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Old 10th November 2019, 10:43 AM   #1
yflyer
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Default SQ to Vietnam: Pho in Saigon, River Boat to the Cu Chi Tunnels

There is a buzz about Vietnam these days. The country is developing quickly. This is a nation of young, energetic people, who are very friendly, but also very tough and determined. Anyone who visits Vietnam these days cannot help but be awed by the progress made year on year.

Apart from being a magnet for companies and businesses, Vietnam is now also a very popular tourist destination. Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still known, is just a 2 hour flight from Singapore – closer to Singapore than Bangkok, in fact.

In June this year, my family and I visited Saigon for a 5-day getaway. I had previously visited Hanoi for work. On my most recent trip to Hanoi in March 2017, I dined at the same bun cha restaurant as Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain did when they were there. On that last trip, I also flew home to Singapore on the same SIA aircraft that our PM was on, after his state visit to Hanoi. However, I had never been to Saigon until this recent trip.

I found Saigon, in the south of Vietnam, to have quite a different vibe from Hanoi, in the north, with Saigon having more French influence as far as architecture was concerned, and perhaps Saigon was a little more lively, unbuttoned and hedonistic than Hanoi – just an initial impression based on a very short trip.



Visitors also come to Saigon for a different reason: Wars and conflict in the not too distant past have left scars, both physical and psychological, on both sides. Museums, memorials and places from these wars are now popular tourist attractions, despite the horrors that led to their existence. That said, in many ways, Vietnam is a shining example of how a nations can reconcile with past foes and move forward.

While getting around Saigon, one was often reminded of conflicts of the past. The most recent war, in Vietnam, which only ended in the early 70’s, left so much unwanted military hardware strewn around the country that planes, helicopters and tanks have become popular as repurposed lawn ornaments, proudly displayed in front of buildings.

But on the principle that it is important to remember the past so as not to repeat it, there were also war history museums which display these artifacts, along with photos and lists of grim statistics, and these were also worth a visit for anyone coming to Saigon, if only to lend a different, more serious perspective, to any holiday there.

If one really was a history buff, one could also make a side trip from Saigon to visit the Cu Chi tunnels, an important part of war history in this country. Mrs yflyer knew about my interest in the Vietnam war, and included a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels as part of our holiday itinerary.



Apart from that, we spent most of our time in Saigon itself, touring the attractions, where we saw both old Saigon and a rapidly developing modern city centre, with skyscrapers as impressive as any in Asia. We checked out some really good restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese, as well as Vietnamese/French cuisine, and also spent a lot of time walking around the city by day and by night, which is always a great way to get a sense of what makes a place tick.

TR INDEX

1. Introduction
2. Flight - SQ184 SIN-SGN in Economy (A330)
3. Hotel - Fusion Suites Saigon
4. Destination - Saigon
5. Dining - Pho Hoa Pasteur
6. Nightlife - The Alley
7. Destination - War Remnants Museum
8. Destination - Cu Chi Tunnels
9. Dining - Cuc Gach
10. Dining - Dong Pho
11. Airport - Saigon Airport
12. Lounge - Rose CIP Lounge in SGN Airport
13. Flight - SQ185 SGN-SIN in Economy (772)
14. Final Reflections

Last edited by yflyer; 18th December 2019 at 09:53 AM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 10:58 AM   #2
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My flight SQ184 to Saigon was a 1.30pm departure...

After entering Changi Terminal 2, I spent a few minutes admiring the retro flight display board. I wonder how much longer they will keep this in place...



I spent another few minutes in front of a piece of installation art, "A Million Times"...



...and watched as the ever-changing display of clock panels swirled into different shapes and patterns...



Boarding pass in hand, I headed airside...



I didn't visit the T2 Krisflyer Gold Lounge on this occasion, and instead headed straight to the boarding gate.

Changi still does a very nice job of giving the airside public areas a very green, natural look...very restful and calming...maybe even more calming than the ambience in the current T2 Krisflyer Gold lounge, which is just rows and rows of seats.


Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 04:00 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 11:11 AM   #3
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SIA Airbus A330-300, rego 9V-SSE flying me up to SGN today.



I was flying solo today, with Mrs yflyer and the girls already in Saigon, having flown up the previous day. My flight up was a day later than planned, because of a misconnect on a previous flight back from the US the day before.

Earphones (And newspapers) on the aerobridge...



Spacious Y cabin, laid out in a near-ideal 2-4-2 layout...

The first Y cabin...



The second Y cabin, in brown / beige upholstery...



Window side seat pairs - ideal for couples...



At the rear of the cabin, where the A330 fuselage narrows slightly, there were 5 rows of 3-seaters in the center block, rows 59 to 63...



Note the arrangement of the armrests in the first 3 seater row, row 59 in the rear: One fixed, one movable...



Seat width, recline and comfort were very good...



As this aircraft is mainly used for short to medium haul routes, there were no footrests installed.

Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 01:08 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 11:12 AM   #4
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IFE was the older generation 2006 Krisworld, which was still a very good system, with wide clear screen and large AVOD selection...



USB power socket on the seat-back...



...as well as universal A/C power socket under the seat...



Bathrooms done in light tones...

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Old 10th November 2019, 11:16 AM   #5
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A large, fluffy hot towel (In Y!) was distributed before pushback...



Pushback and taxi...



...and take-off on this short flight to Saigon...

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Old 10th November 2019, 11:20 AM   #6
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Very soon after take-off, lunch was served...



No menu card was handed out but there was a choice of chicken rice or an international selection...I opted for the chicken rice...



