I arrived in Tan Son Nhat airport at around 7pm. The airport wasn’t as crowded as Changi, in my opinion, Changi’s airport is something that is incomparable. However, it was such a relief that I didn’t need to line up for very long at the customs. I was feeling extremely exhausted, starving and slightly jetlagged; due to my condition, i kept blabbing to the officers in my native tongue instead of using English appropriately. After my lengthy monologue to one of the officers my response was met with a frowned and confused face; at this moment I realised that my words had been falling on deaf ears as they didn’t understand a single word I had said to them.
No matter where you are in the World you need to be aware of potential scams and of course, in Vietnam, this is no different, especially in Saigon where care and common sense is needed. Vietnam is well-known for its sneaky taxi scams (unfortunately during my first visit, I fell victim to one of these). If you need a cab, before you start your trip you must make sure that the taxi has a functioning taximeter in use and that it’s a legal taxi! Otherwise, you will be surprised how expensive the tariff from the airport to your hotel could be as they will almost definitely try to overcharge you and rip you off.
As I reached the arrivals hall, I saw my friend Susan drawing close to me. She used a motorcycle to come and pick me up and show me around the city. The first destination was my hotel. The hotel which Susan had booked for me cost a mere 180.000 DONG for the night, which was a bargain considering the facility was like a 5 star hotel. I was so indulged, the bathroom was spotlessly clean, the bed was super soft and comfy, and the room was huge! I also had a beautiful bird’s eye view of the city as I was on one of the highest floors of the hotel.
After dropping off my bags in the hotel, we continued to explore the city. Susan took me to a night market where I bought a really cheap t-shirt. Unfortunately, the market was almost closed as we arrived a bit late. Being satisfied with what we had bought and our brief opportunity to do do some window shopping, we were happy to fill our empty stomachs on the street.
Banh Xeo, known as the Vietnamese pancake. Interestingly, this pancake was influenced by the French crepe. That’s why it’s not as thick or heavy like an American pancake, and instead it is thin and a little bit crispy. Banh Xeo is made from rice flour and healthy coconut milk, it’s also colored with the super nutritional plant turmeric which overpowers the texture of the pancake and is the reason for its yellowish colour. Its standard delicious fillings consist of mung bean paste, shell-on prawns, bean sprouts and slices of boiled tender pork, or sometimes it can be succulent chicken or prawns instead. Banh Xeo is also served with a huge variety of different vegetables. In my case, I opted for a prawn Banh Xeo as Susan told the seller not to include pork in mine. Please be aware, if you are of the jewish or muslim faith and either you don’t know how to speak Vietnamese or your seller doesn't know how to speak English, you must pay attention to the food you choose to consume, as most of the food in Vietnam contains pork.
Aside from your pancake coming with vegetables, they will also give you a delicious sauce and ‘plastic’, which is actually ‘rice paper’ that I mistook for being plastic; I have to admit, it was a shameful moment as I was completely stunned, I looked on in horror watching Susan wrap her Banh Xeo with it, and then, in a confused emotional state, I asked the ultimate foolish question “Should we eat the plastic?” She immediately burst into laughter. After the embarrassing LOL moment at my expense she kindly explained to me that it wasn’t a plastic but a type of paper rice.
The flavours of Banh Xeo are remarkably tasty and crispy. I ate this for my dinner and I felt full after - job done.
There are many kinds of Pho, including, Pho Bo and Pho Ga. Susan taught me that Pho Bo contains beef, while Pho Ga contains chicken. This simple explanation really came in handy. Anytime I needed to order something from the menu, I could just point to either Pho Bo or Pho Ga directly without any necessity to explain further to the seller that I didn't want pork. During my first visit to Vietnam, I hadn’t had any opportunities to try Vietnamese food. However, on my second visit I really took advantage of my surroundings and opportunities and tried to sample as many dishes as I could.
After Banh Xeo, Susan took me on her motorcycle to a Pho Restaurant in Saigon. I really loved the Pho in this restaurant, not only was it cheap but it was the best Pho I’d ever eaten after having already tried some in a local restaurant close to my hotel and in Mui Ne. The soup was very clear and mouth-watering, also it didn’t give out any unpleasant smells. The beef was carefully and thinly sliced and it was really juicy and tender. The noodles were perfectly boiled, not too soft but not too hard either, just right. To be honest, one bowl just wasn’t enough for me, as somehow the mixture between the fish sauce and the beef created a highly addictive combination!
We also stopped for a while to try this interesting snack.