Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I risked the bus from the airport because I got a tip from Wikitravel and it was waiting right there. Of course my newly purchased 3G sim card randomly cut out and then I ran out of battery, so I started to be concerned that I didn’t actually fully know where to get off, until a local asked me where I was going and pointed out the stop! I managed to haul my giant bag combo along the street and was pleased that the motorbikes / traffic etc were not as bad as I had feared, or I was adequately prepared. I found the hostel after walking in the wrong direction only a little.

Upon arrival, they had no record of my booking despite my confirmation email reply I got a few days before, but I was immediately put in the private room for one night for the same price.

The room I got for price of a dorm room for the first night when they messed up my booking
The room I got for price of a dorm room for the first night when they messed up my booking

This was luxury, but I was concerned that I would be alone. I bit the bullet and walked into the dorm room (no lock!) when I heard voices, introduced myself, and thence got to immediately join the people walking to the nearby festival for some food and random locals doing dance performances (good thing I did not continue with my nap plan – was fairly exhausted after being unable to sleep during my last night in Phuket despite going to bed early!).

After dinner we wandered back and got ready to promptly head out to a rooftop bar on top of a hotel that all the backpackers frequented nightly. A few 50c beers later we tried hit a nearby club that was basically empty. I realised it was 1:30am and that I had to be up at 7 for my full day city tour, so called it a night (apparently the others stayed out until 4-6am and the empty club filled up).

Up bright and too early (sleeping uninterrupted in my private room!) I grabbed a pork salad roll for a few cents from nearby and jumped on the tour bus. During this day-long tour of the highlights of the city we saw the War Remnant Museum, China Town, Thien Hau Pagoda Chinese Temple, Binh Tay Market (I gave up and went to get KFC briefly because I was very hungry and it was too hot to walk around a crowded marketplace for things I didn’t really want), a lacquer handcraft workshop, the Reunification Palace (I stupidly thought I had seen it all until the last 15 minutes when I realised there were another 3 or 4 floors or rooms I had to rush around madly), the Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office. Phew! This tour was less than $7 and enabled me to sit on an air conditioned bus and observe the city and its traffic without the stress of carting myself around in the heat! And having seen the key sights in one day I would not have concern for not having done enough.

I went to get some delicious meatball Pho (noodle soup) from a nearby corner restaurant Jade recommended while everyone else tried to buy motorbikes to drive north through Vietnam. Eventually they lined up some appointments for the next morning to look at some bikes and a group of us went to a pizza restaurant (I just had the free garlic bread and Vietnamese wine). We then went back to the same sky bar from the previous night and enjoyed free shots from the crazy owner named Lan.

When it eventually closed at about midnight we went to one of the streetside bars and talked to an American guy and a friendly Vietnamese lady named Yum Yum who was selling cigarettes before finally going to club on the corner everyone had gone to the previous night after I went to bed. It was pretty good and full of Vietnamese people, but Ivar wanted to try the place directly opposite (Crazy Buffalo). It was empty and the continual flashing strobe lights were making me feel ill (noone else seems to have this problem) so a couple of us went back to the first place, I bought an expensive water ($9.50!) before they promptly closed at 4:30am. We were annoyed they sold us drinks!

The next day I slept in a long time (my eye mask and earplugs are proving a Godsend for street noise and daylight) before jumping on the afternoon Cu Chi tunnels tour. This tour was probably not necessarily worth it for me, as it was a 3 hour round trip on the bus and comprised going around and looking at examples of traps and things used by the Viet Cong and culminated in the ability to crawl for 150 metres through a widened-for-tourist tunnel.

Everyone was very enthused by this, but I got out after 30m because I wasn’t thrilled (although not claustrophobic). We then watched an amusingly heavily biased anti-American Vietnam War-era short film before boarding the bus again. I sort of snoozed while the American guy got everyone into big political discussions on subjects such as the redundancy of the British royal family.

When I got back the motorbikers hadn’t gone yet after all, so we – with the addition of a new Danish roommate – went for dinner at the same pizza place as the night before. I had a very disapointing Vietnamese pancake (the one on the previous day’s lunch had been delicious).

We then went back to the hostel to get ready before joining more people on one of the streetside bars (crammed in right next to the rushing motorcyclists, and with people always trying to sell you things – even when sitting at restaurant tables!). We had decided to go to Apocolypse Now, an apparently famous club, so go we did in a taxi (although we accidentally left Ivar behind – but he was fine just where he was and was still there when the others found him later!). According to our Danish friend there were high profile French politicians there buying large bottles of vodka. The place had the same flashy lights as apparently everywhere and it was a bit late so after not too long we left, I went to bed at 1:30am and the others stayed up in the street.

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