Wednesday 16 January 2013

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh (Day 1)

Hello blog! I'm back from Ho Chi Minh. The language barrier is no joke so I'm really proud of myself for surviving there with gesticulations heh. I expected HCM to be somewhat similar to Bangkok but it wasn't, I think Bangkok is much more developed and more people there can speak English (or at least basic English). But still, I had a memorable time in HCM~ and I definitely want to go back again to explore other parts of Vietnam!

We reached HCM at around 8am local time, they are 1 hour behind Singapore time and changed our money at the airport. Instant millionaires HAHA. I never knew Vietnamese dong was small, you can basically ignore three zeros.

Anyway most people usually take a taxi to their hotel but after much googling *insert nerd face* I discovered a public bus that can take you to Ben Thanh market bus intercharge. Since I'm on a budget trip, this bus is like heaven sent, it's only 5,000 dong which is like 0.29SGD... They would also charge you for your bag if it's too big by the way but it's so cheap so I don't think anyone minds. Once you exit the the international airport turn right and the bus will be opposite the road, it's very very nearby. If you don't see it, wait a while! It operates from 6am to 6pm.

On the way to the hotel, it takes about half an hour so you can enjoy the view while the buss passes through the city~ After we reached Ben Thanh Market, I whipped out my phone and found our way around using the screen captures that I made back at home. I like finding my way around by myself using a map. You get this satisfaction when you realised you are going in the right direction. :)

I took AGES to decide on a hotel because there are SOOOOO MANY. Finally I decided on Liberty 4 Hotel because of its location,it has a window and the room size was big. Most backpacker hotels in Vietnam has windowless rooms and the rooms are very small. I still had my doubts about the hotel I chose so I went there guarded, but when the door opened to our room, I was really pleasantly surprised! It is better than what I expected and the beds were really comfortable. We had a wonderful four nights of sleep :) Oh and the TV is flat screen with cable channels, so I watched School 2013 and 2Day1Night on KBS world haha!

Ben Thanh Market looks totally like Chatuchak in Bangkok except with not as nice clothes haha. I didn't buy anything at all here. They also have stalls selling food, fruits, dried products, etc here.

We had lunch here but it wasn't very nice.. :/ The first one is Bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancake), beansprouts and prawn are wrapped inside the egg. How you eat it: You take the vegetable and wrap the egg + content inside. Like a wrap within a wrap haha, inception *_* Then you dip it into the sauce. I think it would have been alot nicer at another stall because I see potential. The second one is Gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese rice wrap), everyone should know this but omg these ones that we had WERE COLD, SO DRY AND HARD. I couldn't even take a proper bite!!! They were probably cooked long ago and just left there until customers ordered. I had MUCH better Gỏi cuốn in the later part of my trip. So DO NOT EAT THIS AT BEN THANH MARKET.

Walking around District 1. Because of our super unsatisfying meal, we bought waffles to munch on and they were really yummy! You can see alot of roadside stalls in Vietnam and I think most Vietnamese eat at such stalls.

1 - We reached Independence Palace but it was closed for lunch, it reopens at 1.30pm.
2 - So we walked to the Pasteur and sat down to cool down for a bit.
3&4 - Walked to Notre Dame Cathedral which was a lot older than I expected. :( It wasn't as glamorous as I thought.. And I don't think you can even enter the Cathedral?
5 - Central Post Office is just beside the cathedral and it looks much newer
6&7 - Inside the Central Post Office.
8 - Random building.. The buildings in Vietnam has no English labeling at all. So you have no idea what you're looking at sometimes haha.

And then we were roughly done with all the main tourist attractions in District 1! ..So fast... We were too lazy to walk back to the Independence Palace and we felt there were not much there anyway. We didn't go to museums as well since we assumed the explanations would all in be Vietnamese anyway.

We walked back to the hotel, took a shower and had a nice long rest before heading back out into the streets of Vietnam and bought random street food for dinner. I'm not sure if we were paying the tourist prices but almost everything they sold cost 20,000dong (1+sth SGD) but we didn't really bargain since even if we brought it down to say 15,000dong, we would only be saving 0.29SGD.. That was the end of the first day!

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