We left Tokyo on Valentine's Day to continue begin the second phase of our two-month journey in Southeast Asia. Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Over the next 10 days, we had planned to travel from south to north leapfroging from HCM to Hue and then on to Hanoi before leaving the country for Siem Reap, Cambodia. You may be wondering why there are no photos with this blog...The reason is that, unfortunately, on our last day in Hanoi, our camera was stolen, so sadly, we have no pictures of Vietnam....
Ho Chi Minh City was chaotic and busy. It was such a shock going from orderly Japan to disorderly Vietnam. With thousands of motorcycles clogging the streets, traffic lights were a rarity in this city. Something as simple as crossing the street took some time to learn...you don't wait for traffic to stop or run, just walk VERY slowly and they all drive around you! Once you get to used to it, suddenly you find an order amidst the chaos.
For food, we needed some time to get adjusted, too. At first, nothing at the food stalls on the street looked sanitary, so we were very careful where we ate (mostly in restaurants). We didn't want to risk eating on the street or in the market and get sick. So, we (regrettably, now) didn't try any street food in Ho Chi Minh.
This is not to say that we didn't try to eat any delicious authentic Vietnamese food there. We did. We found a great pho (beef noodle soup flavored with star anise) at Pho 2000 near the Ben Thanh Market and Ham Nghi street. Pho 2000 is a chain restaurant, but it was soooo good. Another popular place Pho 24 is a chain pho cafe, but we found Pho 24's eponymous dish to be not nearly as flavorful as Pho 2000. 2000 is constantly crowded with tourists as well as locals (go to the second floor, it is air conditioned). We learned about the second floor AC on our second visit and there too we saw photos on the wall of Former President Clinton as he enjoyed his Pho 2000 experience.
We also loved the food at Quan An Ngon near Dinh Thong Nhat, the former presidentilal palace. This place seemed popular dining place among young Vietnamese. When we arrived at the restaurant, people were flooded outside of the restaurant, and we didn't know if there was a waiting list or if people were just hanging out. We wedged our way through the crowd to the inside of the restuarant to see if there was a waiting list. The crowd inside was equally as dense and we were told to wait. So, did. Uncertain as to whether they had understood us, we continued to wait in anticipation of something worth tasting. Luckily, we were seated in less than 20 minutes. Sure enough, the food was fantastic, the best (outside of the pho) that we had eaten in HCM! We had lotus salad with shrimp and pork, a shrimp and sweet potato pancake, sticky rice with pork and Chinese sausage, spring rolls with shrimp and pork, grilled beef with toast and chili salt....all very authentic Vietnamese dishes served in a stylish outdoor garden setting (with beers) at a very reasonable 175,000 VND ($12 US)!
Quan An Ngon
138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia