Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

To be honest, today was a lazy day wandering Ho Chi Minh City, just enjoying having some free time to see the sights without feeling rushed or pressured to get to certain places. We started with a leisurely trip to one of the cities best rated coffee houses, the Workshop, where I got an aeropress coffee and Perry got a woodneck, whch are two different ways of brewing coffee.


Then, we walked towards one of my favorite destinations so far, the pho shop that is widely regarded as one of the best in Ho Chi Minh City: Pho Hua. We passed the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral on the way, and started our meal with spring rolls.


The things on the table are, from the left to right: the limes that are provided free of charge to add “sour” to the soup; Vietnamese cilantro, which has a tangier flavor than the cilantro we have in the USA, and mint; the spring rolls with the accompanying peanut sauce which is actually pretty bitter and which has a raw chili taste to it here compared to the sweet sticky peanut sauce of the US; fried dough (maybe 30 cents for each piece, but just available on the table and charged if you order; bean sprouts to top the pho; and the pork sausages wrapped in banana leaves that we have seen at other noodle shops. We got the two signature phos that Vietnam is known for: chicken pho, and pho with raw beef in it (it cooks in the hot broth).


Of course, we doctored our pho with the available ingredients, including a slightly spicy chili oil paste, and something similar to Sriracha (the Vietnamese actually do not ever use Sriracha, it’s an American invention). The pho itself was extremely good – very hearty, and with a nice tang as the flavors from the fresh herbs bloomed in it. I had it with the iced Chrysanthemum tea which added a nice coolness and sweet element. After lunch, we headed to a local cathedral to continue seeing the sites, running into local vendors along the way.


The cathedral was beautiful and a really fun shade of bubblegum pink. Last night we learned that as a socialist country, the government does not like its citizens having religion; however, the French brought Catholicism and it has stuck around since the end of their colonial reign.


Then, as it started to rain, we ducked inside a local market. Unlike the super touristy Ben Thah market, this one is clearly where locals go to shop for textiles and other materials, including food. It was quiet and polite, and we weren’t harassed once, which was a nice change. We ended up going out the back of the market, where there were stalls with fresh fish, fruits, and veggies, which was neat to see.


Many of the stalls offered food to go as well, including different types of tofu and several options for soups or cooked food in broth.


Then, the rain picked up and we caught a cab back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. We ended up at a nice place called the Garlik restaurant, where we had some great food, including spring rolls, a banana leaf salad, pork done in a traditional style (one of the dishes that Obama tried when he visited Vietnam, we learned), shrimp with tamarind sauce, and garlic fried morning glory stems (definitely my favorite bite of the night). We finished the meal with a delicious creme caramel with tapioca balls and fresh fruit soup.


Overall, it was a fun day of just walking around. Tomorrow, we are headed to the Mekong Delta to see what life is like in some of the smaller villages surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, before finally heading home bright and early the following day (sadly).

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