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.
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.
(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.
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.
READ: Ho Chi Minh City: The WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
for a more detailed post.
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.
NOTE: Php 1= 500 Dong
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.
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.
READ: Cha Ca, Banh Xeo, Rau Mong and Nem Ran at NHA HANG NGON Restaurant HCMC.
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.
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.