travel & lifestyle blog by ruth dela cruz

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh

September 3, 2018
ruth dela cruz blogger 24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh 
I recently wrote how some of the things that usually make me happy no longer excite me. One of which is travel.
That sounded weird when I always say yes to adventures. How can someone lose an appetite for travel?  But for the past months, I felt the need to be in my own world, declining every possible opportunity to see places and experience things – because I would like to think that I am busy with more important tasks.

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
But @karlaaroundtheworld and I already made plans to visit Ho Chi Minh. She is too sweet and nice to ask about my travel preferences. She came up with an itinerary that would entail long bus rides and hostel stays. That sounded a bit uncomfortable for me. But I said okay anyway. I looked at it as an opportunity to be out of my comfort zone.  I said okay to everything except for I specifically requested that we stay in a private room with our own decent toilet. ✌️
The Vietnam Trip is one of the unplanned trips I had (but we had so much fun planning and booking hotels along the way!) – I will tell you more about it on the next posts. 

Here’s the quick list of the places we visited in  the North Part of Vietnam
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh
Day 2: Mu Nei
Day 3 and 4: Dalat
Day 5 and 6: Hoi An
Enough of the intro, here are details and stories of my Travel in Vietnam:
Manila to Ho Chi Minh via AirAsia
We flew in from Manila to Ho Chi Minh via AirAsia. It is actually a new AirAsia flight route that was introduced last November 2017. The route flies daily from NAIA Terminal 3 but there are only a few flights in a week that is direct flight, most have 12-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
We experienced a few bumps en route to Ho Chi Minh. Our flight was scheduled 2 days after the NAIA Runway Closure due to Xiamen Ai incident. We didn’t know if we were flying on schedule or not.  We didn’t know if Karla would be flying on the same flight as mine. But I stayed cool, remained calm, and just waited for what would happen.
We decided to come at least 5 hours before the flight and we were in luck that there weren’t a lot of travelers lined up in the  Check-In Counter. We didn’t realize that we queued for an hour and there was already a long line behind us. 
The flight is a total of 3.5 hours. We left Manila around 3:00 AM and landed around 5:30 AM in Ho Chi Minh (Manila is one hour ahead Ho Chi Minh)
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
Peso/Dollar to Vietnam Dong : Easy Way to Calculate Cost of Goods in Vietnam
When we arrived, we exchanged money in the FOREX in the airport (by experience, we always get the good rate in the airport). I usually bring USD whenever I travel.
I exchanged Euros and I also withdrew money from ATM. Thinking about it now, I should have just exchanged my USD because I also lost in the additional Php 200 fee. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
Anyway, to make it easier for us to compute the cost of goods in Vietnam, we just look at it as 
20,000 VND = 1 USD = Php 50

So when a bag is priced at 200,000 VND, the initial calculation is it costs Php 500. 
The currency can be a little tricky to use (and we don”t want to pay more than what is due because of confusion). The easiest trick is to count the zeroes after the comma (200,000 vs 20,000). 
Prices of Goods in Vietnam
For reference, some basic goods pricing in Vietnam:

Small Bottled Water: 10,000
Pho 35,0000
Beer 20,000
Coffee 40,000
I find that food and transportation are relatively cheap in Vietnam, but there are some things that are priced higher (like sanitary napkin). 
Karla already booked an airport car transfer for us, but it was a no-show. Grab saved the day. 
Local SIM Card: Ordered via Klook
It is necessary to stay connected whenever we travel so Karla bought a Tourist SIM Card and arranged to have it delivered in our hostel. The SIM Card has 5GB data allocation which is just perfect for my 7-day trip in Vietnam. 

