Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The-Not-So-Frugal-Travel: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (and things you must know)


..So the story continues


We (yes, I just had to use this term) arrived in Ho Chi Minh from Cambodia at around 9 PM via Sorya Bus Company. Having been ripped off in Cambodia, we didn't have any Vietnamese Dong anymore -- just Philippine peso. We were worried about having to walk miles from wherever-the-bus-drops-us-off to our hotel in Bui Vien.

Luckily, we met some friendly Vietnamese travelers while traveling on the same bus to Ho Chi Minh and we shared taxi with them after the bus dropped us off somewhere in District 1. We decided to split the bill-- i'll  pay using my credit card and they'll pay me half of the bill in cash. And YES, taxis in Ho Chi Minh accept credit cards (although you still have to call your credit card company in advance and let them know that you'll be using your card abroad) so we were able to get to our hotel without any difficulty.

photo from http://www.tan58hotel.com/Room/

We stayed at Tan 58 Hotel in Bui Vien which we booked online through Agoda.com when we were in Cambodia. I do apologize for not taking pictures of our hotel. The rooms were pretty good, they basically have the necessities (wi-fi, a/c, soap & shampoo, fridge, drinks, coffee & tea, towel, slippers, etc.)  that a backpacker needs. This hotel is located at the center of Bui Vien so it won't take much time to find this hotel. This is one of the inexpensive hotels in Bui Vien.


Eating at a local Vietnamese Restaurant in Bui Vien

We were restless, but that didn't stop us from going out and enjoying the nightlife in District 1. We basically splurged on food and drinks. We didn't have the chance to drink in Cambodia, but we did have a lot of chance to drink in Vietnam. 

Heineken Ho Chi Minh Version

The beer that gave him terrible hangover-- Saigon Beer.

The best nachos I've had.

Ho Chi Minh is very lively at night. Most hotels have money exchange so you don't have to worry about your Peso not being changed to Dong. If I were given enough time, I want to explore more around Ho Chi Minh city. Anyway, the next day, we woke up a little early to have coffee in Starbucks. We spoke to the manager and she told us that Starbucks has just been established in Ho Chi Minh 2 years ago. The servers were very friendly and they even helped us find a souvenir shop in District 1.

One lovely morning in Bui Vien.


Ben Tanh Market

According to our research, Ben Tanh market is the most popular spot in District 1 to buy souvenirs. But, the problem is, we only have few Vietnamese Dong left so we decided to shop around Bui Vien and look for some souvenirs. We paid by credit card, which really saved our trip. You can negotiate the price in most shops, especially in Ben Tanh, so getting a cheaper souvenir won't be a problem for tourists. I do agree with some travelers that vendors in Ben Tanh are just way too aggressive. So I suggest not to show so much interest in their product, otherwise, they will grab your arm and force you to buy it.

THE LUNCH LADY

Finding Lunch Lady was a little bit of a challenge for us, since we didn't know exactly where her food stall is. We rode a taxi to 23 Hoang Sa St., District 1 (thank you Google Maps) and had lunch at her food stall. As most people know, Lunch Lady appeared in Anthony Bourdain's show and she has been famous since then. We were surprised with the amount of food that they serve! We were so full that we weren't able to eat everything!

 Lunch Lady's Pho

 Fried spring rolls

 Veggies as a side dish

Fresh spring rolls

We came in on a Wednesday afternoon. Lunch lady serves different dishes everyday as she has no fixed menu. Her food stall is packed with customers when we went there at lunch time. The cost of our lunch is pretty reasonable (200 PHP per person).

There's a lot of places to see in Ho Chi Minh, but because we were so hyped on eating a lot of local foods, we weren't able to go to historical places and museums. We just strolled around and eat a lot.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh

Park on Pham Ngu Lao

If you're planning on traveling in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh, here are the things you must know:

  • Most stores and restaurants accept credit cards (mastercard and visa). 
  • Motorbikes are for rent so if you wanna stroll around Ho Chi Minh, you can just rent a motorbike. 
  • Some hotels have money exchange.
  • Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao hotels are inexpensive and you can negotiate the cost of room especially if you're staying for less than a whole day. In addition to that, hotels offer city tours with a reasonable price.
  • Banh Mi (Vietnamese bread) costs around 35 PHP each.
  • You should try the coffee they sell on the streets -- it tastes like coffee with a mix of chocolate in it.
  • Mekong Express is one of the commonly used bus transportation by foreigners and their office is located along Pham Ngu Lao st.
  • Some food stalls are open even until 3AM.
  • Vietnam is 1 hour behind Philippine time.
  • There's no airport tax in Vietnam but still be aware of the weight of your baggage, as you will be charged for excess.
  • The airport is approximately 30 minutes away from the city.
  • I highly recommend VinaSun taxi. Taxi from airport to Pham Ngu Lao should be just around 150,000 VND. The flat rate is half of the flat rate here in the Philippines. To find this taxi at the airport, walk left outside terminal 2 and you will find VinaSun taxis lined up. They don't speak English very well so you have to simply tell them the name of the place you're going to. DON'T use taxis that charge 400,000 VND to go to the city center.
  • Have most of your money changed at Forex in NAIA
  • Chocolates are a bit costly, I suggest buying coffee as a souvenir (from Highlands Coffee or other local coffee shops) instead of chocolates.
This is the estimated cost of each person (for 2 nights/3 days) for Vietnam travel only.

Terminal Fee instead of Airport Tax, sorry! :)

Again, this budget can go down to as low as 8,000 PHP if you are backpacking and if you don't plan on spending so much on shopping and eating. This estimated cost excludes Ho Chi Minh City tour. I would appreciate corrections, if there's any, regarding the information above. Vietnam is a pretty safe place and Vietnamese are one of the kindest people I have met. 


Happy Travel! 



4 comments:

  1. Informative! I will use this as a guide! :)

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