Working Out Sweating and Eating A Lot of Local Cuisine in Saigon, Vietnam

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STORY: This particular trip was my third in Vietnam, and second in Saigon. The last time i was in this city was back in 2009. I was actually quite surprised that there are a handful of changes within the district in Pham Ngu Lao, but over-all, it's still the same old happy place, only that there's more tall buildings, and well, more people. I've written many stories about my trips in Vietnam in the past like the Backpacking Saigon 101 and Top 10 Must Do in Saigon, but this particular trip was quite different. I didn't have any itinerary at all. I thought i needed to go back to Vietnam because it's just been a long time. I scoured the internet for a cheap flights, and there it was. After coming back from Indonesia a month prior, i reckon a second time trip to Saigon would be awesome.


I've been to most of the recommended places to visit in Ho Chih Minh City like the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon (under construction as per last visit), Saigon Central Post Office, Ben Thanh Market, Independence Palace, among others. And this particular trip, i have about five full days free time to go wherever in Saigon. Imagine that.


Keeping Fit and Enjoying Saigon.
Because i had so much time in hands, i knew that i could schedule workout sessions while i'm there. My accommodations at Saigoneer Hotel is located quite near 23/9 Park in Pham Ngu Lao. This made waking up early to go for a morning jog or late afternoon HIIT session not daunting at all. Back in Bangkok, i also stayed at a hotel near Lumpini Park. 


To fully immerse yourself in the local culture, it's recommended that you go where the locals go. It's mesmerizing how locals pay close attention to keeping fit, that's why you see a lot of lean locals in Vietnam. Of course, this is apart from their obvious healthy and green diet. 


Sadly, i couldn't blend it as much after coming from my trip to Indonesia prior where the intense heat of the summer sun got me sunburnt. But 23/9 is a place to sweat it out and exercise. I hope that there would be more places like this in Manila, so instead of killing time at the mall and shopping and eating, one could easily go to a park to exercise. There's free tools to work out to shape your body in its ideal form.


With my AirPods in ear, i worked out like crazy. I spend an average of 1 hour per session. And in less than 5 minutes, i was back at the hotel having a shower and looking forward to more pho and spring rolls. Perks of staying at a hotel nearby.


The next days were like that, too. I would alternate an early morning or late afternoon workout regimen just to make differences. The smell of jasmine and broiled meat envelope the air in the afternoons, while the aroma of strong civet coffee lingers during mornings. Saigon is such an interesting city to visit, and an excellent place to workout at.


There was one time where i had a chance to visit the 23/9 Pham Ngu Lao park at midday and it's complete desolate of pool. Literally, i just had so much time in my hands. Of course, the intense heat of the sun made locals head to a nearby cafe or the mall to cool of. 


I was quite lucky though as it was a bit cloudy back then. Don't get me wrong. My trip to Saigon wasn't all about going to this park and working out. Because i rarely go out at night (my drinking spree starts at happy hour), i wake up really early in the morning, and maximized my time the whole day, either heading out to nearby attractions or shopping little by little so i didn't have to carry with me heavy shopping bags. I also need to take into consideration transportation because i ride Grab Bike 90% of the time, so you can imagine two arms carrying too many shopping bags, and balancing. 


It actually helped that i work out because my days spent walking and climbing felt nothing. Having an intense workout session in the early morning paved the way for an exciting morning and active afternoons, in addition to an amped night. Because my hotel is around Phan Ngu Lao, going out for a drink is always less than 10 minutes away. 


Sampling the Cuisine in Saigon
The main reason why i work my ass off almost everyday, and whenever i can, is because i love eating. One of the most enjoyable things in life is to eat delicious food. A trip to Vietnam would not be complete if you're not able to sample its delicacies. In order for me to satisfy my hunger for good food, i need to sweat out all the salt and sugar of my last meal. Like these, for example.  


I've researched on Zomato and found out a good dessert place called La Creperie. It took me a while to find out where it was because the addresses in Vietnam are quite the riddle. I ordered cinnamon caramelized crepe with a pot of jasmine tea. Just lovely!


I was waiting for the next showing of Crazy Rich Asian at Vincom Center, and i thought roaming around the area would lead me to a restaurant where i can eat local cuisine. Of course, there's one and it's great grillery. I ordered squid to go with a plate of salad and big bowl or rice. I love this joint. 


I ordered big bite of cheeseburger at a restaurant called Craft Sandwiches and Burger at the corner near Pham Ngu Lao. The deep fried potato wedges are not an option. What a filling dinner. 


There are days when i'm feeling eating something light and nutritious, so i would go for green salad with lots of shitake mushroom and romaine lettuce. Go green! And i would go hungry a few hours later. 


On other days, i would splurge a little like when i ate lunch at Le Corto and i had pan fried seafood with shellfish saffron sauce and matcha cake with ice cream for dessert. Yummy and expensive!


A day of shopping at Ben Thanh Market was quite hard so i needed to reward myself. Okay, i just made that up. Having a glass of Che Ba Mau (The sweet Vietnamese dish che ba mau is also called a three-colour or rainbow dessert. A green layer contains pieces of jelly, a yellow layer consists of mung bean paste and a red layer of whole adzuki beans. It is topped with sweetened coconut milk. Source) was the best decision ever that day.

On my first night, heck every night, a bottle of Saigon Beer is always a good idea. Cooling off at a joint nearby Pham Ngu Lao and just taking it all in, all the wonders this country has to offer. Bia Saigon is probably one of the best beers in Asia.


I've worked out a lot. I've eaten a lot, too. That's the best part about having a balanced lifestyle while traveling. Sweating and eating are two of my most favorite things when traveling, and Saigon is the perfect city to do that. 

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