I went on a three-day weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam over Halloween weekend last year. This was such a fun girls' trip of me and four friends all also on exchange. I just kind of jumped on their trip last minute and I'm so happy I did, as we became friends very easily, singing "Girls just wanna have fun" on the top of our lungs at a karaoke bar sober. Three days is a short time, but enough to see the main things the crazy motorbike city has to offer.
Vietnam requires a tourist visa, which is very easy to get online. Just google Vietnam tourist visa, pay $30 USD, and they will email it to you within a few days.
• Check in at the Common Room Project hostel. This was the BEST hostel I've been to in all of Southeast Asia. It feels so home-y, it's very clean, provides actually nice shampoo and conditioner, has a cool rooftop, and organizes fun activities every night such as going out or a cooking class.
• The girls arrived a day before me, so after checking in, I joined them at the War Remnants Museum. Don't miss the opportunity to visit this one to learn more about the Vietnam War. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me as I only learned about this War from the American's perspective and let's just say there's always two sides to a story.
• Late lunch/early dinner at My Banh Mi, a delicious spot that has a full menu of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. It's located right next to the Post Office, which is also worth visiting. The owner of this place was from the same small suburb in California as one of the girls traveling with us. Every day is a reminder of how small the world is!
• For dinner, we took a cooking class at the Common Room hostel. We made Vietnamese pancakes and spring rolls. I've had enough condensed milk to last me a lifetime.
• After a successful cooking sesh, we took a taxi towards the downtown area. A guy from the hostel recommended that we check out Broma Bar, which had a cool rooftop and has laid-back decor. cue soft-lit mason jars fixtures, sarcastic humor cocktail names, and digital nomad crews.
• We also checked out the bar at Eon 51, which is the skyscraper that is easily distinguishable because of its helipad jutting out on the side. The bar is all indoors, and no, you can't go on the helipad so I would just go up for the view but not really for drinks/food.
• Mekong Delta Tour. We booked this tour via our hostel. I know packaged tours is NOT the most authentic experience. Literally, they pick you up, tell you what to do, where to go, what to eat. Very touristy, but very convenient. They give you a little tour of how they make rice paper and coconut candy.
• On this tour, we got a tour on the long fisherman boats around the Mekong Delta, where my friend and I veered off course and joined a family for a short karaoke session. I thought Koreans liked karaoke, but Vietnamese people LOVE it. Any time of the day, you can hear people singing.
• For dinner, we returned to downtown HCMC and ate a variety of things at the Ben Thanh Market. If you're getting sick of Asian food (if that is possible), this market had pretty much anything you can think of and it was all delicious. There was also live indie band playing, good vibes.
• We found a karaoke place, where it's like you rent a room by the hour. Since it was Halloween weekend, the place was decorated fittingly with the employees dressed like serial killers, the grudge, etc. I think it took a minimum of 30 minutes to pass the entrance area, and the workers got a kick out of our over-reactions that they would periodically scare us by pressing their face against the small window on the door of our room. Such good memories, and we can say we did spent a proper Halloween in Asia.
• The girls left on Sunday morning as they had classes on Monday, so I had two days in HCMC to myself. So what did I do? Shopping and eating of course!
• But actually, this was nearing the end of the exchange semester and I needed to buy souvenirs and gifts to bring back home. The prices in Vietnam were the cheapest of what I've seen in Asia by far.
• Saigon Square for VN coffee, random souvenirs, and unlimited selection of elephant pants.
• Pho at Pho Quynh. I just googled "top pho places in HCMC" and this one popped up. The neighborhood was cool, too. I loved walking through the narrow alleys and peeking into people's lives.
• Coffee and dessert at L'Usine Café. HCM has a hipster flair to the city, apparent in the way young people dress and the Kitsuné-like shops scattered around.
• My original plan was to check out some more museums on Monday, but unfortunately all public museums are closed on this day of the week. No matter how much I travel, I still love making assumptions that everything will be open when it's convenient for me. haha
• I walked across the Cau Mong Bridge and wandered around the Saigon Outcast area. I don't know why it's called the outcast area, but it was cool to see a high school and university there.
• There are some foods that change the game, and the banh mi sandwich at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa was one of those. They open at 4PM, and there is a line up starting right away. But they make these FAST. It was just the perfect combination of different meats, paté, pickled veggies... very impactful experience.
• Before heading off to the airport, I had a last cup of Vietnamese coffee at Nguyen Number One coffee because I had to see why they were so confident to name their business that. It was good, but not number one taste in my opinion.
Then, I took a taxi to the airport and flew back to SG in time for Tuesday lectures... such was the exchange life.