After a good night of sleep (I still wasn’t rested I don’t think from all the go-go-go of the past seven+ days and jet lag) I managed to wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. No, make that hit by a Mack truck, and then backed up and run over again.
Based on how I’d felt the past few days it was clear I’d been teetering on the edge of something, and I finally lost the battle. I was very glad I hadn’t booked any of the side trips I’d considered, because my energy levels were such that I could manage 30-60 minutes at a time max.
This continued for two days, unfortunately, so it was mostly just short little dashes around HCMC with lots of little stops to do/see things. Thankfully, whenever I got tired Grab was there to take me back to the hotel if needed. Unfortunately, this meant I wasn’t going to get the in-depth re-explore of HCMC I’d been hoping for, but at least I did get out and manage to see a little bit while recovering.
We’ll start with the view from the Le Meridien executive lounge. It was also raining on and off the entire time I was there, so it as a good thing I didn’t plan for much walking. On the upside, while this meant it was also incredible humid, the temperatures stayed in the reasonable zone.
After a lazy morning on the first day, I felt I had just enough energy go to out and see what real Vietnamese banh mi was like (as opposed to the stuff you get in DC which is delicious, but has too many “perfect” ingredients to feel too authentic.)
One thing about feeling not so hot is that you can spend an hour researching the best banh mi online, and not feel like you’d wasted time. I skipped over the two most popular places, and based on a few reviews that said they were thrilled to have found this little place I headed to Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa. Supposedly this place could have quite a line, but when I got there there was no line at all.
There were english translations on the posted menu, and my meatball banh mi was delicious…and less than one dollar!
I still had a little energy after banh mi, so I took a stroll through the city walking for nearly an hour. Fortunately, once I got tired out I was near East West Brewing where I stopped for a sampler. Still rather impressed by the HCMC craft beer scene!
Still feeling pretty good, I decided maybe I could handle the mile or so walk to my hotel. Despite being overcast, the humidity was impressive, and as you can see when I stopped on the way to take a selfie with Uncle Ho I was already quite a sweaty mess.
After a couple of hours resting and recovering I felt good enough to go out and get some dinner, but really didn’t feel like venturing far. Since I’d had a couple good beers the night before, and their food menu looked good as well, I headed back to Heart of Darkness brewing. They did some super delicious sliders! Who would have expected in Vietnam!
The next day, I was still feeling pretty shaky, but did manage a couple of hour long walks. (Note I’m saving you from any Starbucks pictures…and you better believe I made it to Starbucks – I’d need to be REALLY sick before I skipped that.)
Apparently this bank was having some sort of opening / spirit cleansing / good luck ceremony.
At some point in the afternoon I made it to the Winking Seal Beer company while I was out walking. The tap handles were absolutely amazing with the Vietnamese hats on the seals!
I also made it to the Ben Thanh Market while I was out walking. Back on my previous visit there wasn’t more than a tourist or two in site when I walked through, and haggling was a real chore since there was no English spoken. Now? Crawling with tourists and all the merchants spoke enough limited English to haggle. Amazing how much the city has changed!
I always love looking at the fruit and vegetable sellers in markets – it always looks so fresh compared to the stuff you get in American grocery stores (unless you go to Whole Foods that is…)
One thing definitely hadn’t changed in HCMC in the last 15 years ago – there were still motorbikes everywhere, and you have to be brave to walk out into traffic to weave between them to cross the road. They’re not going to move out of your way!
It was fun still seeing a bit of communist propaganda here and there in the city, but again, way less than there was 15 years prior!
All in all, I was disappointed I wasn’t able to do more, but given how I felt I’m really happy with how much I managed to fit in. My hope was I was over things because going to the Arctic was up next…and I really didn’t want to get stuck up in the Arctic seriously ill!
Up next: off to the Arctic! I might be the only person ever to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Yellowknife!