Vietnam has been on my travel list for quite a while. The beautiful nature, the food, the history. This is us sharing our Vietnam travel experience with you guys. There will be more to come, but for now, let us begin with one of the biggest city in this bustling country, Ho Chi Minh City.
Some people who call it Saigon and some Ho Chi Minh, both are technically correct but there is a history behind that. To make it short for you, TL;DR peeps, the former name is Saigon and changed in 1976 to Ho Chi Minh City which is the name of the first leader of Vietnam. You can read more it here if you interested.
Our journey started by night flight from Jakarta to Singapore and then continue with the morning flight from Singapore to Hanoi. We opted for this first option because first, the budget. We were using Jet Star which is a low-cost carrier based in Singapore. And then second, for time efficiency. But the downside was we sort of sacrifice the comfortable side as we have 6 hours transit time.
Singapore Changi Airport was and still is currently the best airport in the world. They have a bunch of facilities and even said as the best airport to have a layover. Once we arrived in Singapore we immediate try to find this Snooze Lounge. It is basically their free rest area. It’s a cool facility and something we could appreciate about as a traveler.
But I guess it just my bad luck that time. I was sleeping next to the potted plant and somehow the bugs manage to find their way inside my hoodie. The bedbugs literally bite! Or the snooze lounge bugs, whatever.
To be honest, I still think Changi Airport is one of the cleanest airports I have ever been. But I guess they just can’t control what kind of creature happen to be living on their potted plants. So, maybe a tip for you, stay away from the plants!
Since we were having a flight at 7 a.m. and it’s around 4 a.m. already, it was a perfect time for us to get some breakfast. We went for some toast, Milo for him and coffee for me. A very Singaporean breakfast indeed. You know what I meant if you live in South East Asia.
The flight was okay. It just an hour flight but we manage to catch some sleep. And then when we woke up, it was Ho Chi Minh City already!
The official currency in Vietnam is Dong. So the first thing we do once we arrived was exchanged our money. Because it’s somehow hard to find a money changer that sells Dong in our country. And we did it twice, first was inside right after we passed the immigration and second time was outside the arrival area.
We thought the rate inside the arrival area usually will be higher. So we didn’t exchange that much but actually the one inside the arrival area had a better rate than the one outside. Keep that in mind if you need to exchange your money at the airport, exchange it before you get out from the arrival area.
Getting to the City
After that was done, then we were searching for a taxi to get to our hotel. I did read that taxi should not cost you a fortune in Vietnam but beware for the scammer. Once we get outside we were immediately offered a ride by this one guy. He offered us a ride for 600,000 VND!
If you did not know, from the airport to the city center in HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) will take less than 30 minutes. And the taxi ride should cost around 200,000 VND or less.
So of course, we said no to that offer. But when we started to walk away, the guy start to lower his price. I guess he sees that we were already very skeptical about him and so he pointed us to one of the taxi counters. It turns out he was actually working for a company but he still tried to scam us. Ckck..
His company was Song Viet Transportation Service. They gave us the rate of 220,000 VND from the airport to Bùi Viện Street in District 1. It was fixed price and we paid in the counter. They also gave us a voucher for 30% discount for our next transport to the airport. So yeah, we did not get scammed this time.
First Pho (and diarrhea)
We were staying at the Duc Vuong Hotel in District 1. I really like this hotel for a reason and we will talk more about it here (coming soon!). After we check-in and dropped our bags, we went outside to find some lunch.
And obviously, when you are in Vietnam it is only appropriate to have Pho as your first meal. We came across this Pho restaurant which was really busy. Busy restaurant means that the food is good, so we went for it.
It was good but I can’t really enjoy it much. I was having a pretty bad diarrhea. But I am not blaming the Pho tho. I guess it was due to lack of sleep and coffee from the earlier morning.
Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Going around in the city is pretty easy as all the famous objects are located in one area. We were pretty much able to visit everything in one day actually. But since the diarrhea incident took me quite a while to recover, read: a nap. So, there was 1 place that we didn’t manage to fit into our first day. But to make it easier for you I will put all the places below. All are really accessible by walking.
War Remnants Museum
The first place we visit were the War Remnants Museum. It costs us VND 15,000 / person for the entrance fee. But let me warn you, this place is not for the faint-hearted. Be prepare for graphic photographs of the wars. There are also armored vehicles and infantry weapons on display outside.
