A Millionaire’s Tour in Ho Chi Minh City
One of the countries that will make you an instant millionaire is Vietnam. Dong as being being used by the country as its currency since 1978, its paper notes come into different denominations with 200 Dong as the lowest and 500,000 Dong as the highest one. In 2003, it has been said that coins were reintroduced in denominations of 200 Dong, 500 Dong, 1,000 Dong, 2,000 Dong and 5,000 Dong.
In the Philippines the highest note I’ve ever touched was a bill in a 1,000 note but when in Vietnam I’ve got more in terms of denomination.
Instead of exchanging our peso to dollars before going on to this trip we’ve decided to just have it exchanged in Dong when we are already in Vietnam. After our Cu Chi tour, we looked for a money changer in one of the streets along Pham Ngu Lao street, District 1 that changes Philippine Peso to Dong. Good thing we found one that has a rate closed enough to Forex market rates (if that’s what you call it). I had my Php3,000 exchanged to their local currency and look how much I’ve got, 1,200,000 Dong. I’m an instant millionaire! Well, it only changed the currency and denominations but I must say that the value of my money was still the same.
Finding a money changer in Ho Chi Minh City that offers a good rate for changing Philippine Peso to Dong was really hard (at least during our experience). As what I’ve mentioned in my previous post, it’s better to have your money exchanged into your home country or bring US Dollars as Vietnam also accepts this currency. Bringing debit and credit cards are also good options to have Vietnamese Dong. There are banks and ATMs (like HSBC, Citibank and ANZ) available in the city which only charges minimal rate for every withdrawal.
After we have settled everything we need, we then proceeded to our plan for that day.
It was already around 4:00 PM (ICT) and we haven’t taken our lunch yet. As I would like to experience a food very known to this country, we looked for a Pho restaurant. I planned for us to dine in at a restaurant named Pho24 but it’s a hard to find since every locals we asked to seems couldn’t understand what we’re saying. We asked one of the staff in the money changer and she pointed us to a different Pho restaurant nearby. Well at least it’s a Pho restaurant.
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup which is usually served with beef or chicken. Its noodles is made from rice four. The soup is usually served with Asian basil, saw tooth herb, rice paddy herb, cilantro, thinly sliced green onion, lime juice, and bean sprouts which are being added to the soup by the person who is dining. It has been said that this is a popular street food and night-food on this country.
I’m not a fan of noodle soup. I’m a person who will usually go for rice meals (well I’m a Filipino so it figures). The rice meal that we ordered was good, the pork tasted like “tocino” (sweetened pork). The Pho experience was also great as we have to add some of the vegetable ingredients by ourselves. Though I didn’t enjoy the bean sprouts when we added it into the soup. After all, it was still a good food to taste when in Vietnam.
After lunch, we went off and started our walking tour around the city center.
Here’s a lagoon located in a park along Pham Ngu Lao street, District 1.
Bitexco Financial Tower
Can you recognize this building? No it isn’t the Stark Tower from the movie “The Avengers” but it’s the Bitexco Financial Tower located at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
It has been said that this tower has been one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam from 2010 to 2011 until the Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower topped out on 24 January 2011.
The tower has 68 floors above ground and three basements with a height of 262.5 metres (861 ft), which makes it as the 124th tallest building in the world as of this writing.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum
From Pham Ngu Lao street, we walked towards the Ben Thanh Market and crossed the street towards Le Loi street. We walked on this street until we saw the Ho Chi Minh City museum.
At first I didn’t know that this was already the museum so we didn’t bother to get closer anymore (and it was also raining). The museum is said to be one of the historical sites of the city.
The Opera House
A short walk from the museum then you’ll reach The Opera House.
The building was also known as the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City. The building is very picturesque which resembles some of the building in Europe. It is said that it was built in 1897 by French architect Ferret Eugene as the Opėra de Saigon. So it figures, the building is an example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Just along the Dong Khoi street where the Opera House is, we walked towards left until we reached the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was about 5 minutes walk to reach the place.
It was said that this is the city’s main church. The cathedral was built between 1877 and 1880 and also one of the best examples of the picturesque architectural legacy left behind by the French.
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
Just across the street is the Central Post Office of Ho Chi Minh.
The building is now one of the tourist attractions in Vietnam.
It was getting dark when we left the place and we still have two places to cover before we end our walking tour around the city. From the Dong Khoi street, we walked towards the Nguyen Du street to get to the Reunification Palace. We walked for about 20 minutes and we couldn’t find the entrance to the place and so we ended up not seeing it. It was already 7:00 PM (ICT) and so we’ve just decided to ditch the last two tourist spots and just go to Ben Thanh market to shop for some souvenir items.
Ben Thanh Market
The market is one of the famous landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City. The market is situated at the corner of Le Loi, Ham Nghi and Tran Hung Dao in District 1.
Here you can buy cheap souvenir items for you to take home. I was able to buy a souvenir shirt for 40,000 Dong. Well, I must say that that shirt was the most expensive shirt I bought in my entire life in terms of currency denomination.
We arrived at the market passed 7:30 PM (ICT) already and the shops inside was starting to close so we went out and looked for some other shops. Good thing, some of the shops outside were still open.
Street food and a variety of food stalls can also be found around the market vicinity. You can have a lot of options of food to try if you’re up for some food adventure.
With that don’t forget to include the Vietnamese coffee on your list. When in Vietnam you will never see any foreign coffee shops like Starbucks as they have their own version of their coffee. One of the coffee shops that I can see in every corner of the street was the Highlands Coffee. I supposed this one was the famous of them all. Too bad, we weren’t able to try some of their drinks in their menu as we had ran out of time.
Nhu Lan Bakery
After spending some time shopping for souvenir items at Ben Thanh Market we then proceeded to Nhu Lan Bakery for dinner. The place is located at 50 Ham Nghi, District 1 just besides the Bitexco Financial Tower.
From the market, we crossed the street getting to Ham Nghi street and walked for about 15 minutes until reaching the bakery/restaurant.
It is said that this restaurant is a favorite among locals and tourists as they offers tasty food at street-cart prices. Their menu includes variety of Vietnamese food, including sandwiches, pho and rice dishes. Good thing they have rice meals as I was already famished that time (again). Here’s what we ordered.
Meal price ranges from 30,000 to 60,000 Dong. I ordered rice with roast chicken for 40,000 Dong while my friend ordered rice with barbecue pork. We also ordered shake for refreshments. I had mixed fruit juice which is a mix of strawberry, orange and mango for 20,000 Dong.
After dinner we then proceeded to our hotel in Pham Ngu Lao street. We walked for about 20 minutes to reach our hotel.
It isn’t really necessary to be a millionaire to tour around the city of Saigon. Indeed, it only cost us more or less 300,000 Dong which was actually spent for our lunch and dinner during our walking tour.
It was a very tiring day due to the full activities we had. A day isn’t enough to fully uncover the culture, history and attractions of this country but our short visit gave us experiences and memories that we’ll truly remember, we’re an instant millionaire on this country!
Some tourist attractions we haven’t visited due to time constraints:
- Reunification Palace
- War Remnants Museum (Nha Trung Bay Toi Ac Chien Tranh)
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