Lost in Translation

My best friend and I went to our first out-of-the country adventure together last February. It wasn’t pure bliss but surely one for the books. That was probably the most grown up thing we’ve done since we’ve known each other and I’d like to do it again sooner.

In this post are some highlights of our trip!

We really intended to do some researching prior to the trip but… procrastination. The most that we were able to do was to book the rooms where we would stay. The trip, however, was different in a lot of ways. There were just the two of us and we had to work out everything on our own. From the plane to room bookings up to the budgeting. Our itinerary was DIY, with little guidance from those angels called travel bloggers, who gave a handful of tips to survive foreign lands that aren’t really big on English.

In Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed at Suite Backpackers Inn along De Tham Street. The accommodation was good and satisfying. The twin room we got was cozy and homey (and girly because the room motif’s pink and purple).

We were lucky enough to catch the last day of the Tet holiday so while most commercial establishments were closed on our first day in the city, we were able to catch a glimpse of the Flower Festival along Ham Nghi. The entire street was closed for this. Locals flocked the streets in their Sunday’s bests.

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At the far-end of Ham Nghi was a book fair! Even though we don’t have a wide grasp of the local language, we understood that Pusheen is best seller in the city and there’s a whole shelf dedicated to the Fifty Shades trilogy.

After appreciating the beauty of flower and books, we went for Vietnamese noodle called Pho along Ho Tung Mao street. I don’t even remember the name of the place but we opted to eat there anyway because we were dead hungry and we lacked energy to choose a better place to savor our first meal. The Pho costs about 50,000 dong or P100.

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Because it was so hot in the city, we ended up looking for a place that serves refreshments. We found Masstige coffee & dessert shop, which we found while we were looking walking along God-knows-what street. Inside the dessert place, we planned our next destination. But again, we failed in the planning and ended up getting lost anyway.

The walking never stopped because Gel and I, despite getting lost a couple of times, wanted to make the most out of Saigon’s streets. So with very little map-reading skills, we walked and walked and walked until we found some good spots and unique stops. The next slideshow outlines our adventure to the post office, which we really planned to visit because we wanted to send a post card to Franz — the other slice of our trio.

Walking and crossing the streets were challenges we had to conquer because of the scorching heat of the sun and the motorcycles that come from all directions. After our first day in the city, we felt like masters in crossing busy streets!

We were in awe because Saigon’s buildings look so beautiful. The Notre Dame Basilica just across the post office was such a sight. Even the interior of the post office — which by the way is painted yellow — has some look to boast. There are lots of stores along the streets and among our favorites is Artbook — a bookstore with a wide collection of movie-inspired items like bags, coasters, placemats, posters and post cards.

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The entire ideal was tiring so before we went for our first dinner in the city, we decided to freshen up a bit and rest for a while.

We intended to check out Ben Thanh market at night but it was closed when we arrived. So we just walked (again) along the streets we see to look for a place to eat. We wanted rice, yes rice, so we ended up sitting on really small chairs and eating grilled barbecue being sold by Koreans just across the left side of Ben Thanh. We got coconut juices too. They are sold everywhere!

After dinner and some more walking, we went to a dessert place known as “Fanny.” They serve different flavors of ice cream, crepes and other desserts. Fanny’s interior was nice too, with paintings on the window panes and glass doors. We tried the Vietnamese coffee here and it’s one of the best, in our opinion.

We started our second day in Vietnam by walking along a park, a long stretch of greenland in the middle of the busy streets. Tried out the exercise equipment stationed there and took lots of photos. We had our brunch at Pho 2000 across Ben Thanh market.

We booked a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels in the afternoon so we rode a “xe om” back to our place, where the tour bus to Cu Chi picked us up.

The Cu Chi tunnels tour gave was “sulit” because of our very knowledgeable tour guide. We went into the woods with strangers; learned about the Vietnam-America war and the handmade booby traps; also tried to conquer our fears by crawling to the tunnels that were used as refuge of the Viet troopers.

We arrived back to district one just in time for dinner and we went for a quick “banh mi” along the street because we were so hungry. It’s a sandwich, with lots of vegetables. We saw the street vendor put soy sauce on the baguette, too.

We went shopping for pasalubong (and bought a set of movie-inspired post cards for friends back home!) that night.

We ate at a fancy diner along the street. I say it’s fancy because there are waiters that look like those in fine dining restaurants and the tables were set as if we’re actually inside an actual restaurant. True enough, their food is more pricey compared to the other dining choices along the street.

We went home to rest for a while and went out again for some beers to welcome my birthday. Just enough feelings and alcohol to prepare for our next destination — Siem Reap~

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