This was really impressive...fairly authentic Singapore chicken rice, complete with proper chilli sauce...



A very impressive meal...



...which I accompanied with a glass (Actually a plastic cup) of Sauvignon Blanc...



Dessert was a wonderful Singapore Chendol-flavoured ice cream from Singapore ice cream maker Udders...thumbs up!



A very satisfying meal on this short sector...
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Old 10th November 2019, 11:22 AM   #7
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Great economy class cabin ambience on this A330...



IFE aside, I don't think passengers are missing a lot flying this sector on an A330 compared to the newer A350's or 787-10's. In fact this cabin probably feels a little more open and spacious than the 9-abreast 787-10 Y cabin.
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Old 10th November 2019, 11:31 AM   #8
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We were soon approaching Saigon...



Very nice views of Vietnamese rivers and countryside as we descended...



Huge swathes of green...



...which gave way to the Saigon cityscape...



...with an ever-changing skyline that included an ever increasing number of high-rise office and residential towers...



We landed on a totally dry runway, however as the next picture shows there were dark clouds just ahead...



...and as the aircraft came to a halt, the skies opened up, with a huge downpour.



At the gate...



This was a large, modern, and busy airport. Thankfully immigration queues were not too long, and I was in baggage claim without too much of a delay...



Out of the airport, into the landside area, you could exchange currency, pick up a local SIM card (if needed)...



...as well as organise a prepaid taxi (Which I was advised to do by our local tour guide)...



The scene outside the airport -- a busy place indeed!



A short taxi ride later, I was in the heart of Saigon, at the Fusion Suites hotel.

Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 01:08 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 01:20 PM   #9
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The Fusion Suites Saigon was part of the Fusion Suites group, a local Vietnamese hospitality group headquartered in Saigon.



Their property in Saigon is nestled on a quiet street in the heart of Saigon, not far from Ben Thanh market, and a short taxi ride away from many major attractions.



This was our first time staying at a Fusion Suites property, and I was very impressed. The hotel combines a modern design aesthetic with Vietnamese hospitality and a spa/wellness concept.

The lobby...



I was warmly greeted upon arrival, and offered a welcome drink...



Mrs yflyer had already checked in the day before, and after a quick ID check I was shown the way to our room...

I was led down a beautiful hotel corridor...



...to our room...



...which I fell in love with the moment I stepped inside, what a beautiful space to spend the next few days: a modern design, with pastel fabrics and warm wood tones...



The emphasis was on natural materials and finishes, and lots of sunlight...



Long tabletop with a comfortable yet stylish wooden chair...



...and a second table top behind the bed...



Small kitchenette area with sink and microwave...

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Old 10th November 2019, 01:22 PM   #10
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The bathroom was stunning as well...



...with an enormous bathtub...



...and separate shower stall...

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Old 10th November 2019, 01:26 PM   #11
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As part of our stay, a daily spa treatment was included in the daily rate: either a massage, a facial or foot reflexology. This was something we looked forward to, and indulged in every day.



Aside from the spa, there was also a gym in the hotel...

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Old 10th November 2019, 01:39 PM   #12
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The lobby restaurant served a sumptuous daily breakfast buffet spread, which was also included in our hotel rate.





There was a good selection of western/international breakfast items...



...as well as breakfast mains prepared on demand.



However the real stars of the breakfast buffet with the local Vietnamese dishes and condiments...



...and local tropical fruit...



The buffet selection changed daily...





As well as bowls of beef pho, prepared on demand...



Apart from western style coffees, the breakfast spread included traditional Vietnamese drip coffee...



...and iced coffee...



This was an amazing breakfast spread, and a great way to start each day of sightseeing.

The lobby restaurant was also open for lunch and dinner. There was also a very good selection of wine, liquor and cocktails available in the restaurant.



On the whole, I was really impressed by this hotel. The rooms and facilities were wonderful. The service staff were exceptional as well: unfailingly courteous and very, very helpful, especially when it came to dining recommendations / reservations and helping to book taxis etc.

On the topic of transportation, Grab was available in Vietnam (Although you had to pay the driver in Vietnamese Dong, rather than use your Singapore mobile wallet), and we did use it to get around Saigon. We used a combination of Grab and taxi's to get around the city.

Overall, we thought the Fusion Suites Saigon was an excellent property, which we would highly recommend to anyone visiting Saigon.

Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 03:47 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 01:51 PM   #13
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One of the first things we did on our stay in Saigon was to do the touristy thing (Why not?) and go on a local tour of some of the city's attractions, including the Reunification Palace...



...and the Saigon Central Post Office, a beautiful building built in 1891 as part of French Indochina.



This historic building is still a functioning post office...





Nearby, one of many churches in Vietnam, the Notre Dame Basilica, with its design clearly inspired by churches in France...


Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 03:48 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 02:04 PM   #14
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Not far from the Central Post Office was Saigon's book street, a street lined with book stores...



...and cafes.



There was a strong emphasis here on books for children.



Many stores also stocked books on business, management and personal development, perhaps a reflection of the aspirations of the people here.



Most of the books had been translated from Vietnamese to English...


Last edited by yflyer; 10th November 2019 at 09:50 PM..
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Old 10th November 2019, 02:22 PM   #15
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We headed to the famous Ben Thanh market...



...where products of all kinds could be found under one roof...



Some haggling required, although for tourists not used to this sort of thing, there were also fixed price stores...



I didn't buy anything but it was an interesting stroll through, just to soak in the atmosphere.
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