Travel Diary: Vietnam

I received a lot of questions via email and comments regarding my VietCam trip last year. The Rappler article really helped to spread my article! I think it is now time to write about our trip in detail.

Date: July 24 – July 31 | Group of 3: Me, Krissy and Bea | Budget: P25,000/pax

Part I: V I E T N A M

Day 0: Transit to Vietnam

Our flight to Vietnam was 10:50PM of July 24. I noticed that the usual flight of Cebu Pacific to Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chih Minh) flies late at night, which arrives early morning the following day.

We arrived in Vietnam 12:20AM Vietnam time (which is 1-hour later than our time).

DAY 1: CITY TOUR + CU CHI TUNNEL

Few days prior to our trip, our hotel (Blue River Hotel) contacted us and offered if we wanted to be picked up in the airport. We agreed given the time of our arrival in Ho Chih Minh. We had to pay 17USD for the airport transfer. We also had our money converted in the airport.

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We were instant millionaires! This is 4M Dong. (200USD or 9000PHP) *amounts were rough estimates only.

Dreia’s tip: Contact your hotel if they offer airport transfers too especially if you will be arriving in the wee hours of the night. For sure, taxis in the airport will charge you more than usual. So might as well, book through your hotel for safety purposes.

Our hotel, Blue River Hotel, is located in the backpackers’ district. There is a nearby bar, a pharmacy, street stall, salon and restaurants around. There were a lot of foreigners partying at the nearby bar when we arrived, but we were too tired to go out, we slept first.

We woke up around 7AM and our agenda is to do a city tour in the morning. We did not book any tours instead we asked our hotel for a map of the city and we will just take it from there. We also asked our host to book us a Cu Chi Tunnel tour for the afternoon.

Before leaving, we had our free breakfast first.

After breakfast, we were all set for our Day 1: Walking City Tour

We took a cab to our first destination: War Remnants Museum.

War Remnants Museum, has an entrance fee of 15,000 VND. The museum contains exhibits from the Vietnam War. It was pretty depressing to look at. There was an area there where you can walk and see a replica of the materials used to execute prisoners, such as guillotines and the prison cells.

museum's facade
museum’s facade
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Photo (Clockwise from top) “May Peace Prevail on Earth; Newspaper headlines and articles during the war; How guards watch over prisoners; Guillotine; Military tanks

After the War Remnants Museum, we walked few blocks and reached the Independence Palace. We didn’t bother going in, we just took a photo of it outside.

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Photo credits to Krissy Paulmitan

The Independence Place is also known as the Reunification Place. This is the home and workplace of the President of Vietnam.

Then, a couple of blocks away from the Independence Place we reached the stunning Notre Dame Basilica.

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I think there are more motorcycles in Ho Chih Minh than cars.
I think there are more motorcycles in Ho Chih Minh than cars.

Just across the Basilica is the Saigon Central Post Office – cue: it is the yellow building.

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Inside, there are stores where you can buy souvenirs. However, it is quite expensive compared to other markets. Just wait until you visit Saigon Square or Ben Thanh Market.

Just in time for lunch, we headed back to our hotel and grabbed our lunch at the nearby restaurant (I wasn’t able to note the name). We were quite in a hurry because we will be picked up for the Cu Chi Tunnel tour at 1PM.

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Cu Chi Tunnel tour mates

Cu Chi Tunnel tour shows the immense network of underground tunnels. These tunnels were used by Vietnam soldiers as hiding spots or passageways during the Vietnam war. We toured the entire place and even experienced what hiding in the tunnels feels like.

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Our tour guide showing how to hide in this small space

The space is so small and yet even tall guys were able to hide themselves. Of course, I have to try it too! This shouldn’t be tried by claustrophobics though. Inside was dark and it won’t give you space to move.

Left: He was our guide who shared stories about the war and in the background were replica of the Vietnam soldiers.

