You would have thought booking flights is a breeze by now having done it many, many times. I guess there is still room for mistakes.
Southeast Asia and surrounds has a growing network of budget airlines which makes it easier for those with itchy feet to get around. This time I thought a trip back to Vietnam is in order when the rainy season is just starting but is not yet in full swing. I was already visualizing myself hanging out in one of the many cafes in Saigon, gorging myself with Vietnamese food and just watch the world go by. This article inspired me to plan for a weekend and then some.
So I did manage to book the flight to Saigon. A few weeks later I booked my return flight. All is good right? Well guess what, a few hours before my flight as I was checking my tickets and all, I discovered my return flight will be from Hanoi! Yes, Hanoi, north of Vietnam. While Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is in the south. Right. So what’s a girl to do but make the most out of the situation. I’ll do my time in Saigon and then fly to Hanoi. So much for my plans for a long weekend.
As soon as I landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport I went looking for an ATM. I took out 3.5 million dong and waited for a Vinasun Taxi to take me to Pham Ngu Lao in District 1 a.k.a the backpacker district.[TIP:Be aware that when using international cards there will be ATM fees on top of what your bank will be charging you. ATM Fees as of this writing: Vietcom Bank: 20,000VND; SacomBank: 30,000VND; HSBC: 60,000VND. Fees are per transaction. *Approx exchange rate: US$1=20,000VND. *Vinasun Taxi comes highly recommended by the travel guidebooks to be the most reliable taxi company in HCMC.]
I quickly deposited my bag in my room and out went searching for, you guessed it, food. For US$2.5 I had a nice bowl of Pho Bo, spring rolls and a beer. Awesome.
I did manage to spend less time hanging out at cafes and more time walking around, buying fruits at the market and dodging motorbikes, cars and bicycles that are coming from all directions. They are just all over the place!
Except for the War Remnants Museum I avoided to see much that has anything to do with wars and war memorials. It is one thing to know your history. It is another thing to be standing in the same place where people suffered and died. Or looking at photos of human suffering and destruction. It just give me the creeps even if it happened many years ago. This is a walking city anyway and there are many more places to just go wandering about.
Now for the shopping, many places to go for the shopaholics. Ben Thanh market is the most popular. You can find almost anything in this market from clothing to jewelries to fresh meat. Yep, they all have it. Bargaining is a must![TIP: I normally ask for 50-60% off the original quoted price right off the bat. After much dramatics at first, you’ll be surprised how they will relent eventually and you would know they would still have some profit left. The 2 pairs of jeans I bought for example. A grand total of US$15 that was originally priced at $20 each.]
Now don’t forget to hydrate yourself. Plenty of cafes offer all sorts of coffee/tea concoctions and a variety of cold drinks everywhere.
Next stop: Hanoi