The Land Of The Ascending Dragon or Vietnam is profusely known more for its busy traffic streets, it’s historical war stories, and also the delicious Vietnamese cuisines. Especially if you’re in Ho Chih Minh city, you’ll definitely be overwhelmed by the immense amount of people scattered around the area. Not to mention how you feel super blessed just to be alive after crossing their busy streets. The main tip is to just walk and hopefully they’ll avoid you, *fingers crossed*.
However, if you’re a person that’s not into the hustle and bustle of city life, then escape to the laid back vibe part of Vietnam. Outskirts of Ho Chih Minh to be exact. Vung Tau and Mui Ne are two places you need to be in to catch dem island and suburban feels.
So, I was in Vietnam for 5 days, with 3 nights in each different town. It’s best to go with a group of friends or family. In my case, I was there with my college mates which I’ve not hung out in so long, thus making it a surreal travelling experience for all of us.
The moment we all touched down in Tan Son Nhat International Airport around 430pm, we couldn’t resist getting for ourselves Banh Mi, a Vietnamese famous sandwich delicacy. Oh, what a joy it was to be welcomed with such scrumptious food. We then straight headed towards a three hours drive to the city of Vung Tau.
Upon arrival, we all had a productive first day when we visited the famous Vung Tau Tourism Market. Not only does this area is famous for it’s fresh, beautiful seafood and their souvenir but there was also a theme park. Being the adventurous people that we are, we participated in some of their “not for the fear of heights type of person” rides and “when will it stop” ride too. It was worth the 3-hour drive. We paid for each ride for about RM7-10 per person and it goes on for more than 5 minutes. Considering the screams and laughter that we filled up the whole park with certainly brought our inner child back.
After our “adrenaline junkie” side decided to quit for a moment, hungry, we walked the long stretch of Vung Tau market street which is filled with seafood, seafood and more seafood. What’s even better is the beer is cheaper than some of the carbonated drinks. However, you’ve got to have a thick skin whilst trying to order as not many are fluent in the English language. How we communicated probably most of the trip is through the amazing usage of Google Translate. When it comes to seafood, they are all fresh and mainly are grilled. You have an array of octopus, lobster, snail, clams, fish, and many more. In total, five of us ordered a total of 6 different kinds of seafood (big portion too!) and 3 beers, each had to fork out only RM26!
Our stay for the night was a homey type of feel. Secret Garden Homestay is run by a married couple who is friendly and ever so helpful with your stay needs. This area is just a stone’s throw away from the beach too.
There’s more to see in this city of Vung Tau. We embark on a short hike/ popular spot for Catholics and tourist. From the picture, it depicts of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue but climbing up to see the famous Jesus Christ’s statue is a worthwhile experience. Be reminded to bring water, an umbrella as the heat can be too much for you. As you’re walking up to the statue, always remember to stop and look at the scenic view behind you and the angelic statue around you. It’s also a very Instagrammable place too! I know Jesus would approve of this 😛 It can be quite a tiring walk for those who are not used to hiking upstairs, but there are plenty of pit stop huts to relax with the sea view.
Feeling how hot the heat is on that day, 33 °C, we needed to cool off at a restaurant with a cold drink and infuse ourselves with their pho. We end up in Vitamin C2 Beer Club where they serve great Beef Noodle Soup and rice noodles. Alongside the amazing view of the beach and the streets. There are plenty of other cafes around too.
After that, we stopped by the fishing village park place where it promises an amazing breeze and picturesque view of the boats and sea. Be sure to get their ice cream too, it’ll make your day even better under the scorching hot weather.
With the heat drawing us close to being all fatigue, what’s best to rejuvenate it with their famous massage parlours? All of us took the head, neck and foot massage which lasted for an hour that cost about RM 32 only! We all had a good nap while the massage was going on too because it’s that good.
Feeling refreshed to walk more, we headed towards another church but this time it’s famous for its Mother Mary statue carrying baby Jesus called Đức Mẹ Bãi Dâu. It’s a statue that has managed to draw attraction from tourist and Catholics all over. Upon reaching the majestic Mother Mary statue, be sure to go through tiring and steep staircase. However, it presents one of the most meaningful and beautiful statues of Jesus’s story; the 13 stations of Christ. It’s a great place to reflect and pray as you’ll be surrounded by the relaxing nature. Either way, a great place to snap some pictures too. Truly a place you need to be in awe of! Oh, the entrance is free.
Just a two minutes drive away, you get to experience one of the most beautiful sunsets ever with few food trucks and beach chairs around the corner to really enjoy mother nature.
It’s time for us to travel from Vung Tau to Mui Ne, which is about 4 hours drive. Also, make sure you’ve done your number 1 and 2 as on the way there’s isn’t many clean options of washroom around.
We were nearing Mui Ne before we made few pit stops. First, was the Sand Sculpture Park in Phan Thiet. You get to enjoy beautiful sand sculptures created by the skilful hands of foreign sculptors at Vietnam’s first ever sand sculpture park. However, we all felt like the entrance fee of 100 VND( RM17) wouldn’t be worth it to us. It’s only worth the money if you’re a fan of sculpture in general. So, we skip that and headed our way to Poshanu Tower, located on Ba Nai Hill – 7 km to the northeast of Phan Thiet City. It’s a religious place with a beautiful seaside view. You walk a little bit more up the hill after the temple which present sort of ruins of a basement protection area with a glorious view of the city. It’s quite windy when you’re up there which is perfect with the heat in Phan Thiet.
