exterior.

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Thit Do (Red Pork)

The Thit Do (Red Pork) (30,000 dong) is the type of pork you would normally find in a Chniese restaurant, known as char sui. The pork has a nice fat content, and a slightly sweet glaze. Again, the banh mi is loaded with fresh veggies and jalapenos.

The banh mi here aren’t your traditional type sandwiches. They’re very good and fresh. My only complaint is that they are a little lacking in the meat department. But it is worth a try if you’re in the area.

Ho Chi Minh City – Intro

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Notre Dame

About 10 days after returning from my Jakarta trip, I was back on the road again. There was a great fare to Tokyo, but then another good fare to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) popped up. Although it cost more than the fare to Tokyo, I had never been to Vietnam and it was on my radar.

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People Watching

I didn’t know much about traveling to Vietnam, let alone that I needed a tourist visa. From the time I bought my ticket until my scheduled flight there were several changes to the tourist visa. If I would have known what was going to transpire, I probably would have delayed going to Vietnam until things got better.

At the time I purchased my ticket, you could gain entry via tourist for $25 for a one time entry. The US apparently changed their tourist visa policy towards Vietnam, and they likely changed their visa policy. Gone was the one time entry visa of $25, and introduced was a one year multi-entry visa for $135.

From what I read, there was a lot of pushback from tour operators in Vietnam as they knew this new policy would likely decrease tourism, and therefore their livelihood.

Days before I departed, they supposedly re-instituted the one time tourist visa of $25, but every visa service I saw was still offering only the multi-entry visa. Perhaps they were slow on implementing the change, as they were charging more for the mutli-entry visa than the one time visa entry.

If going to Vietnam, I suggest that you have all of your paperwork ready, including your visa entry letter, passport photos, and cash in USD. It will save you a lot of time. I used Vietnam Visa Pro and had no problems with them.

After deplaning, you must deal with your entry visa prior to heading to immigration unless you already have a multi-entry visa.

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New Buildings

Ho Chi Minh City seems to be a city undergoing a big change. It is a city mixed with old and new. Construction is abounding, and a metro system is being constructed, but probably won’t be finished for a few years.

I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the country outside of Ho Chi Minh City, but I guess that’s where the motivation comes in for having a multi-entry visa, LOL.