11-July-2017. I think this is my first business trip where I have a colleague stuck to me almost from the word "Go". From Changi Airport Day 1, to Changi Airport Day 7, he was with me most of the time. As he has been to HCM before, he gave me a one day tour of the place, saying that if we don't do everything on Sunday, we won't get a chance to do anything during weekdays cause we would be stuck in the office every night doing OverTime....
So the first day we arrived, there was another weird story to tell. A lady started chatting with me when we were queuing at the immigration and since she was traveling alone, we gave her a free ride to town (a.k.a our hotel). She offered to give us a free ride to her hotel area since we were headed to Ban Tien Market. Yay! Free transport! We stop at our hotel for just 10 mins to check-in and throw our stuff before heading out.
Ban Tien Market was touristy. My colleague wanted to go buy stuff there (mainly cloth for his tailor made pants and shirts). I just tag along, this being the first taste of Vietnam for me. (actually I have been to HCM last time during a Cruise to China....). Anyway, the market was interesting enough, and you have to bargain for everything. I was more interested in the food being sold there. I was really tempted to buy the mangosteen I saw outside the money changer.
Anyway, after he got like half a dozen cloth, he was happy and took me to a massage place which he recommended. Below is the shop name and address in case you are interested, along with a menu of the services provided.
It looked decent enough, and since I didn't want to wonder around the area on my own while he took a 2 hour massage, I decided to settle for a one hour massage and a half hour pedicure. And OMG, the massage was wonderful! For one hour, they massage me, used some suction cup on my back, and hot stone as well! I told them my back shoulder was hurting, and they did a wonderful job and making it hurt even more! But it was great! And it only cost me SGD12 for a one hour massage! The pedicure cost me SGD5. It wasn't as nice as the one I had in Bali, but it was still relatively cheap. My colleague also had a one hour massage, and a one hour body scrub. He came out smelling like 'bandung' as his massage uses coffee and milk, but it smells like rose and milk. Not the most manly scent for a guy. I couldn't help laughing at him silently inside.
I was feeling rather happy after the massage and couldn't stop talking about it as he lead us towards dinner. We were going to Bistro 48, a French Restaurant as he had promised me if I went HCM with him. I actually forgo a night at the Opera House because of this. But before we hit the bistro, he took me to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa (Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa) for the famous baguette. It cost only SGD1.80 for one, and while we were queueing for it, I already knew it was going to taste great cause the smell was so wonderful. Plus I was hungry. Once we got ours, we walk down the street eating it. I split it into two and shared half with him. It was the most delicious and memorable thing I ate on my trip. I remember having bread crumbs all over my top and I couldn't care less what my colleague thought of me. It was just me and the Banh Mi there and then, and I finally understand what is so special about it. Just like France and Onion Soup, Vietnam and Banh Mi finally made sense.
After Banh Mi, we went to Bistro 48 just a few shops away. It was a modern french restaurant, and the price was really reasonable. I can't remember how much, maybe SGD20 per person for 3 mains, 1 dessert, and 2 red wines. The food was just ok for me. Strangely none of the French Restaurant I went to (I went to another one on my last day there) left a lasting impression for me. They were just ok.
We ordered a steak which was served first. My colleague happily cut it into half and share it with me. Later on, he would come to regret this action as apparently, he couldn't stomach the next two dish too well.
The next dish was rabbit stew. It was his idea to order it to try. I had rabbit before, so I was ok with it. He took one piece and left the whole bowl to me, which I happily ate even though the stew wasn't exactly to my liking.
The last main was grilled pigeon. I ordered this, cause well, Babette's Feast! And my colleague was game to try it. It came with a charred pigeon head as well. He took one piece, and again, the whole plate was mine. This was probably my fave dish. It was crispy and the meat tough and gamey. If I was on my own, I would have lick all the bones clean. But since my colleague was looking bored and tired by this time, I just quickly ate everything and we left and made our way back to the hotel by taxi.
So yeah, that was basically my first day in HCM. When we reach the hotel, we went to the roof top to view the pool and the night view. My colleague gave me a scare when he showed me his back and ask if there were any visible mark on it. There was a very visible circle from the suction cup used in the massage we had and I pointed it out to him. I quickly went back to my room and check my own back. Most of my work clothes were sleeveless, and I wasn't too thrilled of the idea of showing up at work on the first day with a mark on my back shoulder. Luckily, there was no mark on my back, only a very red and sore shoulders which lasted about two days.
All in all, a very enjoyable and memorable day in HCM. Its great that I didn't have to spend a lot of money too!
Banh Mi Huynh Hoa (Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa)