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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Walking Tour of HO CHI MINH CITY

I finally took the courage to go on a self-proclaimed 7-day vacation. Lakasan lang ng loob.This was something I haven't done before out of fear that I might have no more work to go back to when I return.But the urge to see Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand was worth the risk.I am glad I did.It was experience of a lifetime.One which I suggest young and 'physically' able Filipinos should do. Hanggat bata pa at kaya pa ng katawan ---go for it!

I will be sharing our 7 days/6 nights itinerary soon after I am done with my individual posts.Details first before a 'grand' summary.

I was with my wife and three other friends.Our #SEA2013 Tour started in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam otherwise known as Saigon.

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City from Bến Thành Market

Left Manila 11pm and landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport at around 1am local time.That's around 3 hours but since Vietnam is one hour behind the Philippines, 1am palang don nung dumating kami.

It took us around 20 minutes from the airport to our hotel. Had arranged a car pickup via the hotel and they charged us $18. Since there were five of us and I thought I didn't want to start the tour with haggling annoyances, pinatos na namin. One more thing, madaling araw na. I am sure though that it will cost you half less if you can haggle for your own cab.

READ:  HONG HAN HOTEL Bui Vien: backpacker friendly + very helpful manager
for detailed review.

Hong Han Guest House

Our check-in at Hong Han Guest House was quick and we were on the street at around 2am to try some authentic Pho.Unfortunately, the 16GB SD card I bought from CD-R King crashed after a few shots. Airport and first food pics lost.I hated myself for buying that cheap SD card out of desperation. Buti nalang nasira kagad.Would have been more tragic if it got corrupted in the middle of the tour.

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with Tropical Depression in QUYNH Pho Restaurant
(photos taken via mobile phone)

ONE FUNNY STORY: At the restaurant, we were seated to a group. We were sure we took the same plane to Saigon so we were aware they are Filipinos. We were chatting with one of the members for a few minutes until we realized some members look  familiar. I asked "who are you guys?". One of them said, we are Tropical Depression". Omaygad moments! I apologized for not recognizing them. They frequent Ho Chi Minh City to perform.In demand talaga ang Pinoy talent kahit saan. Photo opt moments ensued.hahaha

Went back to our room to get sleep and woke up early the next day and had a simple breakfast at the hotel.We were on the road at around 8am for city tour.
breakfast at Hong Han Guest House

Noticed that their main streets are wide.What I like about Ho Chi Minh City is that streets are lined up with trees on both side and the sidewalks are wide as well.Perhaps they take it from France? I find cities with avenues lined up with trees romantic,more so, safe for pedestrians.
War Remnants Museum

We took the cab to War Remnants Museum.The perfect place to start your City Tour as it will give you a glimpse into the war past of Vietnam  (Vietnam War) which has significantly shaped the contemporary psyche of this nation.Will talk about it in my next post.

for a more detailed post.


The War Museum is also perfect as it is only a few blocks away from the Reunification Palace which I heard houses another museum.

On our way to the Reunification Palace, a fresh coconut vendor approached us.He offered my friends to carry his goods for some photo opt (which my friends liked so much) after which he went on handing two fresh coconuts.Our friends took em delightedly without asking first 'how much'.They were surprised when he said the two costs 100,000 Dong.Meaning, 50,000 Dong each.(Around 100 pesos?) Outrageously expensive.That was our first rip-off of the tour.I thought we should have haggled but it was too late, should have done earlier,but the girls started sipping the moment they were handed the coconuts.

Exchange Rate:
NOTE: Php 1= 500 Dong
Reunification Palace

The building doesn't look so appealing but the entrance fee is more expensive than that of the War Remnants Museum.I heard it houses a better collection but my friends and I decided that we've already had enough history for the day.Maybe next time.
Anyhow, in front of the Reunification Palace is a big park characterized by big trees.A lovely open space with a lot of green.Sarap magpalamig on a hot day.Walking further is the intersection leading to Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Vietnam is the 'land of motorbikes'.That was my initial impression of the country and it is still true until now.I thought it would look chaotic but I was surprised at how organized and disciplined the motorbike drivers are in HCMC. I have never seen this many motorbikes and they beautifully adorn the streets.

Be careful when crossing the road. We were told of a secret when doing so, spread your arms so that motorists would easily notice and avoid you. My friends and I actually enjoyed doing this every time we cross the street. Parang naglalaro lang.hahaha


It's interesting to see a Catholic Church in a communist country honestly.I know there are many more in HCMC and Vietnam but this one is grand and elaborate in its design.Lakas maka-European feel.I noticed that it's not open to the public though so we had to contend ourselves to having pictures around it. Just across the street side of the church is the Central Post Office.


The Central Post Office is another manifestation of French architectures legacy to the city.It is fully functional until now and inside you can find atm's, souviner shops and money changers. We rested in some benches inside and at some point I felt like I was in an old European Train Station.
Of course this is where I purchased a postcard to be sent to a blogger buddy in the Philippines who is a member of a postcard collection club.
photo with some Vietnamese students
LUNCH at Nha Hang Ngon
Ahn,the manager of our hostel, suggested a good place to eat which is is just a few blocks away from Notre-Dame Cathedral.Nha Hang Ngon is a posh restaurant housed in a nice colonial style building. It gives the impression that its expensive but we were surprised that their food is not the expensive. We ordered some of the food I researched via CNNgo and we really enjoyed our meal.Will talk about it on a separate post soon and will link it here in this section.

READ:  Cha Ca, Banh Xeo, Rau Mong and Nem Ran at NHA HANG NGON Restaurant HCMC.
for details.
We walked a few blocks further down the road and ended up in Ho Chi Minh Square.I love the square.At the center is a small park with beautifully manicured plants, a statue of Ho Chi Minh surrounded by beautiful buildings which includes the City Hall of French architecture. On another side is another colonial-looking building and on another is a new shopping mall.Further in the horizon are modern high rises affirming Ho Chi Minh City's economic prominence as the largest and richest metropolis in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Bến Thành Market
From the square, we took the taxi to Bến Thành Market in hunt for souvenirs It's a public market but surprisingly, goods are expensive. I was disappointed coz I thought they are outrageously pricey.I guess for tourists like us who are easy prey to local merchants.Haggling is the order here of course and unfortunately,that's where me and my friends are not very good at. I bought a black Ho Chi Minh shirt for 420pesos after minutes of trying to lower the price.

I wanted to have a remembrance so I had to settle for it even if I know it's overpriced. Found out later on from a Japanese expat in HCMC who was seated next to me on the bus to Phnom Penh that the market is notorious for taking advantage of tourists. I think that explains why the place has only a few customers even on a Saturday when the city is so alive with activity.


I liked Ho Cho Minh City.I think I underestimated it.I feel guilty.I thought it's a poor,stingy place but I was wrong.Metro Manila is more cosmopolitan and is definitely wealthier but HCMC has a charm that could captivate anybody. I like its streets lined with trees separating the main road from the spacious sidewalks.It makes walking around cooler even during noontime.

Here was out Map guide by the way:

The place is abuzz with activity.You know the city is in fast transformation as it continues to accumulate more material wealth but there is still this laidback feel to the place.I like the millions of motorbikes on its wide avenues.The modern comforts of city life and the well preserved heritage building from its French colonial past.I love the food.I will continue to rant about the fact that it's difficult to communicate in english with the locals but people are nice. Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of character.

We took the cab back to our hotel after buying a few items from the market to catch our bus to Phnom Penh. It was a brief encounter with Ho Chi Minh City but it definitely left a lasting impression on all of us.Would love to go back after a few years and see the changes.

This is the first of a Series which will take you to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, our #SEA2013 Tour.
Please look for more updates. Cheers!


  1. So true prang naglalaro lng talaga ang pag cross ng roads. Nakakatuwa xa! ;) at lakas nga maka europe ng cathedral pinakabet ko yan sa lahat ;) aco din kung madaling araw aco darating papatusin q na yan. basta makarating ng safe! :) ang saya saya naman! Sayang nde pa nag sabay ung trip nten pero next time sana makasama sa inyu ni wifey ;)

  2. napawow naman ako sa mga buildings dyan!
    gaganda ee!

  3. chào, anton! (i googled translate for the vietnamese of hello!) :)

    you arrived wee hours of the morning and by 8 you're all done with breakfast and were on teh streets already?! wow, you really didn't waste time on your first day. wasn't that tiring? probably not because it didn't manifest on your photos.

    i'll certainly follow this hashtagSEA2013 series hehehe! :)

  4. HCMC is my second home. hehe i agree ben thanh market is really expensive. two blocks from ben thanh you can find really cheap souvenirs and the various stalls are owned by my vietnamese friends. sayang d ko nasabi sau. hehe i am a frequent visitor of hcmc and indeed everytime i go back there's always something new. hehe re memory card experience ganun din nangyari sakin sa laguna visit ko ayun kulang tuloy pics pero buti nalang mga first few shots lang nawala kaya d na ako bibili ng cdr king memory card. haha

  5. What I like in HCMC is yung mga Vietnamese girls in Ao Dai... nakakatuwa sila na maii-spot mo lagi around the city lang. Parang nasa sinauna ka pero modern Vietnam. You can see how they highly respect their culture by wearing their traditional clothes in public.

  6. Hi! Most flights from MNL to HCMC arrives a little past midnight. Does the hotel you stayed in allowed you to check in upon your arrival? Check in time for most hotels in HCMC is 12nn or 2pm. Thanks!

  7. yes, they allow it. But what you do is book for that day and late check in lang, meaning, you have to check out 12 noon the next day. Tulugan lang talaga. If you are staying for a few days, you check in 2am tas 12noon the next day that's another day count. They arrange airport transfers too. They will send you an email the moment you booked so you can easily coordinate with them your time of arrival. again, late check in ok, but no early check in like your reservation is 12 noon pa the next day pero you wanna check in na as early as 1 am.no. you have to pay for that day na kahit late kapa dumating :)

  8. bro pwede ba matulog sa airport ng Saigon? connecting flight kasi kami.

  9. @rajesh --uo naman. why not! last time, it was not so crowded naman.esp at night ^^

  10. Hi Anton! Ask ko lang paano pala yung visa niyo when you arrived in HCMC? I'll be doing a short SEAsia solo trip kasi this coming July and ang first stop ko is HCMC from Manila. Red flight din. Wala kasi ako makita masyadong new blogposts about visa info to hcmc from pinoy bloggers, so I thought to ask you.

    1. Nika. no need for visa sa Vietnam. Passport lang so don't worry ^^. enjoy!!!

  11. I would not want to ride in or around Bangkok, where the traffic zooms about, but fortunately we travel 650kms to Chiang Mai before collecting our bikes. The riding portion of the trip also ends in Chiang Mai.Self-Explore Motorcycle tours Thailand


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