Many reviews said that this place is full of “propaganda” or taking one-sided opinions about the war. It might be because this museum made from the Vietnam side of view. But nonetheless to say this is still an interesting place to visit. You might want to take your time to go around the place as there are lots to see. Might spend around 1 hour in here.
Saigon Notre Dome Cathedral
After that, next place on our list is the Saigon Notre Dome Cathedral. From the museum, we just walk straight for 2 or 3 blocks and then turn right until we arrived at some sort of a park and the church was right across that park.
This church is built between 1863 and 1880 during the France colonialism. They said all the building material were imported from France. Even the brick that still holds its bright red colors outside. This is a fully functional church so you can attend their masses on Sunday if you wish to do so.
In front of this church, there is also a statue of Mother Marie. But we have no luck with getting a picture without anyone in the frame because it was really crowded. But the church itself is a beauty to look at from the outside. We even saw a couple having their pre-wedding photoshoot here.
Saigon Central Post Office
Next to the Cathedral is the Saigon Central Post Office. It’s impossible to miss because of the bright yellow color. Built around 1886 – 1891 and designed by Gustave Eiffel who also designed the famous Eiffel Tower.
The interior makes me feel like entering a classic European railway station rather than a post office. Inside, there are the historical maps of South Vietnam and Saigon back in 1892. This is also a functioning post office, so you can actually send a postcard from here.
We didn’t actually make it here on the first day, we went here on our last day in Ho Chi Minh. But as you can see from the map, it really close by so we should have visited in the same day. We just didn’t have time on our first day so the last day it was for us. The entrance fee is VND 30,000.
Also known as Reunification Palace, this place used to be a presidential home and workplace for of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This place is also still being used as the official receptions or meetings place. When we were there, they actually preparing this place for an event later on the day so we didn’t explore that much of the palace.
That’s basically all the touristy places we visit for our first-day city in Ho Chi Minh. I think it’s possible to just have a day to visit them all, but I don’t necessary recommend it because having more time to explore is always a better option for me.
More Vietnamese Foods
After we were done visiting everything on our list, we were having early dinner at this restaurant. We saw this restaurant on our way to the museum to from the hotel and it was crazy packed! Crowded restaurant so the food must be good, right?
So we were stopping by on our way back. And yes the food was good but I have no idea what we were eating. They have all the food on the display so we basically just point what we want to order. It seems most of them were pork (?) Well that’s my best guess. 😅
Then we got back to the hotel, washing up and then went out again. It was already night time and the street starting to get really busy. It turns into almost a night market. Lots of food stall and bars starting to open up.
One thing you will see in Vietnam when eating the street food is they love their low chair. I am not sure what you suppose to call that. It’s a plastic chair but really low, almost feel like squatting. Even the bars will have this kind of chair outside for people chilling out looking out the street (?) It’s a kind of bizarre stuff for me to look at. 😂
Of course, we gotta try that local experience. Here we’re eating something similar to pho but we didn’t know the name, sitting (squatting) in the street. Then we bought more stuff from some stalls to bring to our hotel, fruits and more. It’s cheap eating out in Vietnam! We almost always needed to remind ourselves not to buy too much.
Second Day: Chu Chi Tunnels (Half Day Tour)
Okay, I think Chu Chi Tunnels deserves its own post. So we will have that coming up soon, where we talk more about our experience there. We also booked the tour from our hotel but more about that and how much it cost later. It took us half day.
Strolling around the City
Our plan for the rest of the day is to just stroll around the city.We were dropped back at our hotel after Chu Chi Tunnels and it was around mid-day already and it was raining. So we stopped by this food stall near our hotel and eat this food I don’t know what the name was. It’s the perfect meals while waiting for the rain tho.
Once the rain stopped, we went to visit the famous Ben Thanh Market. But on our way, we stopped at this stall which sold coconut ice cream. Yeah, I know we were eating a lot. But we went almost everywhere by foot so I guess we burned all that fat already. Ha!
Ben Thanh Market
The market is not as big as I thought. But you can find literally everything here. As per usual with a traditional Asian market, the seller could be pretty pushy. Bargaining as always is a must.
We didn’t stay too long there and we didn’t buy anything either. Too crowded. Also, all the seller already know most of the people coming will be tourists so the price they offer was kinda high. And I guess both of us just don’t have the necessary bargaining skill.
