Vietnam and Cambodia are next in my countries-to-visit list (which, by the way, is mostly composed of southeast asian countries because it’s what I can afford right now). But because of time constraint, the group decided that it isn’t wise to go to Cambodia given the time limitations and just enjoy and explore Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) at its fullest.
Plane fare costs only Php 3,511. Cebu Pacific, during its seat sale, is a blessing to wannabe travelers/backpackers/wanderers like me. I booked this ticket last May 20 during one of their 3-day seat sales.
Charlene booked our hostel and prepared our itinerary. We stayed at the Nguyen Khang Hotel at Pham Ngu Lao St. in District 1. This area is like the Malate of Manila where almost all backpackers/tourists stay. Here you find a lot of cheap hostels, I think ours is one of the cheapest, and travel agencies, where you can book cheap trips within and outside Saigon, rows of restaurants that serve cheap (again!) but super yummy food (if not “clean’) and bars where you can hangout (and meet fellow travelers though we haven’t met one) at night.
Book your hostel/hotel online. You can find cheap hostels at Hostel World, or Google it cheap Vietnam/Saigon/Ho Chi Minh hostels/hotels. Don’t be deceived by the photos online and be sure to read the ratings and reviews of the people who’ve visited the place.
If you’ve eaten in Pho Bac or Pho Hoa here in the Philippines, then you’ve eaten one of the famous Vietnames dishes. These are just beef and chicken egg noodles (I forgot which is which). But there are other Vietnamese dishes that you should try aside from these two. Their food are easily accessible because they are sold everywhere, even by the side street vendors.
Be sure to try out their Coffee (I’m addicted to their iced coffee) which you can buy anywhere. It’s like sago and gulaman- you can buy it in their sari-sari stores or even the sidewalk vendors. It’s VND 8,000 when you buy it in the sidewalks but fancy restaurants can charge as much as VND 25,000 for it.
I also loved breakfast because it means: beef on baguette, which I buy from the manang across the street. While Alma (Ama, as pronounced by our landlady Po) loves their noodles (forgot the name), which can also be bought from the street vendors.
So when in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh, be sure to visit the Cuchi Tunnels and even the museums because I don’t think you can do anything or go somewhere else aside from these places. Mekong Delta, is a good place to go too, but if you’ve been to Loboc, Bohol in the Philippines, I think (think because I haven’t been there but I heard so many great things about it) it’s enough.
Vietnam is rich in culture and history (Vietnam war and Ms. Saigon, hello?, well, I honestly can’t talk intelligently about that) but if you’re looking for cheap shopping (shopping here means=charles & keith, mango, and-all-the-big-brands-you-can-name), Saigon really isn’t the place for you. What’s cheap to buy is pasalubong items that are “Vietnamese” like their bags, décor made out of pearls(?) and eggshells, and cheap faux Adidas shirts. You can find these at the Ben Thanh Market which is located just near the Pham Ngu Lao Area. Visit the night market there because it’s definitely cheaper than the ones sold inside. And when making tawad (bargaining for the price), start that tawad at half the original price that the seller gave you.
We went around the city on a cab (relatively cheap and most of their cabs are Innova na) but almost all of the Vietnamese people own a scooter. The streets are literally SWARMING with them. You can even see girls in their office uniform and high heels drive a scooter! So don’t be afraid to be run over by a swarm of scooters because, as what our tour guide said, they will avoid you so no need to avoid them.
Ride the rickshaws and cyclos… but only for a few minutes! You will appreciate the city better. BUT, it isn’t advisable to go around the city on a cyclo because  if it’s daytime, it’s too hot! And  it’ll cost you too much! We had this unfortunate incident wherein the drivers said that they’ll take us around the city for only VND 50,000 for the three of us (Miko, Charl and I). So eager to ride a cyclo, we agreed on the price they offered. The drivers (OVER) eagerly took us around town, even volunteering to find us a nice place to eat AND wait for us until we finish. We took pictures of ourselves on a rickshaw and of our dirvers making Korean-Peace signs! They were laughing and saying Very Good with two thumbs-up sign all the time (which only makes me hate them even more when I think about it). The whole trip (dinner included) took us about 1 and 1/5 hours. So when we got off our street they demanded that we pay them VND 450,000 EACH for the ride and then showed us their price list! The nerve! We told our landlord about it and he kinda helped us negotiate the price to VND 450,000 for the whole trip for the three of us but not without a commotion and a heated exchange of words. Lesson learned? Umm, don’t trust all drivers. Hahaha It’s kinda sad because the cyclos slowly disappearing in the city, replaced by the motorbikes, but they’re giving a bad rep to themselves because of what they’re ding. Anika and arbee had a similar experience, by the way.
I brought with me $250 for the whole trip but only spent $100 for the food, accommodation and trips. The other $100 was spent on pasalubongs while the $50 was my contingency fund (for that “unforeseen” incident which I will also blog about).