Right: We went inside a tunnel and walked through it. It’s a 3 minute walk (I’m bad at estimating time and distance, so it’s not really accurate. It just feels a 3-minute walk for me. haha). Anyway, halfway through the tunnel, we were already cursing and asking ourselves why did we even bother to try this. The tunnel gets steeper and smaller. We had to duck while walking but there were instances that we crawled. By the way, this is optional. There were foreigners who tried it, but the older people didn’t even bother. Overall, it was a good experience. You will only visit it once, so why not try it. But know your limits, if you have back problems or you don’t like enclosed spaces I suggest do not even bother. Once you’re inside, it’s really hard to back out.

When we got back to the city, we headed out to have dinner. We wanted to try a legit Vietnamese Pho. We wanted to Try Pho 2000 (it is famous because US President Clinton dined here during his visit in Vietnam), unfortunately, the restaurant was already closed when we got there. So, we went to the nearest one, Pho Hung.

Then to cap off the night, we went to Eon Heli Bar to meet Krissy’s friend. Eon Heli is located on the 51st floor of Bitexco Financial Tower and it is by far the highest bar in HCMC.

After a few drinks, before we finally called it a night, we had our midnight “snack”. One of the things we want to cross from our Vietnam bucketlist is to eat at the side of the street, just what locals do.

DAY 2: MEKONG DELTA TOUR

The next day, we were set to go on a Mekong Delta tour (we booked it the previous day, together with the Cu Chi Tunnel). We had our free breakfast again, then left the hotel at 8AM.

The Mekong Delta Tour is a whole day tour. Mekong Delta is known as the rice bowl and fishing region of Vietnam. The Mekong Delta tour started with a ferry ride from My Tho port  to Con Phung island.

What can you expect in the tour?

You will see different livelihood of the locals. You will see how rice paper and coconut candies are made. You will also be serenaded by the locals, you will get free taste of their product, their fruits and lunch will also be provided. But the highlight of the tour is riding the boat and tour the delta.

Was the trip worth it?

I would say, yes. It gives us an idea what the rural is like in Vietnam, away from the busy streets of Ho Chih Minh. Plus, you get to meet other people in the tour. We made friends with an Australian couple.

After the tour, we headed back to Ho Chih Minh. We had our last dinner in HCMC at Ben Thanh Market.

DAY 3: LAST DAY IN HCMC

We have allotted our last day to buy souvenirs. We first went to the Coffee House to grab our Vietnamese Coffee (it was really good and strong). You should try it when you’re in Vietnam. Not necessarily in Coffee House, I heard the one on the streets are good too.

Fun fact: The time that we were in Vietnam was the same time Georgina Wilson and her friends were there. And they also had their coffee here a day before we went here.

We went to Saigon Square 1 & 2 and Ben Thanh Market. The best place for me to shop is in Saigon Square 2. Ben Thanh is famous because it is bigger and there are lots of stalls. But I found the vendors pretty aggressive.

Dreia’s tip: There is a vendor at the far end of Saigon Square who is famous amongst Filipinos. She knows how to speak Tagalog and her North Face bags are cheaper compared to other stalls.

img_2799I think the huge chunk of my money went to souvenirs!

We headed back to our hotel a little after noontime. The bus that will be taking us to Cambodia will arrive at 2PM.

All our tours and bus transfers were taken care of by our host, Thuy.

Cu Chi Tunnel – 12 USD/person

Mekong Delta – 20USD/person

Bus from HCMC – Phnom Penh – 12USD

Bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap – 18 USD

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With Thuy, the landlady of our hotel.

Bye, Ho Chih Minh! See you, Cambodia!

I’ll write our Vietnam – Cambodia transfer next! Check it out here.

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3 thoughts on “Travel Diary: Vietnam

  1. Hi Ms.Andrea! Can you give me advice re your Vietnam and Cambodia tour. Do I need to buy a dollar here in the Philippines or it’s ok to bring peso then buy their currency? I’m Nancy btw

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    1. Hi Nancy. I’m not really sure what is better at this time but what we did was we bought dollars here in the PH. But we also carried few peso just in case. And we actually exchanged our peso in Cambodia.

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      1. Thank you for your quick response Ms. Andrea! This is my first out of the country. Just a little bit scared. Haha. Do you think $400 is enough for two countries? Then pocket money of Php 5,000.

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