This was the place recommended by our receptionist when we asked her what and where to eat good Vietnamese food. She said this they sell the best Banh Mi here. If you don’t know what Banh Mi is, it is a Vietnamese sandwich but using baguette instead of normal bread.
Just search for Bitexco Tower and this place is really close by. There were lots of people buying so it’s really easy to spot. They sell a bunch of food, not only Banh Mi. But since it was the one recommended that’s what we bought.
I don’t think it was the best Banh Mi I have ever eaten in Vietnam. The baguette was really dry and the filling was just meh. But maybe there is a different type of Banh Mi that we should have ordered, I don’t know. But still, not the best for me.
This is the place that offers 360-degree views of the Ho Chi Minh City. Not the cheapest attraction from our list, in fact, this is the most expensive one. Located on the 49th floor of Bitexco Financial Tower which is the tallest building in Vietnam. Nothing much to say about this place, pretty much that is.
Ho Chi Minh Statue
We actually stumble upon this statue by coincidence. From the Bitexco Tower, we were just strolling down the street and we found this huge square in the middle of the city. At the end of the square are the statue and next is the famous Rex Hotel.
We spend a longer time at the square rather at the statue. There were lots of people jogging or just taking an afternoon stroll. We did stay till until it was dark and manage to took some long exposure picture. Pretty cool.
After that, we grabbed some food on our way back to the hotel. The Chu Chi Tunnel experience was quite exhausting, to say the least. And that’s the end of our second day in Ho Chi Minh.
Last Day in Ho Chi Minh
We only have half a day as our last day in Ho Chi Minh because we were going to have our flight to Hanoi later on the day. On this day we were visiting the Independence Palace which I did tell you earlier.
On our way there we did make a couple stops. First was at Swensen’s Ice Cream place. But the service was really slow. We waited almost half an hour and still no one took our order even though we have asked multiple times. So we ended up coming to the cashier and asked for a takeaway.
Then we stopped at this restaurant, Mon Hue. They sell Vietnamese cuisine but the fast-food type of Vietnamese food. Because this is a chain restaurant the price was a bit higher than street food. We spent VND 205,700 for both of us.
But the highlight of this day was not the food, it was the scam. Someone finally successfully scammed us, in Vietnam!
Coconut Seller Scam!
Around the tourist attraction area, the museum, palace, cathedral, and the post office, there were lots of people selling coconut. Those guys were using a bamboo yokes hung with baskets at each end and walking around the blocks.
They will cut open the coconut right away for your to drink the coconut water. And it was really refreshing, to be honest. We did buy one on our first day when walking around. It costs us VND 35,000.
But what happened was, we were waiting to cross the road on our last day. Then this one coconut seller was trying to talk and ask us when we are coming from, etc. We thought he’s just being friendly.
But then after chit-chatting for a while, he suddenly cut open a coconut for us. Our immediate reaction was to decline but he put the coconut on our hands and told us to drink. And that’s not even all, he asked;
Do you want to try hold this and take picture? Try.. Try..
Being pushy as he was, then he put it on him and told me to take the picture. After that, we asked “How much?”. Freaking VND 150,000 for a coconut!
It might sound stupid now, but it all went really fast. We didn’t even get a chance to think and he uses our confusion to do his scam trick. And this turns out to be a thing there, the coconut rip-offs. So be careful, don’t hesitate to decline or even ignore the seller if they being pushy and just keep walking.
We were actually going back to the hotel when that guy scammed us. So after he successfully manages to scam us, we were rushing back to the hotel because we have a flight to catch on. Then it started to rain hard. We were soaked when we reached the hotel.
We have booked our transport to the airport that morning using the discount that we got on our first day. The car was already waiting for us when we reached the hotel. Then on our way to the airport, the rain practically turned into a storm.
At the end we did get to the airport on time, just to figure out that our plane was delayed due to bad weather. We suppose to depart at 7.10pm that night and it was delayed for 5 hours!
But it was a fortunate thing for us that our flight ended up flying that night because once we arrived in Hanoi, I saw this news. Ho Chi Minh city was flooded and we just missed that. At least something to be grateful, right?
That’s all for our Ho Chi Minh City travel journal and the first one for Vietnam. We also got Hanoi travel journal coming up next but for the time being, you can check our latest travel journal here. Thanks for reading! Check these links below if you want to get some deals on your next trips, as well as we will get something in return to keep us on track. 😉
- Book your next flight to Ho Chi Minh!
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