enjoying serunya Saigon a.k.a Ho Chi Minh City

January 2012 is SAIGON Time! We flew with Vietnam Air all the way to Saigon, and there was a funny sight on board. A gentleman flying with a helmet on! He looked like he was really ready to get off the plane and ride his motorbike. He was definitely in a hurry 😀

Bulan Januari 2012 waktunya untuk berkunjung ke Saigon alias Ho Chi Minh City. Semangat banget gue!! Cari tiket yang terjangkau dan yang didapet ialah terbang dengan pesawat Vietnam Air. Ternyata terbang dari Hanoi ke Saigon tuh nggak sebentar ya. Bayangan gue ialah sekitar sejam, tapi ternyata sekitar 2 jam. Dan satu hal lagi yang harus diketahui ialah suhu udara di Hanoi dan Saigon tuh beda. Kalau Hanoi lagi dingin banget di bulan Januari, sedangkan di Saigon biasa aja – kayak di Jakarta.

Begitu sampai di Saigon, ada satu pemandangan yang aneh dan lucu menurut gue karena ada cowok yang begitu pesawat mendarat, dia langsung pake helm dan jaket. Mungkin ya dia mau langsung naik motor kali ya. Tapi kan ya ntar aja kali makenya…jangan dipake di pesawat. Haha! Gue berhasil dapet fotonya walau agak kabur. Buru-buru banget nih si mas…

snapshot of the helmet guy on the plane

So excited to land here. Its official name is Ho Chi Minh City, but many foreigners and even locals prefer to refer to the city by its old name of “Saigon.” We took a cab and checked in our hotel near the ‘District 1’ area, which is the central part of the city. It’s better to stay in a hotel near all the city attractions, so you can just walk everywhere, instead of taking cabs. Do note, taxi scams are famous in Saigon.

Dari bandara gue naik taksi lalu langsung ke hotel di daerah ‘District 1’ yang adalah pusat kota. Emang paling enak kalau ke Saigon ya harus tinggal di tengah kota supaya bisa jalan kaki kemana-mana. Naik taksi sih nggak mahal memang, tapi di Saigon penipuan taksi cukup terkenal. Jadi harus ati-ati banget.

saigon

All tourists’ magnets like the 130 years old Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, Reunification Palace, Saigon Opera House, and Ho Chi Minh Square and City Hall, are all located in walking distance. I visited them all. It’s interesting to witness the historical buildings and traces of French colonial power in Vietnam.

Semua magnet turis seperti Notre Dame Katedral yang berusia 130 tahun, Kantor Pos pusat yang keren, Reunification Palace, Saigon Opera House, dan Chi Minh Square plus City Hall; semuanya berdekatan dan tinggal jalan kaki dari hotel. Seru juga jalan-jalan dan foto-foto, melihat jejak peninggalan jajahan Prancis di Vietnam.

inside the Notre Dame Cathedral

We also went to the famous Ben Thanh Market, the largest market in Saigon. It’s a typical South East Asian market that sells everything from fresh produce to handcrafted silk quilts with stalls that are crammed close to each other and narrow paths. Don’t forget to haggle a little here. I bought a few souvenirs and some plastic red flowers here. They were pretty cheap!

Selanjutnya, masih jalan kaki, gue berangkat ke Ben Thanh Market, sebuah pasar atau tempat belanja macam ITC yang sangat ngetop di Saigon. Ini adalah pasar tradisional Asia banget yang ngejual segala jenis printilan dari buah, bunga sampai baju dan skarf sutra. Semua ada, berjejer di gang-gang kecil yang ada. Nawar juga boleh disini, sehingga belanja makin asik rasanya. Gue beli bunga plastik warna merah yang menurut gue sih cantik banget dan pas buat apartemen gue.

the famous market

Walking slowly back to the hotel, we passed some seafood stalls at one small alley near a busy intersection in Saigon’s District 1. Shrimps, dried squid, crab legs and clams were on display ..hmm..tempting. So we stopped, ordered Tiger Clams in garlic sauce and some other type of clams also; and had probably the best clam dish I have ever tasted! The lady who owned the stalls cooked the clams with special sauce mixed with peanuts, and then served it with lime, chili, and some savory powder. YUM!!!! If I ever get back to Saigon, this is one place I would go first before going anywhere else.

Selesai belanja, gue pelan-pelan jalan balik ke hotel. Siang sudah berubah jadi malam. Lampu kota mulai nyala semua dan suasana terasa bedanya. Gue sengaja lewat jalan-jalan kecil untuk menikmati suasana malam Saigon. Dan di salah satu jalan kecil, bertemulah gue dengan satu area yang banyak ngejual makanan kaki lima berupa makanan laut. Udang, cumi, kepiting dan kerang dipajang smua. Kayaknya oke nih. Mampirlah gue ke salah satu tempat dan memesan seporsi Kerang Macan dan beberapa jenis kerang lain.

Ini macam kerangnya banyak banget, sampe bingung… Waktu kerangnya disajikan dan dimakan… oh em ji…. Seumur-umur makan kerang di Indonesia atau tempat-tempat lain, belom pernah makan yang seenak ini. Beneran deh, enak banget olahan kerangnya! Gue sampe nambah dan tiap berapa detik bilang “ya ampun ini enak banget, dikasih apaan yaaaa??”. Kerangnya tuh kayak dimasak pake kacang dan dimakannya pake campuran cabe dan jeruk. Asli, gue sampe nggak tau gimana cara jelasinnya. ENAK!! Ngomonginnya aja bikin pengen kesana….

i don’t know how she cooked this..but it was extremely good!

In Saigon, not just the seafood that was so good. Their tasty noodle soup, coconut drinks, Vietnamese coffee, delicious pork dish, and their DURIAN also impressed me! Oh, I love culinary treats in Vietnam. The food offerings had captured our senses!

Selain makanan laut, besokannya gue nyobain beberapa makanan lain di Saigon yang ternyata enak-enak juga. Ada mie kuah, sup Vietnam, minuman kelapa, kopi Vietnam, babi panggang, dan DURIAN-nya juga ternyata juara loh! Seru juga nih Saigon kulinernya!

me and my delicious Durian!

Overall Ho Chi Minh had surprised me. Despite the presence of traffic and polluted surroundings and dirty streets, which reminded me of home 😀 , I can say that there were more appealing factors that made me appreciate and enjoy the city. A few days there were not enough. I will surely come back.

Secara keseluruhan, Saigon cukup membuat gue hepi. Memang ditengah kotanya ada juga macet dan tingkat polusi yang nggak oke (Jakarta tetep JAUH lebih parah pastinya). Tapi suasananya tetap sangat ramah untuk turis Asia maupun turis barat. Budaya percampurannya juga kental banget terlihat dimana-mana. Belum lagi level sejarahnya yang terpampang jelas juga di setiap sudut kota. Masih banyak nih yang belum gue telusuri di Saigon, jadi kalau ada kesempatan lain gue akan dengan senang hati balik kesana.

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i left my traces in THE one and only, Vietnam – olivelatuputty.com   -@shiningliv

 

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