HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM – We took a Vietnam Airlines flight from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
This is an alternative form of transport from taking a long bus ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh then Saigon. We bought half the price of the usual airfare (3,500.00 PHP/pax). But yeah, this is not anywhere near the cheap price of a bus ticket.
Officially, I have visited all countries of the ASEAN region. It took me 5 years: PHILIPPINES (of course 🙂 SINGAPORE MALAYSIA – Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya BRUNEI – Bandar Seri Begawan CAMBODIA – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap INDONESIA – Banda Aceh, Pulau Weh, Danau Toba, Medan MYANMAR – Mandalay, Bagan, Yangon LAOS – Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang THAILAND – Bangkok VIETNAM – Ho Chi Minh City This has cost me a car or a downpayment for a condo unit, but my worries now is until when Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea will remain as Observer Members.
However, our main concern was not to lose time if we decided to take the bus ride. Skyscanner’s price alert was really helpful in making sure we know when the fare is on sale for this specific flight.
Where to Stay: The Townhouse 50
Even with a very late check-in, Townhouse 50 was really friendly to accommodate us. We were also picked up by their driver from the airport.
We booked 3 nights here and we have chosen the deluxe room instead of the dormitory.
For our room, the bathroom was huge probably due to the weird configuration of the building itself. Slippers were not provided, which I was hoping they would since they require everyone to take off their shoes before entering the building.
The selection of fruits during breakfast was fantastic. The set meal was just okay and enough to fuel you for the day.
Other Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon hotels/accommodations recommendations:
Tour Operator: The Sinh Tourist
A colleague has suggested that we use The Sinh Tourist as our tour operator for the two trips we have planned: Cu Chi Tunnel Tour and Mekong River Tour.
Tours were cheap and can be booked online and in advance.
Their office was just a walking distance from our hostel. Also a good way of practicing our skill of crossing roads in this city full of motorbikes.
The Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
The bus we used for this trip was quite new. We were also given the best seats at the front since we have booked this pretty early.
The entrance fee to the Cu Chi Tunnel complex was not included in the price of The Sinh Tourist tour. This will be collected in the bus.
This bus ride was a good way for us to see some of the countryside of Vietnam.
After getting the tickets and passing through a concrete tunnel, tourists were required to watch a video documentary about the Vietnam War. Whether you may have concerns about the facts, tone and approach of this video presentation, just remember that history is written by the victors.
It can be crowded in the complex. It can happen that guides are all yelling to catch the attention of the participants and to overcome the other guide’s voices. If you want to try everything, then there can be a quite a line as people will take pictures in every spot.
I really liked the experience of being inside one of the replica tunnels. Not advisable though for claustrophobic people. There was a firing range were tourists can fire real ammunitions. Not my thing though.
Lastly, the tour will end by giving you free taste of their local tea and some boiled root crops.
Lunch in Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro
We were dropped off in The Sinh Tourist office. They have available free wifi so you can connect to check some stuff online.
For me, I did checked the map to Propaganda Vietnamese Bistro. It would always be better to show a map and the Vietnamese name of an establishment to a taxi driver to make the trip easier and faster.
Always use Vinasun or Mai Linh taxies.
It was past noon when we arrived in the restaurant and good thing not much customers were dining at that time.
The service was fast and the staffs were friendly. The food taste above average and really prepared and presented well. However, I have to be honest that the price was a bit pricey.
Roam around Ho Chi Minh City DIY
After our lunch, we decided to roam the city. The restaurant was just a couple of meters away from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Next we visited the yellow building of the Central Post Office.
Then we walked again towards the Independence Palace. There was an entrance fee to this historical site. I would suggest that you just peek behind the gates and take some pictures. What inside it was not really worth paying for.
Finally our last stop was the War Remnants Museum. This one has an entrance fee as well but worth the Vietnamese dong you will be shelling out. We went back to the hotel after visiting this place.
Dinner at Pho Quynh
I did some research where to eat the best pho in Ho Chi Minh. This was mentioned a few times and to be honest this one was the nearest so it’s Pho Quynh then.
What I do not like about Vietnamese food was a herb I do not the right name. People are saying it’s coriander and some as Chinese basil. But what is important is that I hate it. I hate the smell and the after taste of it.
The best way to be sure was to request that this is removed in your pho.
The Mekong River Tour
This took a longer bus ride to My Tho. Once in the river bank of the Mekong River, we used a tourist boat throughout the tour.
The first stop was a local rice paper shop inside the biggest islands in the middle of the Mekong. After this we went to a restaurant for lunch.
A very interesting lunch, not really heavy though. Just really light and fun lunch with waiters preparing spring rolls with fried fish caught from the Mekong River.
We continued our tour to a honey farm. Nothing really special about the place. I really liked the served tea with honey though.
We went back to the main river and disembarked to smaller Vietnamese boats manually maneuvered by some locals. This experience of going inside the little canal with murky water and full of water palm trees was quite beautiful. Tip will be well appreciated by the paddlers. We were again sent to a “souvenir” complex with singing and dancing local girls.
We used a horse-drawn cart for us to reach the dock where our boat was waiting for us. The anti-climax of it all was that we just went to a coconut candy factory to end our tour.
Noir: Dining in the Dark
After our Mekong Tour, we had the chance to visit Ben Thanh Market before going to Noir: Dining in the Dark.
I have made reservation on this restaurant before our trip to Saigon. I informed them that a companion with acid reflux will be coming with me. They obliged and even gave suggestions on what they would prepare for our visit.
I would have preferred that we changed our outfit. But I guess coming in after a whole day tour in the Mekong River was a very good excuse.
This was one of kind experience. Simply amazing. The food was really great. A nice way to end our Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon adventure.
Flight back to Manila
Flight from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City may be a better option for those who were following a strict itinerary like ours. The price difference will be offset by the saved time by taking a longer bus ride.
I would have to say that HCMC’s airport can be a bit disorganized at times. But, I do not want to spoil a memorable vacation hence just decided to get it out of my system.