A girl can dream, right? Once in a faraway island, we said, “Let’s do this annually” and tadaa, we did. And it keeps getting better and better.
Vietnam, why the choice? I dunno, I guess we just wanted to be different. We wanted to go to the road less traveled by. Since we weren’t a bunch of girly-girls and shopping would just be too costly, we embarked on a cultural trip to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
The original plan was to cross the border and go to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. Little did we know that it will take us 12 hours to get there and that will consume so much of our trip. With that, we’ve decided to make the best out of Vietnam.
So our little adventure, well, our first out of the country trip as a group went on something like this. And yeah, I will try to remember in the most accurate way possible.
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh via Tan Son Nhat International Airport Terminal 2. It’s 30 minutes to an hour away from the city proper, District 1.
We exchanged our US Dollars to Vietnamese Dong in the airport just to be sure. Hooray, I got 3 Million Dong right after! 🙂
From our research, it’s been said to be careful of cab drivers who’ll try to scam you. However, arriving in a foreign land at 1am in a group of 4 girls, we pretty had no choice but to hop on to the first cab we saw. So, imagine our horror when we were charged 150,000 VND per person instead of 150,000 VND for all of us!
Go for the trusted ones: VinaSun (yellow) or MaiLinh (green) but be very careful too. I’ve seen in forums that these cab names are already being faked. My oh my!
We chose a hostel in Pham Ngu Lao, The backpacker’s haven which is in District 1. It’s very accessible and the rates are so cheap! It’s pretty decent if you don’t mind the view, well, it’s sorta reminiscent of Malate or Ermita, Manila 🙂 We stayed at Kim’s Place Hostel located at 47 Do Quang Dau St. District 1 HCMC. You can book in advance by e-mailing the owner at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting them via: 0904534474.
We got there at around 2am and the caretaker, Lin, was already sleeping. As in sleeping in the lobby. Hahaha! At first, we couldn’t understand her, all we can pick up was that her boss left?! Then, she asked for our passports. (This is a protocol in all hotels, accommodations, I think). On our 1st night, we stayed in a dorm with a solo backpacker.
Anyway, we asked Lin to book our tours the following morning. Since most of the attractions are far from HCM, it’s hard to do it yourself hence the need for a guided tour.
Day 1: Cu Chi Tunnel, CaoDai Temple and Ben Thanh Market
Breakfast was consistent: Bread, Cheese, Peanut Butter, Jam, Viet Coffee and Banana 🙂
Cu Chi Tunnel is 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City in the Northwest. A famous battleground in the Vietnam War. There are some openings that tourists can actually dig themselves to. So that’s me, trying it out.
That’s Gwen who needed a little help going up. Thanks to the strong hands of our Romanian friend. (Oh by the way, if you see the back of his shirt, that’s a Philippine map right there. He toured the Philippines for a month I think. :))
That’s us trying to be cultured. Haha!
Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh: Caodaism is the 3rd largest religion in Vietnam. CaoDai refers to the supreme palace where God reigns — that is the Kingdom of Heaven.
United in prayer
Each color represents a religion. The noble effort of CaoDai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world
Our United Nations group from L-R: America, Romania (quit his job, travelled the world), Ireland (sci-fi writer/VO talent), Philippines (all 4 of us), Malaysia (Edwin sometimes Edward, tour guide for Chinese), Vietnam (Couple born in Vietnam), London (Mr. ex military turned Kite boarding instructor).
Ben Thanh Market home of the cheapest bargains. But prices can go a little higher if you’re a tourist who doesn’t know how to haggle.
On board the cylo after some serious shopping. The ride from Ben Thanh to Pham Ngu Lao coss 30,000VND ea.
For dinner, we had Pho and my favorite spring rolls with avocado shake. Yum yum!
To cap the night, Vietnam’s famous iced coffee. As in I got addicted to this! 10,000VND only! Drooooling!
Day 2: Mekong Delta Day Tour
It’s a 2-hour drive southwest of Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta which is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam. This river runs along the borders of six countries: China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
We passed by the Cai Be Floating Market where everyday, hundreds of boats sell fruits, vegetables and other products. To make it easier to know which boat to go to, a pole is on top of the boat where their product, a fruit for example, is sticked on.
After this, we went to a Coconut Village to see how locals make use of every part of the coconut down to its husk. Sure is the tree of life!
Last stop was a Bee Farm where we had complimentary tea and honey plus some local fruit based products.
The finale was our ride in a rowing boat with our dear Vietnamese lady.
Because you can’t be in Saigon without having some Saigon Beer.
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City Tour
This was a really, really tiring day because we kept on walking and walking. The highlight of the City Tour, for a history freak like me, would have to be the War Remnants Museum. Sorry, but the more I felt less love for Uncle Sam. Divide and conquer, yet again.
War Remnants Museum contains countless artifacts, photographs, and pictures documenting American war crimes.
The mangroves of Mekong Delta, destroyed.
Agent Orange is the U.S. military’s herbicidal warfare program against Vietnam which did not just affect the Viets but the American soldiers, which were passed on to their kids as well.
This sight makes my tummy cringe. So helpless. 😦
and their guns
Reunification Palace is the site that marks the end of Vietnam War. A North Vietnamese tank crashed the gate of the palace signaling the fall of Saigon.
The girls with Ho Chi Minh
Handicapped Handicrafts Village house the Vietnamese who were disabled due to Agent Orange herbicidal warfare program
Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Central Post Office designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, no less.
We had to walk and walk and walk. I forgot the name of the mall we were looking for so when we noticed we were going in circles, we decided to hail a cab and just go back to Ben Thanh for some ‘pasalubong’ shopping.
I’m trying to remember my expenses in the most accurate way possible, so here you go:
Worth every hundred thousand dong hehe! 🙂
On to the next mi ladies! 🙂