Friday, June 04, 2010

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - We Finally Arrived!

We left Singapore via Tiger Airways on January 2, 2010 at 7:45 a.m. and arrived at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in Vietnam at 8:40 a.m.

We were two of the first international visitors to Ho Chi Minh City this year!!! Weeee!!!

Before we finally got out of the airport (which pretty much looks like Manila by the way), I had some scary experience with the Customs...

You see there was a line there meant for tourists who needed to get Visa or something. So that got me confused. I thought we didn't need any Visa in Vietnam? Anyway, no Vietnamese we met talked proper English so just to be sure, Jem lined up there while I looked for a Customs officer I can talk to. I found one.There was no line in his slot. So I tentatively approached him, speaking very clearly and asking him if me and my friend would still have to line up at the Visa line.

He didn't say anything except motioned for me to give my passport. I did. He stared at it as if he was reading my passport intently, then he stamped it and motioned for me to get out of the line, out into the arrival area. It got me excited for a bit coz that meant no more lining up for Visa. So I candidly asked about my friend still lined up at the other side. He looked pissed at me and just told me to go... go out... or something like that. I was really scared. He looked so mean as if he wanted to put me in jail or something! Gosh! It didn't help that he looked like some kind of Vietcong, I tell you.

Good thing Jem saw me outside of the loop and so she abandoned her spot at the Visa line and just headed to another Customs officer coz the one that stamped my passport really looked mean. I didn't want to get into trouble so I just waited for Jem in a corner and told her all about it. Freaky!

Outside of the airport, there was public bus waiting for passengers. Thank God!
The trick to riding a bus here in Ho Chi Minh is that you have to have the exact change which you will have to put inside a fare box. Passengers do this before sitting down. But seeing that we were tourists and that we didn't have the exact fare with us, the driver somehow just motioned for us to sit down first and pay later until we can sort out our cash.

We were rich in Vietnam! Har har!The Vietnamese Dong is pegged to the US Dollar, so it stays consistently around 16,000 VND per USD

And then we're off! Before flying to Singapore from Manila, Jem has already researched for an affordable place for us to stay. We were supposed to go to Pham Ngu Lao St., District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Look at their airport! It really looks like the one in Manila. ^_^

Finally, the driver gave us some change for our bus fare and our ticket. We're good to go!

Let me have a snap shot of this experience first. ^_^

Another interesting thing I noticed about Ho Chi Minh City is that most people ride motor bikes here. It's their common mode of public and private transportation. It has something to do with being a third world country... more third world than the Philippines, actually. But what's amazing is that we didn't even see smoke belching! No smoke in the streets at all. Well, maybe there is but it's invisible. ^_^ If this was Manila, people would be suffocating from carbon monoxide poisoning! @_@

I took some interesting shots of the everyday life of motorists in Ho Chi Minh City.

I rarely saw cars on the road.

Here are two videos Jem took while we were riding a bus in Saigon.

My first Vietnamese hat sighting!

Awesome architecture!

Their buildings have interesting structure too...
They're all tall and narrow...

Below is the city's rotunda... kind of looked like Monumento here in Manila, actually.

We simply told the driver to let us off near Pham Ngu Lao District. Actually, Jem showed him the map. The whole time I was thinking... "Nobody really speaks English here? Oh boy... this is gonna be a looong trip!"

Here's my second sighting of the authentic Vietnamese hat! I felt like I was living in the 20's or something... ^_^

Below is another interesting mode of transportation for Vietnamese... a different kind of bicycle (or maybe a pedal pushing tricycle, since it has 3 wheels).

After a LOT of walking, we found the street and the hostel.

As Jem went inside to inquire, I was looking at the tours they were offering and I thought ... "I wanna do them all!!!"

Unfortunately, the NGOC THAO GUESTHOUSE was full. It's a good thing though that
they had a sister hotel and that's where we stayed. Ahhh... by that time, I could really use some rest. Remember, it's been more than 24 hours since we last left Manila and I haven't slept yet! But Jem wanted to go out and explore. So, being the good friend who was starting to get out of her comfort zone, I of course obliged...

To be continued...

Read here the rest of our Saigon / Vietnam / Ho Chi Minh adventures. 


Lantaw said...

so good to see hcmc here again. i was there last week. enjoy! xin chao!

Jennifer Adams-Juan said...

I hope I can go visit again. :-)


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