Tired, we decided to check in to our stay for the night, Mui Ne Sports Hotel to rest and relax. The hotel was simple and presents an exquisite ambience.
After feeling fresh, we managed to catch a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of Phan Thiet Central Market. Although we got there an hour before they were about to shut down, it’s good to see the culture of the Vietnamese. They’ll be some who’ll be sitting at the corner of the market and start playing Chinese chess while you can see a few “aunties stall market” be talking and laughing with their fellow neighbour. Besides that, get fresh seafood, meat and fruits from this market too. Don’t forget their cheap prices too! Totally worth it.
Next up, is one of the main attraction in Mui Ne that you “die die” also must experience once in your lifetime, is their Red Sands Dunes. It’s a dessert that’s famous for its sand sliding and amazing sunset views. To join along in the sand sliding activity, you got to purchase their sand sliding board but always remember to negotiate for a cheaper price. It’s a cool activity to do with your friends and family. Plus, it’ll be a great workout for your legs too as climbing up the sandy desert could be a calorie burner for you.
Mui Ne is also famous for its seafood too! The restaurant that our driver swear that’s the best seafood place ever definitely rise to the expectation. Bờ Kè Quán restaurant is not only cheap but it’s worth to know that the beers (Saigon Beer) are cheaper than water! Drink lah, what else!
We ordered fish, lobster, oyster, snail, coconut drink, tiger prawn, chicken, fried rice, clams and six bottles of beers. Each only had to pay about RM50. The seafood was fresh, the portion was enough to fit 5 people and oh so delicious. Besides that, we got complimentary sliced watermelon afterwards. Certainly, our tummies were happy.
Started our morning with a hearty Vietnamese pho breakfast, and set our adventure back to the city centre of Ho Chih Minh. Before that, we wanted to visit a few places in Mui Ne before we head off. First, we reached this majestic view of the fishing village. An Instagrammable place for sure. You also get to walk on down to the sea area where you’ll have a number of stalls either selling fresh seafood or runs a small restaurant.
Afterwards, we set our sight to the last pit stop in Mui Ne, The Fairy Stream (Suoi Tien). The entrance fee is affordable which is about 15.000VND per person (RM 2.67). You will be required to walk barefoot as you’ll be strolling with the water stream itself. Take note of the wonderful landslide sort of ruins that makes the whole place stunning. Combined with the trees, stream and towering heights of the dramatic landscape around you, you’ll be in for a treat. Make sure you take tons of pictures and indulge in their local ice cream sold just at the gate to the fairy stream.
It’s about 230pm now, and we arrive at the busy street of Ho Chih Minh city. 33 °C, feeling restless, we checked in at Meraki Boutique Hotel (District 1) which situated at the heart of their ‘Changkat Bukit Bintang’ place; Bui Vien Walking Street. After we all settled in, just right downstairs from our hotel is the famous Egg Coffee that the Vietnamese are famous for. You also have Chocolate, Matcha egg coffee too.
While we were in Ho Chih Minh, it’s best if you walk because it’s faster to get around especially if it’s nearby. Although be mindful of their busy crossing streets. There are some places that we went that we needed to tick off was their Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, and just a minute walk away was their Saigon Central Post Office. You can post postcards to your loved one or get a souvenir in this post office.
Next, the famous Saigon Walking Street poses a rather chilled out spot but there was one attraction which captured our attention. It’s the Cafe Apartment. This place turns an old apartment space into cafes, restaurants, and workspace, making it super hip.
From walking about 7K steps all in that evening/ night, we all made our way back to the hotel but by then, the party has already started. You get to hear loud club music, people drinking by the side of the road, karaoke singing and not to mention the cars and bike going through which makes the whole road so jammed up. Always make sure your belongings be right beside you.
We decided on sticking to the true Vietnamese style and drink “tepi jalan” (roadside). It was an experience having to sit with a cold beer in your hands while people passing by trying their best to navigate their way through with the vehicles congesting the place up. Unique would be an understatement to this street.
Fun Fact: Oh, in Bui Vien street itself, they are famous for selling these to blow up balloons that’s full of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas and often used as an anaesthetic, for their tipsy customers.
The final day, and we stopped by at District 3, about 15 mins away by Grab, to visit their Pink Church, Hai Ba Trung. Though the inside of the church was locked, we still could enter the outside of the church. It’s more for a picture taking place as you don’t always see church painted all in pink.
I can’t get away without writing about the love I have for the Vietnamese cuisine that I’ve had since I was here.
You can’t come to Vietnam and not eat their pho. The Beef Noodle Soup or pork is the best anywhere you go. Of course, be sure to add that given fresh vegetable (mint leaf is their best), and a kick of their ‘cili padi’. Cheap and tasty.
Basically a Vietnamese Grilled Pork with rice vermicelli.
A must try!
Just 10 minutes walk away from Bui Vien Walking Street presents the best Banh Mi I’ve ever eaten in my life. The queue is long so you know why it’s famous. Head on over to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa for the biggest portion and scrumptious meal. The spice kicks in, cheese overload and juiciest meat, trust me, try it for yourself.
Fresh Spring Roll
The translucent parcels are packed with meat, fresh salad, and with a layer of coriander. On the go dish. Sedap!
Overall, Vietnam offers some of the most fascinating cultures and even more amazing food. Travelling there is cheap and the expenses there are truly affordable. In conclusion, was it all worth it? Damn right it was! The beautiful country of Vietnam always has my heart. Till next time, tạm biệt!