Home > Blogs, Travel > Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

8 August to 10 August 2010

Tan Son Nhat International Airport

Tan Son Nhat International Airport

I didn’t set my expectations very high. Being a socialist country with a deep war history, I figured the development would be about the same as Jakarta, or perhaps less. I was in for a big surprise when I landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (HCMC’s international airport). Their airport is modern, clean, efficient, and they really captured my heart with the “ASEAN” lane. Their airport is miles ahead of Jakarta’s sleazy and dirty airport!

Caravelle Hotel

Caravelle Hotel

We checked into Caravelle Hotel, which is right smack in the middle of District 1. We had a nice view of the city. One smart thing that I did in this trip (which I should have done for the Jakarta trip) was that I got myself a travel guide book. I highly recommend getting a travel guide book to everyone as it helps you to plan your trips better and so that you know what are the key attractions of your destination.

HCMC Travel Guide

HCMC Travel Guide

Halal @ Saigon

Halal @ Saigon

As all of us were hungry, we went to explore the nearby areas for restaurants. Mum smsed her friend to see if there are any halal restaurants in the area. Surprisingly, our hotel is quite near to the Muslim quarter in the city. We reached the Muslim area less than 10 minutes. We had lunch at a restaurant called Halal at Saigon. The food was awesome and reasonably priced. I was surprised to find the staff there speaking Malay! Later I found out the owner is a Malaysian lady, so perhaps they learnt from each other?

Ho Chi Minh Mosque

Ho Chi Minh Mosque

There was a mosque in front of Halal @ Saigon hence we decided to stop-by. The description reads that it was built by Indian Muslim traders in the early of 20th century, but they fled the country during world war 2. We spoke to the local imam and muezzin and I was gobsmacked that they speak Malay as well! I asked them where and why did they learn Malay. The imam said generally the Kampuchean Viets are Muslims, and they learn Malay because it benefits them in business, as well as it makes it easier for them to further Islamic studies in Malaysia and Indonesia. Since Malays is easy to learn, they teach each other informally. I never truely understood the 15th century statement that “the Malay language being the lingua-franca of the region” till I reached Vietnam. Gobsmacked, totally gobsmacked.

Highland Coffee

Highland Coffee

 After that, we went to a well known coffee shop that happened to have a new branch right in front of our hotel. We went to Highland Coffee. It was suggested by a friend (who frequents HCMC) and by the travel book. All of us ordered something different and I was very pleased with the quality of the drinks. Some were even better than your usual Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I was highly impressed that Vietnam has a thriving cafe culture. Apart from Highland Coffee, I saw a few others in District 1.

Famous Malaysians at Hong Anh Boutique

Famous Malaysians at Hong Anh Boutique

Hong Anh Boutique - Interior

Hong Anh Boutique – Interior

In the evening, I accompanied mom to Hong Anh boutique, well known among Malaysians for their baju kurung and kebaya (in Vietnam, yes, I know, it’s surprising). They had a photo of Tun Siti Hasmah and a previous Queen of Malaysia in the shop. It’s that famous! I was there for about an hour, and I saw a few Malaysian ladies coming into the shop. All of them bought the baju kurung in bulk, from what I observed, each of them would purchase around 15-20 pieces each. These baju kurung and kebayas are around US15-US20 and apparently that’s a cheap price, because, they bring these baju kurungs to Malaysia and they sell it for a whopping RM400 (~USD135)! Damn that’s good business! It’s no surprise that the Vietnamese staff here speak Malay, quite fluently too, looking at the number of Malaysians that shop here throughout the year. Why Hong Anh? I guess it must be the quality and the price.

The location of Hong Anh Boutique is shown in the map below (marked in a red X). Notice how near it is to Ben Thanh Market.

Hong Anh Boutique location

Hong Anh Boutique location

The next day was our city tour day. Our tour guide was quite the character. He introduced himself as Charlie. He said he was part of the Vietnam war, but he was a translator for the Americans in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) (which means he fought against Viet Cong). He also fancied himself as having an American accent, in which, to me, he sounded like any other Vietnamese guy you meet on the street. Not too sure who gave him the idea he has an American accent though.

