My Travel Map!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The least planned; Ho Chi Minh city -Jun2010-

I am not used to travelling without having to plan the entire visit, coz thats what I am,a travel planner. Last month was pretty hectic (tonnes of drawings/reports on the desk) for me, n I couldnt googled anything on Ho Chi Minh City, just have enough 15mins to book the hotel. I was really looking forward for something like "Boddhi Tree Guesthouse" that we discovered in Phnom Penh, but HCMC?no, they dont have one of those... sigh~~I think we prefer PP for that, and we definitely gonna be back to PP for Boddhi Tree.

Just before I went there, my Vietnamese friend , Duong DD, emailed me. Thank you girl, you saved our travel life..haha..she wrote on couple of useful things; where to stay, where to shop, where to find "HALAL" food, etc..which is very2 useful to us..

So we went straight to the money exchanger and got all of our money converted to USD (assuming that Vietnam is a lot like Phnom Penh, when everything is in USD), but we thought wrong. Be always prepared with Vietnam Dong (VND). Always. They will still accept your USD though, but the exchange rate is quite small, so you'll ended up paying more each time. Most boutiques accept USD though , rather than VD

Transportation....always and always trust only MaiLinh and VinaSun taxi service.Dont use others. Its a metered taxi, and its reliable.We've read earlier that it supposed to cost us USD7 getting to our hotel from airport (for 30mins ride), but we were told to pay this taxi driver (not from either Mai Linh, and Vinasun) USD20. We chose to not believe what others said, and we're paying for it..hahah

Taxi in HCMC
SG.Tourist: (84.8) 346 4646
Mailinh: (84.8) 3838 3838
VinaSun Taxi: (84-8) 38 272727

From airport to city center ~ USD7

Accommodation......since that it was a last minute booking, and less time to survey good guesthouses/hostels, we managed to only get "Mini Saigon Hotel 3", which is located on at Cong Quynh Street, District 1, near to the city centre, and most photo-stop places (i.e. Independent Place, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market) (

The rate is quite cheap, we paid USD 44 for 2 nights stay, and that covers breakfast for two. You'll be surprised by the surrounding though, coz its located along a dark alley (bukan la dark alley sgt, cume lorong2 kecik jek), but yes, as a backpacker, I dont complain much. At least the room is nice, and clean, and the service is not bad!

Since that we have no idea where to go, we thought of taking tour packages. Its quite cheap, around USD15 for halfday city tour for two, but the tour guide never showed up. So we decided to just follow our steps.. and we were stopped by this nice pakcik (Pakcik Song, we called him), offer to take us around the city with his "cyclo", a chauffeur-pedaled tricycle, for 200 000VND (approximately 10usd), and we said yes. Guys, dont be fooled by such offers. In reality, cyclo ride will costs you 100 000VND per hour/per person. Yah, ok, so we were cheated by him, coz we ended up paying him ~500 000VND for 2 hours ride..Eurghhhhh.. Lesson learnt, lesson learnt..But, it was a fun ride, totally....Taxi gonna be boring (since we have a lot of it in Msia). I would definitely recommend anyone to experience cyclo ride, cos you'll be experiencing a near-death situation at all time (imagine the heavy traffic, the suicidal motorists, etc). I screamed all the time.

Since we dont have much time in HCMH, we chose the selected places to visit only. Of coz, none other than the War Remnant Museum. The World War. I've seen how Red (in the 70's show) got so pissed off over this war, and now I know why. They should be.They're so damn cruel to the Vietnamese.I got so emotional seeing all those photos..the cruel it was...I couldnt stand seeing all those, so I just left Rahim in the museum with me being outside, taking photos of the jets, etc..Entry cost: 15000VND per person

After that we straightly went to the so-called Saigon "white house" known as "Independence Hall". Entry cost: 15000 VND per person. The place was pretty crowded with tourists, so we didnt really managed to explore the entire building. Enough to see what we want to see; the president's room, meeting room, bla bla bla...(ya, I know, I'm not really into history)..haha, actually its not true, I wish that I can stay longer, but the heat, the crowd and the limited time that we have in HCMC, I quickly decided that it would be more wise to spend longer time at the market..:D
Pakcik Song brought us to some other places in the town too (yelah, since we were paying him hourly kan, penipu nye pakcik Song), like the unknown pagoda (how am I supposed to remember the name?haha), the street where they sell the "DEUTERS", etc. But since that we were quite hungry for food, and for shopping(tentula!), we asked Pakcik Song to quickly send us to Ben Thanh Market instead.

