The second of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die in Saigon is actually not a place, but food. Even though the title is a specific restaurant, the Pho Hoa in Saigon, it is more about the food itself: Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, which has been named #28 of the 50 most delicious dishes in the world.
We decided to walk to the Pho Hoa restaurant, because it was only 2 km away from our hotel and only a bit further from the Reunification Palace, where we wanted to go anyways. As it turns out, walking 2 km in a city crammed with motorbikes is quite a challenge.
Just imagine our disappointment when we finally got there and found out that it was closed for the day because of renovations. Tired and hungry we decided to treat ourselves to some fried chicken from Colonel Sanders. Yes, we went to a KFC in Vietnam. Some might argue that backpackers should only eat local food to get the “real” Vietnamese experience. But after a few weeks in a foreign country, it feels nice to get some comfort food that you are used to.
The Pho Hoa didn’t look like such a great restaurant that it was worth going back there the next day, so we decided to get some Pho at another place on the next day.
Finally tasting some Pho
The name is quite unusual and its right pronunciation (click to listen) is more difficult than you would imagine. Pho is one of the most favorite dishes in Vietnam and you can buy it at almost every street corner. We opted to eat in at a place called Pho24, a restaurant chain that mainly serves one dish: Pho.
Pho is rice noodles, a special broth that takes hours to make and a choice of chicken (Pho Ga) or beef (Pho Bo). In addition it is served with onions, basil, chili peppers, bean sprouts and lime wedges on a separate dish so you can add whatever you want.
Soni opted for Pho Ga and I took the Pho Bo. After having some very mediocre Vietnamese food in the previous days, Pho was a real delight. Simple, yet tasty and the warm broth felt surprisingly soothing.
Is Pho Hoa really one of the places?
We didn’t get to eat at Pho Hoa, but since it wasn’t really about the restaurant, but more about the food, we fell that we got the experience we were hoping for. Even though it tasted quite good, I wouldn’t say that people really must try this once in their life.
As stated in the previous post, we will combine the Pho Hoa, the Rex Bar and Ben Thanh Market into one place to see and just call it Saigon. Because you really should see Saigon once in your life.
The history that happened here and in all of Vietnam is truly one of the darkest spots in human history. As a German, I have learned so much about the cruelty in our own past that I have totally blocked out all the other cruel things that have happened in other parts of the world in very recent history. So coming here and learning about all the things that have happened here is something everyone should do once in his life. Maybe then we can stop those bad things the next time they are happening.
And while you are in Saigon, you can enjoy the better things of Vietnam and walk through the Ben Thanh market, later eat some soothing Pho and in the evening you can have a drink at the Rex Bar and relax from the stressful streets of Saigon.
The Reunification Palace
On our way back from Pho Hoa we went to see the Reunification Palace, which is well worth a visit. It is not so much the park surrounding the palace nor the building itself that was amazing. Much more interesting was the history of the place and the museum in the palace. Especially the exhibit in the basement is as fascinating as it is shocking.
The exhibit shows photographs of the Vietnam War with all its cruelty. I guess those shocking pictures would have never been shown in a Western museum, because it was the West who was also responsible for the horror that happened and the pictures are just very atrocious.
I am well aware that the Vietnamese only show the bad things that the South and the western countries did and of course see no fault in their own actions. But seeing the cruelty in pictures made me research about the Vietnam War and I am completely shocked that I was unaware what cruelty has been supported and even directly inflicted by western countries in this war.
So on a visit to Saigon, the Reunification Palace is a must.