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

Our first stop was the War Remnants Museum. Charlie didn’t went in with us. He stayed outside. He said the museum was used by the ruling communist party as a propaganda tool. I only understood what he meant when I went inside and saw the photos (below):

Museum propaganda 1

Museum propaganda 1

Check out the description or the caption of the photos above and you’ll agree with Charlie. But I guess as victors of the Vietnam War, the socialist government has every right to display whatever news they want to the world.

After that, we went to check out the central post officeNotre Dame cathedral, the handicap handicraft center, a Chinese pagoda, the Reunification Palace and lastly we ended at Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Thanh Market - entrace

Ben Thanh Market – entrance

Clothing material shop in Ben Thanh Market

Clothing material shop in Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market is a massive place. They sell all sorts of goods from raw meat to housing accessories, souvenirs, clothing materials etc. What is shocking to me is that the workers at certain sections in the market, especially the clothing materials section, speak Malay! The reason they give is the same as the workers at Hong Anh Boutique. Most of their customers are from Malaysia, therefore knowing basic Malay is good for business! They even know the length of the material you need for a baju kurung, kebaya, and baju melayu (all these are traditional Malay dresses). I’m impressed!

National History Museum

National History Museum

The next day was our flight back to Malaysia, but I managed to squeeze some time in the morning to visit the National Museum. I enjoyed my visit to the museum as Vietnam has a rich history and they have lots of artifacts to show the world.

All in all, I was very impressed with Ho Chi Minh. Since they opened up their economy in the 90s (after the fall of the Soviet Union), they have been developing rapidly, putting countries like Indonesia to shame. I believe in about 10-20 years, they might be at par with Malaysia, or even Singapore.

  1. faizal
    April 22, 2011 at 2:05 am

    may i know the address to the hong anh boutique

  2. May 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Hi Faizal. If I remember correctly, the address is 110, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1, Ho Chi Minh. It’s at the corner of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Le Thanh Ton.

  3. hanim
    May 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    how far does this shop to ben thanh market?? try to look for it in google map but hardly find it

  4. May 8, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Hanim. It’s not far from Ben Thanh Market. It’s about 2 blocks away. If you go to this link, it’s the same row as the Hindu Temple, near the corder of the Barbeque Garden. http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=10.7746215&lon=106.6996801&z=19&l=0&m=b

  5. May 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Been there. I love Hong Anh. Will be visiting HCMC again this coming Sept🙂

  6. mek yon
    October 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    believe that price at Hong Anh far higher than what I can get at Ben Tanh night market (ben tanh tutup malam so ade pasar malam kt luar Ben Tanh).

    been at Hong Anh. return with empty hands…been to the night market, return with hands full with kurung cotton hehehe

  7. October 9, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Mek Yon! hehe yah, mungkin harga di Hong Anh tinggi sikit berbanding dengan Ben Thanh. Ben Thanh tu OK juga, banyak pilihan. Tapi yang saya suka dengan Hong Anh tu dia memang khas untuk Malaysian market (and maybe Indonesian & Brunei juga). Penuh dengan pakaian2 orang Melayu😉

  8. sha
    November 7, 2011 at 2:39 am

    hi imran, may i know where is saigon muslim district?
    and any recommendation for a hotel near a halal restaurant ? gg ther!e tis dec, hope u can share a few tips. thanks loads!

  9. November 11, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Hi Sha. The restaurant that I went to is quite good (Halal @ Saigon). Another good one is Kedai Shamsudin at Biển Đông 6, 445 LE Hồng Phong, Dist 10. As for the muslim district, it is actually scattered all around the city. The lane near the mosque that I went is also considered a muslim area. There are more muslims living near Kedai Shamsudin which is in District 10.

  10. Anita
    November 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    ada jual kain ela untuk tudung? Chiffon,codroy/velvet/thai silk

    thank you

  11. November 19, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Anita. Memang ada. Kalau nak kain macam tu, pergi ke Ben Thanh market. Ada banyak pilihan

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