Ben Thanh Market, which is surprisingly, only 15mins walking distance from our hotel. We went to take our lunch first. Luckily there was a halal food restaurant 5 mins walking distance from Ben Thanh. V.N Halal. The food is nice, and the price..well,USD17 ~RM50, lunch meal for 2 persons, quite pricey for a normal meal in Msia though..huhuh..Dont ever convert, or else u'll die of hunger..haha.Since the food is quite nice, and its near to our hotel, we stick for V.N Halal for every meal.
Halal Food Restaurants
  • Halah @ Saigon * (31 Dong Du Str., Dist 1.) Tel: (84.8)38246823
  • Four Seasons Restaurant* (2 Thi Sach Str., Dist 1) Tel: (84.8) 38257186
  • Dong Du Mosque* (66 Dong Du Str. ) Tel: (84.8) 3825012
  • Song Ngu Restaurant**(70 Suong Nguyet Anh Str., Dist 1.) Tel: (84.8) 3832 5017
  • Ngoc Suong Restaurant* (19c Le Quy Don Str., Dist 1.) Tel: (84.8) 3930 4209
    * Muslim / Malaysian ** Seafood
My colleague Muhsin, who stayed in Vietnam for couple of years told me that HCMC was previously famous for cheap, non-imitate"Deuter".Well, Deuter (and also North Face, etc) products mostly made in Vietnam, and the trick is, the same manufacturer produces the exact same product, but for this they are using different materials instead (of coz, cheaper material). That way, they can be selling it at lower price (I mean, cheap price), and sell it to their locals.Nowadays, its even harder to differentiate the real one and the fake one. We bought 5 bags (despite the fact that it might be the fake one),haha, coz one bag costs us approximately USD13 only, what a bargain!
There are many things that they sell in Ben Thanh; paintings, bags, tshirts (good quality), jewelleries, crafts, coffees, nice fabrics,etc. They even sell A&F and Hollister (t-shirt for USD5, and I've got it for only USD2.5 in Cambodia..sigh~). Nevertheless, I bought 10 pieces..hahah..well, the fact that A&F,etc (that they sell in America) costs USD39 each, makes me think that its already a good bargain. Woman~.

Below are some of the items with their prices;

Embroided sandals ~ USD15
Shiny heavily-beads bag ~USD15
Hazelnut home-made coffee ~USD2 for 100grams
Embroided silk purse ~USD2
Silk fabric ~USD6/meter

I've spent more than USD200 in Ben Thanh. Haha..After Ben Thanh, we went to Saigon Square, where you can find A&F, Hollister,Gaps, Victoria Secrets, etc with more varieties, and cheaper price. This is where HCMC teenagers go to shop. Its 5 mins walking distance from Ben Thanh, along Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street (Yes, everything is within vicinity).

HCMC is also famous for quality- "telekung", headscarfs, and "baju-kurung", and one of the Hong Anh branch located near to Ben Thanh, and we walked ourselves there. The good news; they accept VISA!hahah. I bought pair of tudungs for my in-law, and embroided/heavily beads baju kurung for myself. Baju kurung, thai silk with full beadings costs only USD20. And Vietnam silk costs USD6 per meter.murah2!!!
* Central Saigon Area Shopping Area
  • Kim Phuong Hand embroidery - Broidery Artisan
    125 Le Thanh Ton St., Tel. 3827 7091
  • Hong Anh Telekung, tudung, embroidery,
    110 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Dist.1, Tel. 38277191
    93/7 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Tel. 3822 8991
  • Kenly Silk Tailor & silk,
    84 Le Loi St. Tel. 3829 9754
  • Phuong Anh Telekung, tudung, embroidery,
    14 Nguyen Thiep, Tel. 0903 809758
  • Hai Yen Model wooden ships/ planes,
    9 Lam Son Square, Tel. 3822 0280
  • Fatima Lacquer ware, souvenir,
    3Ton That Thiep St., Tel. 3914 2403
  • Thai Tuan Brocade, 57-69 F Dong Khoi. Tel 3822 681
  • Ngoc Trai Swarovski Crystal101 Le Thanh Ton St., Tel. 3827 3596
  • Minh Duc Marquetry, Lacquerware, Fine Art, Ceramic
    113 Le Thanh Ton. Tel. 3823 3977

We went to Ben Thanh too the next day, to continue our shopping trip, and head to the airport at 4.00pm. We'll definitely be back for the famous Chu Chi tunnel, floating market, and Ben Thanh.

The saddest part of this trip, I left my DSLR at home, so I have to live with compact camera..sigh~

to be continued~

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