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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam 
First Day

I've never thought about travelling to Vietnam before but when jetstar airlines was offering promo fare to Ho Chi Minh I just book the ticket and that's it. My mum and a friend of mine joined the craze to visit this interesting part of Southeast Asia. My friend did the initial research for our accommodation in the city and I for the travel itinerary. We booked this Japan-inspired capsule bunker beds in Ho Chi Minh Central. They had a great location and even offers travel tours around the city unfortunately they don't accept reservations. Food, shopping, tourist spots and everything you need was right at the corner of this hotel. I always make sure we have a place to stay everytime we travel abroad. Nowadays researching before travelling is a must, it's one cool gift we have from technology which makes going on a holiday carefree. 



If you're bringing more than 15 million VND a declaration form must be signed upon arrival. You can split the money with your companions to avoid the hassle. We arrived around 8 in the morning at Tan Soh Nhat International Airport. Once we got out from the airport a crowd of tour guide drivers intensely watched us as we made our way out. All of them were holding on to a piece of paper with certain guest names printed on it, hoping its us who ends their waiting time misery. The dismay in their faces were obvious as we passed by each of them along the corner. A taxi driver then approached us while we were looking around and taking some pictures. He continued to tail us and offered 600,000 VND going to our hotel. We just said yes besides he took our arrival picture and the deal sounded pretty good to me. However, It turns out that he had exploited our innocence and charged more than the usual price, as stated by our hotel receptionist. Next time better go straight to the taxi stall and book a tax right there, it only cost just around 200,000 VND for the trip. 
Anyways the taxi driver was kind and even taught us a few important Vietnamese Words:
Hello - Chao, Toilet/CR - Yasao, Where - Didao, Cheap - Makwa and Thank You - Kaman (kam-Uhn). I don't have any idea how they spell it ahahaa. The last two words were the most significant  during our interaction with the locals. 


Airport to Hotel travel time: 30 minutes
Check in Kaiteki Hotel 
Address: 22 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
3 days 2 nights 
SGD 44.72 

The hotel offers Airport Transfer: 160,000 VND ONLY
Laundry: 35,000 VND
Travel Packages: Cu Chi Tunnel and Mekong Delta tour
The place was perfect, it was a food haven for a traveller like me whose always curious when it comes to good food. Street foods, restaurants, bars and cafe were all over the place and a few tourist spots too: 
500 metres from Ben Thanh Market 
1 km from the Reunification Palace 3.7 km from Military Museum 



We immediately booked for our Half day Cu Chi Tunnel tour and Mekong Delta tour for the next day. We still had time for lunch so we went out and had our first Vietnamese meal. From Kaiteki Hotel just walk straight away from the main road and turn right and you'll find a stretch of shops and restaurants . There's also a nearby CIRCLE K, a convenient store to purchased a 1 liter water bottle worth 12,000 VND and some snacks for midnight.

Lunch at Huong Viet Restaurant


1.Goi Cuon Tom Thit or Fresh Spring Rolls with shrimp and pork: 79,000 VND
2. Banh Khot Tom or Traditional Banh Knot with shrimp: 86,000 VND
3. Muc Ong Nuong Muoi OT or Grilled Squid with salt and chill: 105,000 VND
4. Pho Hai San or Noodle soup with seafood: 79,000 VND
5. Watermelon and Fruit Mix Smoothies :49,000 VND and 59,000 VND, respectively. 
Total of 500,000 VND (good for 3 people) 


Once you get to know the place try to avoid dinning in at restaurants, so you wont have to pay for service charge or any food taxes. This is the street corner beside the hotel which stretches to the main big road where all the travel agencies is situated, and all the travel bus waits for the tourist. We went back to the hotel and the pick-up bus transfer was ready for our half day tour to Cu Chi Tunnel. The mini-bus was not well-ventilated, considering there were 20 people inside squeezed in like sardines. It was fine with me because of the scenery of the rice paddies and the mountain.

The city reminds me of Philippines with all the electrical wires hanging in the post, even the traffic and most especially the weather. It felt like I was back home again. When you're working in another country, everywhere you go doesn't feel like home at all, maybe you would feel comfortable for a week or so but it would still be different. This realization started when I don't get to see my family for a long time. For the past few years I've been travelling a lot and I've started to feel like a nomad now. I've also started the need not to feel at home,it's something different and I'm still trying to figure out how they call this feeling. The joy of being in a new land is not about capturing pictures, updating my instagram account and trying out new activities anymore. The need to be there, see new things, try new flavors and be amaze how other people live is what makes my travel experience precious. I think I'm starting and learning the art of contentment just by travel itself.


Vacation Checklist: 
- VND Dong Bills 
- Slippers/Sneakers
- Water (1 bottle is provided) 
- apply some sunscreen, wear a hat 
- Camera
- A must-have: A vigilant eyesight to spot vehicles when crossing the street. The vehicles don't stop at all! like really! literally! ahahaa
-Learn some Vietnamese words. This comes in handy when you're buying stuffs in the market. Make sure to say it with a big grin or your loveliest smile. I'm not quite sure if this works for western tourist. My favorite useful words were "Makwa" for cheap especially when bargaining for goods and "Kaman (kam-uhn)" for thank you when I assumed I got the price that I want. My secret weapon for lowering the prices are my big brown eyes, soft arm squeeze (be careful with this one, choose wisely) and my bubbly voice saying these two Vietnamese words again and again.


My First Try of Vietnamese Street Food! I had the Flattened/Dried Banana Pancake worth 10,000 VND. The banana was thinly sliced like a paper and it tasted sweet and crispy. I saw these lady cooking this paper like food in a small pot with charcoal, I looked closer and still can't determine what was she heating up. So I simply bought one to feed my curiosity and it was a banana! She was kind and sweet. I loved how genuine people sell their goods, it makes the food more tastier and memorable. 


Travel Scoop: I was able to composed my blog drafts while travelling for 5 hours to Mui Ne. It was quite a comfortable ride with a great window view of the countryside. Check it out: Soon ehehee

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