I am not a culture-type of person. And Vietnam was never part of my travel radar as I thought the city is just another “regular” city, with no activities and less attractions.
What made me decide to book for a trip to Ho Chi Minh City was the very tempting seat sale amounting to Php2,000 (Cebu Pacific). I never really wanted to stay that long there, so I thought of making it as a side-trip and stay for 2 nights before I head to Bangkok. And I also wanted to experience travelling alone, so off I went!
Finding a place to stay the HCMC was easy breezy. There are numerous budget hotels available ranging from Php500 to a Thousand (and they all look pretty decent). I booked a room at Hoang Lien Hotel at the tourist-filled street of Ben Thanh Ward. I got a room for only Php700 per night which was super cheap! And the best part was that they were kind enough to pick me up at the airport since I arrived at midnight.
PUBLIC COMMUTER TIP 1 – Prior to booking your preferred Hotel; always check either trip advisor or other travel blogs. There was a time that I almost got ditched because of missed booking.
My trip to HCMC was nothing really fancy; I just wanted to feel the city vibe. I did not take advantage of the city tour provided by the hotel and decided to rent a bike for Php600 where I toured around the following places: Chinatown, Saigon River, City Center, Ben Thanh Market
PUBLIC COMMUTER TIP 2 – if you want to rent a bike (with a guide), better probe first and make sure that the tour is legit. I have learned from a friend that there are some who would just rob your cash and not give you a good tour. I had a good experience so I think I did the right thing.
VIETNAMESE COFFEE – Drinking their coffee, completed my HCMC experience. DO NOT LEAVE THE CITY WITHOUT TRYING THIS OUT! Trung Nguyen serves the best Vietnamese Coffee!
PHO – Just like their coffee, this is a must try! And I don’t see the point why you shouldn’t. My favourite is Pho Ga.
EXPENSES – My over-all trip only amounted to Php6,000 for 3 full days (which covered the tour, meals and some shopping). Pretty cheap, right? Below are the total damages the trip incurred.
OBSERVATIONS and OTHER PERSONAL TIPS: My notes are based on my personal observations and this is not to ridicule HCMC. I love Vietnam because I think it’s a very charming city.
I tend to get too paranoid as my friend would always tell me not to show my phone or it might be robbed by bike riders (their riding in tandem version). Nothing bad really happened, but I guess they just need to do some “positive scripting” as they might scare a lot of tourists.
HCMC is a thriving city. I saw a lot of developments around, but I think they also need to take good care of the environment. Saigon River is in really bad condition and they need to clean it up.
Alcohol is a bit expensive in HCMC. A glass of Vodka is around Php250. So if you want cheap drinks, try their local beers like Bia Hoy, Saigon and 33. Though Tiger and Heineken are more preferred.
Buying Souvenirs – Ben Thanh Market sell coffee at expensive tourist prices. Go to the nearest supermarket and buy from there. You will see the same brands in super low prices.
Driving a motorcycle – If you are not up for it, do not even try. I rode with a friend and the drive was really crazy (I was swearing the entire time)!! In my 3 days of stay, I saw 3 accidents so I guess let’s just leave the driving to the Vietnamese.
It was a sweet short stay in HCMC but somehow I had a great time. Met some friends and they were too kind to help my way around the city. I guess they were all right, Vietnam has this timeless charm!