Sunday, September 2, 2012

Motorcycles Rulez: Walking Around Ho Chi Minh

Or Saigon, as I’ve known since my kindergarten years. Kinda harder to spell now.

We landed in Tan Son Nhat International Airport past midnight. Normally, I’d like to camwhore around a new airport, but it was already past midnight. It was a toss between arriving a new land and wanting to rest my head in the nearest pillow available. 

Group pic time!

We headed to the foreign exchange desk to change our dollars. The forex rate then was 1USD=20,700 VND. We changed $50 = VND 1,035,000 for our 5nights/4 days stay. Our accommodations, the bus fare and tours all accepted dollars so the Dong will just be for food, tips, minor purchases and some souvenirs.  

The forex counter

After being millionaires, we headed to our pick-up service. I booked the pick-up service from our hotel (Bich Duyen Hotel) for $14. I didn’t want to deal with taxis after arriving in a foreign country after midnight. After all, we are millionaires now, so we deserve some royal treatment. Neh?   

One thing I found different here was that they scanned all our luggage upon arrival.Found my name and our driver waiting outside. We waved goodbye to the airport. (Nice meeting yah!) The trip to our hotel was around 30 minutes. Checked-in, did the hygiene routine and fell asleep. Ka-zzzzzzzz.

Our Day 1 in Vietnam involved the walking city tour – DIY. Armed with a map, we conquered the streets of Vietnam. Warning, this post will be quite long, with lots of pics.

Conquering the streets means crossing the motorcycle-dominated roads. They can be quite merciless and I relied on Sarah in helping me cross since I couldn’t trust myself to cross the street safely. And I thought I was so street smart because I could deal with the streets of Manila. 

Ben Than Market - the food stalls.

They vendors here are on the touchy side. Nang-hahawak! Also, there was this guy who was on the friendly side. He tapped our shoulders while we were checking how we can cross the streets. Huwat was that about?!?!?! 

On our way to Saigon Opera House, we passed by this Tax Supermarket. Instead of baggage counters, they have these lockers. You pick an empty locker (those with the keys), put your stuff inside, then get the key . All for free! Nice concept.

Tax Supermarket for the Tax Accountant

C2 makes it to Vietnam!

Proudly Pinoy

Saigon Opera House. It started drizzling a bit when we got here. Out comes the umbrellas. Lots of tourists also stopped by just to take pictures.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall. With this building, the influence of the French surfaces.

 Reminds me of this castle in Jardin de Luxembourg:

In Paris, France

And some tweetums/pa-cute posting done on this side. Since I have a travel buddy, pwede na mag-posing galore. 

The pigeons in the Notre Dame Cathedral. We took considerable time just hanging out with these pigeons – waiting for them to fly. 

When they flew and stayed in the Catherdral’s roof, the girl in red calls them back with a shake shake thingie.

Just across the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Post Office. The post office was designed by Gustav Eiffel, the one who designed the famous Eiffel Tower.

Lots of souvenirs can also be bought in the Post Office.

Nice details here.

It was quite a walk from the Post Office to the Reunification Palance. We passed a nice park on our way there. It is remarkable that the city roads may be narrow, but they are kept clean. There are also trees even in the sidewalk. I think there are trees in all the sidewalks except for the Backpacker’s area in HCMC. The greenery makes a difference. Makes things look clean.

Tambay sa park at magbasa

The entrance fee of the Reunification Palace costs VND 30,000. The facade of the Reunification Palace is just meh. The interesting things happen inside. They have a free tour in English every hour. It was just shortly past 2pm when we decided to go inside. We were able to catch up with 2pm group, they were still in the first floor.

The prettiest room in the Palace

The guide was talking about the Vietnam’s history. It was still a bit hazy for me, during this tour. I was still confused who won the war and all the details behind it.

Ancient cinema

Anciently cool

These machines were high-tech state of the art back then

We still haven’t had lunch at this point. We took a break and ordered avocado shake (VND 35,000) and just ate the Oreos that I brought.

After our slight break from all the walking, we went to our last top for the day: The War Remnants Museum. Entrance fee here is VND 15,000.

The purple camera case makes it to Vietnam!

There was this particular room that stirred my interest about the Vietnam war: the Agent Orange room. The pictures posted were so graphic and heartbreaking. I should’ve read more about Vietnam’s history before this trip.

Heartbreaking and disturbing

Agent Orange is a chemical the US sprayed over the country for 10 years. TEN YEARS!!!

 Now for the happier things, there are some real fighter planes outside.

That ends our DIY HCMC tour. We ended past 5pm. It was quite a long walk back to our hotel. And we haven’t had any real food. But I didn’t want to take cabs as I had no idea how much the rate would be. So we dragged our weary feet across the motorcycle-filled streets.

I was famished. I randomly picked a nicely painted sign of a restaurant in the street.
The place only served 3 dishes – and only 2 were available. The spoke little English. We managed to order, eat and pay anyway.

Lamangloob and baguette festival!
All of these for VND 78,000 – VND 39,000 each. What were they? Beef intestines, I believe. Not sure really. We eventually made our way back to the hotel. Refreshed by the aircon, we were ready to order our next meal:

Total bill for this meal: VND 147,000

Sequence of HCMC Walking Tour:
Ben Tanh Market
Saigon Square
Saigon Opera House
City Hall
Ho Chih Minh Statue (just in front of City Hall)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Central Post Office
Reunification Palace
War Remnants Museum


  1. Awww. Vietnam! I'm going through my Saigon posts too! I'm so jealous you got to see the City Hall - I wasn't able to kasi eh. Pero I love that you.

    Don't you just love the cheapo food there? :D

  2. I luuuuurve their food! Their strong iced coffee is my fave! :)

  3. Hi can you provide me a directions on how to go to those places from the hotel?

    1. Hi Shella! I just followed the map that Bich Duyen Hotel provided.

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