I have no idea why it took me so long to visit Vietnam. I have to admit that my knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine and street food is only limited to Pho and those transparent looking spring rolls. ( I don’t even know the name or able to pronounce it right! ). Nevertheless, I am happy that I finally set foot in Ho Chi Minh City. I am super excited to sample and learn more about Vietnamese cuisine.
Touched down in Saigon airport at 9.30am, March 14 2012. I decided to take the bus and not go to the easy route of using taxis which is more comfortable and faster. By taking the bus in a country that I am visiting for the first time gives me the right to brag a little to my friends. The fare with bus 152 to the city is only 4000 VND ( 0.20 USD ). Taxi to the city will cost around 10 USD according to some travel forums.
I board on Bus 152 right in front of the domestic airport, which is like a 10 minutes walk from the International Airport. I have to admit I was tempted to just get a taxi, especially when you are carrying luggage and the hot weather is not helping too. But I am happy that I stuck with my decision to take the bus and enjoyed the view of Ho Chi Minh City. After 45 minutes, the bus stopped at the station and it is just opposite of the famous Ben Tanh Market.
As I got down from the bus, many motorbike taxi dudes were offering their services. I booked my hotel few days ago and checked in some forums to get directions to my hotel. So no motorbike taxi for me and I will just try to find my hotel on my own. I figured that this is probably a good way to see the city and get familiar with my surroundings.
After 45 minutes of walking aimlessly, I just remembered that my sense of direction is as good as Mike Tyson singing in Hang Over 2. After asking so many people for directions, locals and foreigners, I still can’t figure out where the heck is my hotel. Finally I threw in the towel and get a motorbike taxi. He wanted 40,000 VND but I know the fare is not more than 10,000 VND. I offered him 20,000 VND as I am in no mood to haggle over a few cents extra.
Hopped on to his bike and was in my hotel in 5 minutes time. Made a mental note to myself that sometimes trying to be adventurous is a complete waste of time! Checked into my hotel with no problem and the receptionist speaks fluent English and very friendly. For 22 USD a night, I think my room is pretty good. Everything is new and most importantly it has free Internet.
Believe it or not, this is kinda like one of the main entrance to my hotel. Along this tiny alley, there’s a few other hotels similar to mine. I wonder if any of the residents of this alley has cars and where do they park them.
After settling all my stuff in my room, is time to go lunch. I walked to the streets near my hotel and there’s plenty of restaurants and street food to go around. After walking for quite a bit, I decided to eat in a non air condition restaurant with quite a bit of crowd. As I walked in, I saw a familiar face waving at me asking me to join her. It was the receptionist of my hotel, awesome!
My first meal in Vietnam and there’s a local who will most likely shed some knowledge about their food. She told me that this restaurant specializes on fares from middle of Vietnam, near Na Thrang ( Ho Chi Minh is south and Hanoi is the north ). I ordered a rice noodle dish with soup and tuna. Name of the dish is Bun Ca Ngu and I kinda tasted like the Penang Assam Laksa but milder. The price of my dish is 35,000 VND ( 1.65 USD ), which is pretty standard Asian price like Thailand or Malaysia.
After lunch the receptionist brought me to a shop to get a local SIM card. Cost me around 85,000 VND and has some credits in it. I thanked her and she went back to the hotel and I decided to stroll for a bit to get more familiarized with my surroundings. Saw a lot of street vendors and restaurants which I would definitely visit in the next few days.
I was feeling a bit tired as the night before I didn’t sleep much and my flight was pretty early ( 7.50am ). So I decided to go back to my hotel and take a nap. Before crashing I texted to some friends that I met online and make plans for dinner. So stay tune for more pictures and stories of my first visit to Vietnam. ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….