Our Hostel in Ho Chi Minh: Long Hostel
Riding a Grab car en route to our hostel, it felt like going around Manila area at night. 
Our driver made a stop at a dark wet market area. I refused to believe that our hostel is located in this dark place (ah, my mom would laugh at me because she knows I hate going to wet market!). I tried to ask around but it was challenging because the vendors don’t speak English. 
But GoogleMaps was pointing us to the same direction. We decided to drag our luggage and walked down the dark alley. 
We found our hostel in one of the small alleys. The guy who opened the door seemed a little annoyed at our presence at 6:00 in the morning. 
Long hostel vietnam
He initially said that he couldn’t accommodate us. But Karla insisted that she sent a note to informing them that we were arriving in the morning. He let us in and gave us our room at the 3rd floor. 
Long hostel vietnam
Okay, I was not ready for a 3rd floor room. I know exactly why backpackers bring backpacks instead of luggage because most of hostels don’t have elevators. I brought my luggage because I hate backpains and I thought I was ready to drag it up. But not at 6:00 in the morning when I didn’t have sleep and my energy level is at zero. I did it anyway. 
We got a private room with a decent toilet (it comes with the usual toiletries of soap and toothbrush set). I noticed that most of the hostels do not offer coffee in the room (ah, I need my coffee!). They usually get the guests’ passports until they check out. 
I just organized my stuff, took a shower and off we went to the Sinh Tourist office in Ho Chi Minh.
(thankfully, it is just a 7-minute walk from our hostel).
Cu Chi Tunnels Tour via Sinh Tourist
We originally booked for a whole day trip including Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta. However, Karla felt that we needed to rest for our 5:00 PM Vespa Adventures Tour so we just decided to go with the half day tour. We already paid full for the full day but (as expected) we didn’t get a refund.  
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
We boarded a bus to Cu Chi Tunnels that took almost 2 hours. That gave us time to catch some sleep. 
Cu Chi Tunnels is one of the popular sites when visiting Vietnam. I remember reading about this in High School while studying world history and Vietnam War but I didn’t give much thought about it. As usual, it is all a different experience to see the tunnels and its system. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots. It also served as communication and supply routes for medicine, food and weapons. 
Aside from the tunnel, we also see different traps that were built during the Vietnam war that lasted for roughly 20 years. 
We took the opportunity to go down and walked through the tunnel. It was so challenging for someone like me who has long legs. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
For those who want to try shooting, guests are given an opportunity to fire off an AK47 or MK16 with real ammunitions (there’s a fee) I was thinking if I should do it, but I thought I was not ready to go shooting. 
Before the tour ends, we sat down and enjoyed a cup of tea and steamed tapioca root (it is like a local kamoteng-kahoy). It is said that the root is the staple food during the Vietnam War. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Cu Chi Tunnels
We left the site at around 12:00 PM. 
The Streets of Ho Chi Minh
When we arrived back in Ho Chi Minh, we confirmed our bus ride for the following day to Mui Ne and we grabbed a quick lunch. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh

Lit! Pho and Spring Rolls

24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
The streets of Ho Chi Minh reminds me of the Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia (except that, you have to be quick and committed to crossing the streets).  I love its vibrant colors, the mix of old and new structures, the quiet cafes in the corners and loud bars. I wish we had more time to explore the city and be taken away by its joyful vibe.
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
ruth dela cruz blogger 24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh
Vespa Adventure Tour – Saigon After Dark Food Tour
We spent the afternoon in the hotel. I took a quick nap and a shower. At 5:00 PM, we went down to see our Vespa Drivers waiting for us outside our hostel. 
24 Hours in Ho Chi Minh  Vespa Adventure Saigon After Dark
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Budget and Expenses for Vietnam Day 1:

Airfare: you can get airfare as low as Php3,000 (one way)
Airport Transfer: Php 228
Hotel: Php 1,000 (my share/night)
SIM Card: Php 321
Mekong Tour Php 2,679.45
Food: Php 300
Milk Tea: Php 85
Vespa Adventure Food Tour (you can book it for Php 5,135.95)

Vespa Adventures Saigon After Dark Tour is the best way to really taste the Vietnam cuisine and experience the city’s night life. 

Don’t forget to join my giveaway, I am giving away round-trip ticket to any destination of your choice. Check out my Instagram post:

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