When that travel bug bites me the avid desire to wander starts hitting my brain and I start picking up chits from my travel bucket. This time after a monstrous homework done I finalized Vietnam to be my next place to explore.
Vietnam is seeing more Indian tourists these days as compared to previous years which is really a good news. An interesting fact I learnt is that Indian daily soaps are popular among Vietnamese residents. Vietnam being one of the most mesmerizing place in Southeast Asia reserves nature in its best form. Despite of rapid growth and urbanization seen in the cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi the locals keep their tradition intact. I would talk about Vietnam travels in two phases. Let's get hold of the steering and accelerate through.
Ho Chi Minh City wasmy first stop. I took my flight from Chennai with a layover at Bangkok to Tan Son Nhat Airport. Popularly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is the financial hub of Vietnam. Do not be under assumptions that this city will be like any other city with just skyscrapers and happening night life. The ways of people here is completely unique and that's what is worth experiencing.
By the time I settled in the hotel it was almost evening. District 1 is the most convenient area to make a stay as all places are easily accessible and tour companies operating frequency is high within District 1. So in evening I hopped in Grab taxi to the most talked about Ben Thanh market. The main market opens at 6 am and closes by around 7 pm but the night market opens in streets surrounding the main market from 8-12 hrs in night. This is best place for both men and women to shop non stop. Buy anything be it clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories but never miss to bargain and you know you are good at that. Also they sell first copy goods of popular brands in case you want to get your hands on them. I just bought few souvenirs for myself and friends.
I did not spend much time here as I was excited enough for the next bustling place, the Bui Vien Street. As it is said you gonna find the most thrilling and energetic scenes here. I definitely found mine and you will soon know what it was. The street was full of life, DJ was playing some amazing tracks and everybody dancing to the tune. Here you find plenty of food and drink options. Best way to spend time here is to pull your chair to side walk, grab your drink in one and favorite street food in the other hand. That very day was really special to watch people feeling so patriotic about their country and cheering their team against Philippines during the semifinals of AFF Cup 2018. All the restro bars had put up projector screens and people were pouring in to watch the match. It was that epic moment when Vietnam won and then everybody went crazy. Most of them who were on the streets started roaming around on their bikes holding high the Vietnamese flags and there was this big scene. But those happy vibes everywhere made everything seem to be just perfect. Here is the other side of the story when I had to walk all the way to hotel as there were no cabs available in these rush hours. But the experience was so enriching I am sure nothing comes in the way.
Next day morning I had a sumptuous breakfast and boarded cab to the most popular destination, the Cu Chi Tunnel. On the way the cab halted at Lamphat Company, Handicapped Handicrafts Store. The brilliant pieces of art made using duck egg shell and sea shell was mesmerizing. I picked one for myself without a second thought. Then cab headed to the massive war museum in Ho Chi Minh. Here you get to experience the underground life of North Vietnamese soldiers back during the war against America. It was the first time I realized what cluster phobia was when I got into the 100m long tunnel. Crawling through the pitch dark tunnel is one of its kind experience. Apart from this the place houses for you to see the traps they set, the weapons they used ,food they ate, the clothes they wore and many more. This was an enriching experience to know how the masters of guerrilla warfare turned the massive combat into a huge success which would be talked about for ages to come.
On return I had my lunch at a roadside restaurant and went for a power nap in hotel room. Evening was all about a relaxing dip in the rooftop pool while sipping some mango shake.
After I resumed my energy got my little orange dress and makeup, navigated to the Saigon Center. The best thing about this place were age-old French architectural buildings on one side. Spotted the Notre Dem Cathedral, Re Unification Palace, Central Post Office, the Opera House. The other side housed skyscrapers and malls, Bitexo Towers and Times Square are few to name. Everywhere there was Christmas decor and lighting in place which made the experience extremely special. How could I have missed shopping! So got myself a sling bag and 2 set of eye lashes from Miniso store. When you find Mac Donald's in a foreign land that is the best thing ever could happen to you. Here I had the last supper in Ho Chi Minh and left for my hotel. Your last hours in a place must be calm and relaxing. So I spent some time in hotel's roof top bar & restaurant having my favorite Vietnamese cold coffee and enjoying the view of Saigon river flowing on one side, the distant beaming lights from Turtle Lake and Bitexo tower standing tall in front. The next morning was a beginning to explore a new place which I will talk about in the next part of this travel series.
What to Expect When Staying at Ho Chi Minh?
- Get your e-visa done from below Vietnamese Government website https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/web/guest/home
- Find your hotel in District 1 . If you are a backpacker then Ben Thanh, China Town are the best areas. Here is link to the hotel I stayed in. http://sunlandhotel.vn/
- Always be careful about your valuable belongings when on busy streets. This is not what just I say the locals suggested so.
- When your stay in Ho Chi Minh is more than 2 days you can include visiting Mekong Delta, Vung Tau, Ho Coc/ Ho Tram beach.
- Your trip to Cambodia would be much easier as you can take 30 minutes flight from Ho Chi Minh, buses or Luxury Mekong Delta cruise. It is always good to club Vietnam and Cambodia trips provided you have 15 days in hand.
- Best time to plan trip to Vietnam would be February as it would be little troublesome for you in North Vietnam in December which I would talk about in the next part of this blog.
- Things you should not miss to eat and drink when in Vietnam are the most talked about Vietnamese Cold Coffee, Banh Xeo, Cha Gio and they did win my heart. Also have this noted that it would be difficult for you to spot a restaurant offering Indian cuisine.
- You can wear any kind of clothing when travelling around. Just getting into religious places will demand appropriate clothing.
So my darling people, this is an end to the first part of my Vietnam Travel Diaries. Do like, share and comment your views.