Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ho Chi Minh City at First Glance

Last September 20-25, 2012, I had my first ever trip to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. This is an article that will briefly discuss the activities that I did during my 4 day trip there.

Hotel - Lan Lan 1 Hotel (estimate PHP 1K per night). Very good hotel and friendly staff.
Tour Provider - The Sinh Tourist. Knowledgeable and seamless process.
Transportation - Taxi is convenient. Make sure to ask for METERED taxi and go for accredited providers such as VinaSun.
Airline - Cebu Pacific (PHP 4K two way)
Shopping Money - PHP 7000

Day 1 - Lan Lan 1 Hotel Breakfast. Hotel Pick Up at 8 AM. Took the Cao Dai Temple & Cu Chi Tunnels Tour from The Sinh Tourist for a cost of 9.07 USD. We had a very knowledgeable english speaking tour guide. After the tour we had dinner at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and walked around the market. Read below to find out more on the tour:

  1. Around 10:00 AM arrive Cao Dai Temple, See the ornate temple of Caodaism and attend the fantastic mid-day service when the followers fill the hall wearing colored robes, a symbol of the extra combination of the Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism and Buddhism. Learned a lot, saw symbols and rituals that was really interesting. 
  2. Around 12:30 PM: Have lunch at a restaurant near Cao Dai Temple. I had a spring roll meal that was filling. Its excluded on the tour. 
  3. Around 02:00 PM: Paid 90,000 dong for the entrance. After lunch arrive Cu Chi tunnels, view short video film and presentation about Cu Chi tunnels, before try a real experience with the world well known tunnels. I was even given the opportunity to go in a small VC (vietnamese communist) entrance, which was fun. After that travelers can try delicious manioc (like steamed taro and tea) which is the main food in Cu Chi during the war. For those interested there is an opportunity to fire off rounds from an AK47 or MK16 at the nearby rifle range, but sadly I was not able to since the tour guide was rushing to get things done.
  4. The tour ends around 06:30PM at TheSinhTourist Office. We were brought back to the hotel since we paid extra 5 USD for hotel drop off.

Day 2 - Lan Lan 1 Packed Hotel Breakfast. Hotel Pick Up at 7 AM.  Went on a very long bus tour to the humble province of Ben Tre. Purchased a tour from Ben Tre -> Can Tho -> Cai Rang -> Vinh Long for 46.76 USD. Stayed at a 4 star hotel in Van Phat Hotel. 

  1. Upon arrival in Ben Tre province, board a boat cruising along beautiful zigzag canals. Then take a motor cart through some tranquil villages where you could admire rice fields, vegetables garden. visit a local family who earns living by rice paper and coconut candy. They serve really yummy candies.
  2. Have lunch at “Green Coconut” riverside restaurant. It was a good lunch. 
  3. After that, take rowing-boat along water palm creek. 
  4. 3:00 PM leaving Ben Tre province to Can Tho via Rach Mieu, My Thuan and Can Tho bridges. This is by bus, you will quickly see the bridges on your way back to the hotel.
  5. Check in upon arrival. Having dinner and free time for sightseeing (bus transfer to city night market and back hotel). Had a vietnamese dinner at the hotel. 

Day 3 - Van Phat Hotel Breakfast Buffet at 7 AM. Day 2 of the tour. After the tour, my friends and I went to the city to look for Saigon Center where they sell affordable clothes. But we decided to have a Japanese dinner when we were done, shops were closing. Thus we went over to Thuong Xa Tax, to buy grocery souvenirs. 

  1. 07:30AM transferred by bus to the wharf, then boarding a motorboat for sightseeing Cai Rang which is biggest and colorful floating market in Mekong delta. It was quite unstructured as compared to the one in Bangkok. 
  2. Took motorboat ride along small leafy creeks to local orchard and enjoy tropical seasonal fruits (included).
  3. 12:00 check out and have lunch (excluded). I had a vietnamese lunch at the hotel.
  4. From 1:00-6:30 is the bus ride back to Saigon.

Day 4 - Lan Lan 1 Hotel Breakfast Buffet at 7 AM. Last Day in Vietnam.

  1. 9 AM Bin Thanh Market - saw lots of wholesale goods. 
  2. 11 AM War Remnants Museum - paid 15,000 dong.
  3. 12 NN Lunch at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Convenient Wi-Fi and shade from the sun.
  4. 1 PM Reunification Palace - just viewed it from the outside. Entrance fee of 40,000 dong.
  5. 1:30 PM Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office - photoshoot and bought cheap souvenirs in the post office
  6. 3PM Shopping around the nearby places - dont forget to by Trung Nguyen coffee!
  7. 5 PM Ben Thanh Market - bought souvenirs and food
  8. 6 PM Packed things at the hotel
  9. 7 PM Dinner and shopping at the Parkson Mall.
  10. 10 PM Taxi to the airport.
That's it in summary. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a note. Happy tripping!