06:50 02/11/2013 Not even a month after our weekend affair in Bangkok, our Deuter backpacks had been loaded again with the same stuff from last trip. It was a repeat act just like in a play sans sleeping and rushing to the airport. We’d slowed down a bit after realizing that we’re not joining amazing race, lol. But still, we arrived at LCCT three hours ahead from our expected flight departure. Thus gave us an ample time to ponder what to do in Saigon.
After two hours of smooth flight, Vietnam welcomed us with azure sky at 35,000 feet while impressed us with it’s mighty Mekong Delta below. The famous body of water that we only read from history books and seeing it’s vastness up above was like a dream come true. For several minutes, our eyes were glued before AK 1450 touched down at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.
After deplaning the aircraft, we found ourselves stray away from the herd and meander the inside the arrival hall before heading to Immigration counter. After securing a stamp and 21 days of stay, we sped off, exchange some Dongs enough to cover a fare before heading to exit.
Just outside the airport, taxis, car rentals, and public bus are available going to the city. We took a bus and paid 5,000 Dong each for the fare. Bus No 152 left the airport and reached Ben Tanh Market after 45 minutes of bustle and traffic.
We can’t hide our excitement and bravely crossed the road leading to Ben Tanh Market. Inside the old market was an alley of shops selling local handicrafts, textiles, coffee, souvenirs and sampling Vietnamese cuisine. Darn, our limited Dongs can’t keep up the pace of our shopping frenzy.
We end up bartering our crisp ringgits just outside, opposite to the market. The exchange rate was quite high as compared to the airport. We became a multimillionaire in an instant before spending our riches buying souvenirs, expensive civet coffee, and shirts.
Our Temporary Abode
We opted Nguyen Khang Hotel as our temporary abode after reading a good review and recommendations from travel bloggers Marx (marxtermind.com) and Mai (budgetbiyahera.com). This budget hotel is conveniently located near to Pham Ngu Lao, dubbed as the backpackers haven of Saigon. We enjoyed our overnight stay and grateful to it’s super friendly owner and receptionist for a warm accommodation.
Where did we go in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)?
Accompanied by a local friend, we visit the War Remnants Museum and look back the history, timelines and suffering of Vietnamese people during the US-Vietnam war. A museum that opened our eyes that left us with a heavy heart.
We visited Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) famous landmarks such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon’s Post Office and the Reunification Palace. The French architecture and influence were obvious from these imposing structures. Merveilleux!
We also witnessed the local artisans showcasing their unique crafts in one of the factory outlets north of Saigon.
One of the highlights on this trip was visiting Cu Chi Tunnel through a guided tour. It is a network of tunnels used by Viet Congs combating the Americans during a war in late 1960’s and early 70’s. Going inside the tunnels were bit challenging as you have to endure a humid, narrow path by crawling.
We didn’t left Saigon without savoring it’s famous Pho Bo (Beef and noodles soup). Also tried their grilled fresh sea foods such as (so deo xao me, so duong pho mai, so mai nuong hanh) paired with baguettes as recommended by our local friends. They introduce Bot Chien (Fried Rice Flour Cake with eggs) and Banh Trang Nuong (Grilled Rice Cracker topped with scallions, minced pork, red pepper, and quail egg) which both are surprisingly delicious.
Our Saigon Trip wouldn’t be much fun without these new found friends. To the owner of the hotel and receptionist Thi for their hospitality upon our stay in the hotel. Miki, our knowledgeable tour guide who bring non stop laughter . Trang, thanks for bringing us to War Remnants Museum even it’s your nth time. Van, Bonnie, Nhim and Don for touring us around Ho Chi Minh and taking us to a one of best seafood restaurant. And of course to Hung and Arvin for making it possible to meet these friendly local folks. Thanks a bunch guys!
Our quick jaunt in Ho Chi Minh wasn’t enough for slow pace traveler like us. It truly deserves a second look and we’ll surely come back for more of Banh Trang Nuong.
Cám ơn Saigon!
Sky and Summer