Traveling has been my reliever since I embarked in my sort-of stressful job. I’ve been yearning of leaving my own country to sojourn and explore foreign land. I bet everyone else thinks the same.
This Indochina adventure was triggered when my Vietnamese friends invited me to come over to Vietnam since I was the one who toured them around Manila when they came over last year. So, I thought it would be an opportune time for me to give it a go.
I booked my flight few months prior to the target date (of course to avail promo) and to get an ample time to prepare. I bought my two-way ticket from Cebupac for only Php 5,000.00 (MNL-SGN, SGN-MNL).
My flight bound to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam was 10:45PM MNL Time. We arrived to the airport 3hrs prior for check-in and immigration thingy.
The plane landed at Tan So Nhat Int’l Airport, Vietnam at about 1AM Vietnam Time (Vietnam is an hour behind). Upon arriving, my brother-in-law, Roldan, fetched us and brought us home by Uber. We took a rest to gain strength for Ho Chi Minh tour.
Vietnam is the easternmost country in Indochina. It’s known by its beautiful beaches and rivers as well as its rich culture. Vietnam has no big difference with Philippines as the people look the same. The two countries, however, aren’t very much alike. Contrary to the Philippines, Vietnam has very minimal traffic problems as most of the people are using motorbikes and bicycles. I’ve seen very few buses and other public transports. Of course, for tourists, you have to take bus or taxi to reach your destination; you might also need to use Grab or Uber (90,000VND = Php 180.00). (They offer grab a bike too).
We woke up at 9AM for breakfast. My cousin, Joy who lives in Ho Chi Minh brought us to a restaurant near her flat to try Vietnamese cuisine (Phở, Vietnamese soup 25,000VND to 60,000VND = Php 50.00 to Php 120.00). The food was great, though I seldom eat noodles. It was my first time to try a Vietnamese food. Vietnamese like leafy vegetables. I was also delighted with the iced tea (not a sweetened one) and the iced coffee.
We started our Ho Chi Minh tour around 10 in the morning. I was advised by my cousin to wear jacket because the weather in Vietnam is too hot; I might get burn. My brother-in-law and his friend became our tour guide; they used their motorbikes during the tour.
The first place we visited was the Notre Dame Cathedral. I love the nicety of this church. The first time I saw it was in the Filipino film “I Love You, Thank You.” It seems very romantic. This church is easy to locate since it’s in the central district and known by everybody. I assume that it is the only Catholic church in the city.
Across the Notre Dame Cathedral was the Ho Chi Minh old post office. There, you can buy local merchandise and souvenirs. I bought a minature of a Vietnamese girl.
Afterwards, we proceeded to our next destination: the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Entrance fee is 15,000VND = Php 30.00 and 20,000VND = Php 40.00 for camera). The museum is 2km (11mins) away from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
I was so delighted to somehow learn the culture and history of Vietnam. Though I could not read and understand the writings inside the museum, I could say that Vietnam has an abundant stories of its past.
En route to our next destination, Independence Palace, we took photos of nice places and we also dropped by the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City – the Bitexco Financial Tower.
Ho Chi Minh Museum is just 3 minutes away from the Independence Palace or commonly known as Reunification Palace. In history, the palace was used by the president of Southern Vietnam as dwelling during the Vietnam war in 1955.
We didn’t stay there that long, in lieu, we immediately rushed through our next destination: the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. HCM City Hall is 10km (less than 30 mins) away from the Reunification Palace. Well, I was so thankful that our brother-in-law was there, otherwise it would have been a great challenge for us because (1) most of the signages are written in Vietnamese with no English translation, and (2) and very few people spoke English.
The place was so nice and clean. The building looked like something in Europe which I find impressive. There were also some shopping centers and restaurants in the area.
We met a lone backpacker from Mexico. His name is Victor. He travelled from Laos to Thailand to Cambodia to Vietnam. He had gone to the Philippines already and gave us positive feedbacks which made us somewhat proud.
Afterwards, we moved to Saigon Square. Yeah, it’s shopping time! Saigon Square is less than 10mins away from Ho Chi Minh City Hall. It’s one of the popular shopping center in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s known to its cheap, but branded items like Northface bags, Kiplings bags, among many others. Locals said that those items are 99% original because those are the overruns items from the factory. Vietnam is a known manufacturer of Northface and Kiplings and other expensive brands.
I enjoyed shopping there. I bought Kipling bags for my mom and sister. I also bought a Northface body bag for myself for only 200,000VND = Php 408.00. Kipling bags cost 100,000VND to 300,000VND = Php 200.00 to Php 600.00 depending on the size and style. Asking for discount is acceptable, anyway, so, if you are good at haggling, then it’s gonna be a nice opportunity to practice your skill. I found it hard to budget and count my money for I am not used to big amounts.
We went back home after the shopping spree. We took our late lunch and prepared for Cambodia.
(I’ll make a separate article about Cambodia and border crossing procedures.)
Our last place to visit in Vietnam was the Cu Chi Tunnel. Cu Chi has became the battle field of Vietnam VS. USA where Vietnam won the victory. I’ve read some reviews about Cu Chi, and it made me somewhat interested about the place.
My cousin woke us up to prep for Cu Chi. I thought that it was only my brother-in-law who would come with us, but their splendid student, Quan Dao came to be our tour guide.
We rode a bus in front of my cousin’s flat. It was a long travel; it took us 3hrs to reach the Cu Chi. Lucky we were to have someone who knew how to get there, otherwise we would have lost. Buses are number-coded, making it hard for a tourist like me to ride a bus.
Nevertheless, the long travel is all worth it because of the beauty and serenity of the place. We had to walk a few meters to reach the booth where we could buy passes. Ticket cost 70,000VND = Php 140.00.
Before reaching the historic Cu Chi Tunnels, we had to passed by the Cu Chi Temple and Pagoda. The place was so quiet; few peoples were there that moment.
We went through the whole tour. We watched a short films about the history of Vietnam, specially the Vietnam war. I was so impressed how Vietnamese strategically fought the Americans and won the battle. They created a village under the ground to hide themselves and to plan the attack. It’s amazing to learn how Vietnamese survived the years of war with limited resources. Well, at some point, I could relate being a Filipino who knows my country’s history of fighting for its liberty.
We went back home after a tiring day in Cu Chi. We had our last dinner in a beer house in Ho Chi Minh.
Right after our scumptious dinner and few bottles of beer. We went straight to the supermarket to buy “pasalubong”. We were on panic mode; we had to reach home one time, so I could still have time to prepare for my flight back to Manila.
I departed Vietnam at 1AM and reached Manila at 3:30AM (MNL Time).
I had such a wonderful experience in Vietnam. Though I did not stay that long, I still had a worthwhile time with the culture, place and especially with the relatives whom I haven’t seen for awhile. Certainly, it’s not gonna be my last time to visit this beautiful country; I will come back soon.
This Vietnam tour is just a part of my Indochina trip. Will create another article for Cambodia and Thailand as well as the border crossing.
*Average expenses for this particular tour was 65.00 $ = Php 3,200.00 inclusive of food, transportation and entrance fees. Prices and fees are based on the time of writing.