Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back to Saigon: An Epilogue

Our Viet-Cam Adventure has come to an end. As we arrive in Saigon at night, we decided we should make the most out of our remaining time. So, we decided to dine in one of Saigon's most popular Vietnamese restaurants, Quan An Ngon. 

Located near the Cathedral, this beautiful and bustling French style villa restaurant serves excellent local dishes prepared on the spot. Quan An Ngon has already been an icon in the city, as hordes of tourists and locals swear by the food that is displayed like an open market. Let your senses guide you to what you want to eat, as you survey the food stalls that are scattered around its gardens. Quan An Ngon is definitely one of the best in the city and a trip to Saigon won't be complete without pigging out here.

After a heavy yet very satisfying meal, we decided to find dessert, particularly ice cream. I remembered a local ice cream parlor that served unique flavors. The name of the ice cream parlor was Bach Dang. I also thought of walking to the place, which was beside the historic Rex Hotel. A wrong turn took us to an unplanned walking tour of the city's landmarks. We passed by the Saigon Opera House and the famous monument of Uncle Ho, with the City Hall at the background. It was a time consuming mistake, but we were happy we got lost.

We were checked in a new hotel, the Dai Hoang Kim, a Korean owned inn along Bui Vien itself. Saigon Mini was already fully booked, so we had to move here. It was an older hotel, but the amenities were better and the rooms, slightly bigger. For the same cost, it was okay. Most of us preferred Saigon Mini though.

The next day was designated as Shopping Day. After a hearty breakfast at an Italian cafe named Stella (shown below) along Bui Vien, we prepared ourselves for an afternoon of haggling and bargaining.

Of course, we began our shopping in Ben Thanh Market, probably THE shopping destination in Saigon. We agreed to meet up after an hour and a half, but we ended up extending to 3 hours! No pictures were taken. Everyone was engrossed in buying trinkets, spices, silk, souvenirs, paintings and of course, those bags. I think I bought 14 bags, most of them North Face and Crumplers.

After that excursion, we headed back to the hotel to unload. We then decided to split up. I didn't want to shop anymore, so I offered a relaxing break in a quiet villa cafe, which are popular in Saigon. The rest continued shopping for shoes in a bargain district near Chinatown.

Well, I only convinced two other people to join me for coffee. We went to Serenata Cafe, one of the more popular ones in Saigon. It is a colonial house converted into a cafe. 

The setting was pleasant and relaxing indeed. I left like I was in a seaside resort, sipping coffee. It was that chill out. Our waiter told us that there was a Filipino lounge band that played every night. Unfortunately, we had to leave by 6PM to meet everyone else for dinner at 730PM.

As you well know, the coffee (ca phe) in Vietnam is strong, but very delicious. This one was particularly strong, and we had to mix in a lot of ice to make it milder. I still enjoyed my coffee though, which brought a lot of conservations about the trip that had passed.

We all met up in Augustine, a French restaurant near Sheraton. We decided to treat ourselves to fine French cuisine on our last meal together in Vietnam. And it was amazing. Imagine, for prices less than P400, we got Duck Confit, Seabass, Lamb and a host of other delectable and sophisticated dishes. Only in Vietnam would you get these low prices for fine food. We ended the night full of cheer and sentiment as well, as we are to depart for Manila in 2 hours.

The VIET-CAM Adventure took us 8 days across Indochina. Being a big group definitely had its advantages in traveling. You get to spend less as the cost is distributed more, and you get to spend a lot of time bonding and sharing unique experiences. I will never forget this trip, all the moments of laughter and fun from Angkor Wat pictorials to Angkor What challenges, to Saigon shopping and Hip Hip Mui Ne nights. It was extremely fun, and to the Power of Ten who were with me, only one thing: Till the next trip!


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