Planning this trip to Vietnam, I had no clear picture of how the country generally appears or looks like. Others say it is the Philippines alike just as the features of other south east asian countries but for me, Vietnam is and has more to share to the world especially their rich and bloody history, and culture well preserved. But, from all the pre-travel-internet-binge I have had, I just aimed at getting two experiential moments before going back home:
1) a long stare at the city streets throng of motorcycles in heavy traffic,and 2) experiencing the Mekong Delta tour.While Vietnam has become one of the thriving destinations for the Westerners, for Filipinos, it is one budget travel getaway. Just like in relationships, ‘wag ibigay ang lahat-lahat. Magtipid para sa sarili.This trip is also the first international trip of the THREESOME, my best buddies in the metro, Clarisse and Joyce with Ate KJ, Sher, and my island friends, Nang Astrid and The Honorable Dan.We decided to go on a trip in Ho Chi Minh for three days. I believe it was quite enough to escape all the stresses in life especially at work and all the other stressful people and animals around. It’s nice to spend time with people who want to be with you compared to those who just want you if they are lonely and horny. Haha!When in EDSA, we have a congested highway of huge vehicles and cars, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, has this famous motorcycle rush that’s a spectacle. I cannot compare the scene in the Philippines. Parang bang sardinas na relasyon. Kahit masikip, ipipilit para lang makaraos.When you plan the details of your itinerary, I suggest to not plan it ahead though it is still useful if you have drafted notes or gone through some online research about the place. In that way, you get a little familiar of the area. You know, getting-to-know stage.On your first day, go around downtown and you will have an array of choices of the different local tour operators that offer ‘joiners’ or luxury tour. Joiners tours can be quite for the cheapskate but luxury tour is like owning the entire van for your group of friends. They will give you choices for the time of pick up and the customized tour if you want. And, they also have a tour guide for you.It is much cheaper than getting a pre-booked tour and this is less hassle since you won’t get lost or trying your hardest to read and analyze the maps. They also have Grab Cars and Taxis but to my surprise, they have the Grab Bike.
This was our planned itinerary:
HO CHI MINH ITINERARY
DAY 0 (March 23)
DEPARTURE + ARRIVAL
06:00 PM Pay PH Travel Tax
10:30 PM ETD Manila to Ho Chi Minh (HCM), Vietnam
12:20 AM ETA HCM
1:00 AM Pick up by hotel vehicle
Advance Check-in at Hotel. Freshen up. Sleep.
DAY 1 (March 24)
HO CHI MINH CITY TOUR we booked a luxury tour. There are a lot of tour operators scattered in the city so you can choose, budgeted is quite a hassle and luxury is very convenient.
06:30 AM Breakfast.
07:30 AM HCMC City Tour (Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, Independence Palace, Ben Thanh Market)
11:30 PM Lunch
12:30 PM Check out from hotel. Leave luggage
01:00 PM Visit Chinatown (Chinatown near Cho Lon, Thien Hau Temple)
03:00 PM Shopping at Ben Than Market
06:00 PM Dinner.
DAY 02 (March 25)
MEKONG DELTA TOUR (To book at the Hotel)
06:30 AM Breakfast
Cu Chi Tunnel
07:30 AM Mekong Delta Tour (My Tho, Vinh Trang Pagoda)
11:30 AM Vietnamese Lunch
01:00 PM Continue Mekong Delta Tour (An Khanh in Ben Tre)
05:00 PM End of Mekong Delta Tour. Back to hotel in Ho Chi Minh
07:00 PM Dinner
DAY 3 (March 26)
CU CHI TUNNEL + WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
07:00 AM Breakfast
07:30 AM City Tour
Last Minute Shopping
06:00 PM Dinner. Tour around the city just near hotel
07:00 PM Head to Airport via Bus #109
01:00 AM ETD to Philippines
04:00 AM ETA Philippines-Manila
09:40 AM ETD to Iloilo
But we ended with some minor changes because of some disagreements and some ‘the weather is too hot can’t stand moving out of the hotel anymore’, and/or ‘rest is life’. haha
With a short city tour, we drop by the War Remnants MuseumThis place will provide a detailed historical accounts and remnants of the war that happened in Vietnam, with the north and the south, and as intensified by the worldwide cold war.But before that, this was our lunch. It’s called Bún riêu. I don’t know the meaning, importante may label.Part of the first day tour is the visit at Cho Binh Tay (Market). The market is quite ordinary though it is one of the major markets in Vietnam and a biz hub and attraction in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown. This Banh He Streetfood is also interesting and healthy like a pancake with veggies inside. Healthy para sa relasyon.Accessed by entering through an rustic gate and crossing a small courtyard, Thien Hau Temple, is considered the most beautiful Chinese temple in Ho Chi Minh City.The smell of Vietnamese Pizza just around the streets also caught my fancy. For a very affordable price, you will have a very tasty bite of this local delicacy. It originated in the highlands of Vietnam with various toppings on a grilled rice paper.On our second day, we booked the Cu Chi Tunnel and Mekong Delta River Tour.
Cu Chi Tunnel tour is an emperical life plot of a Vietnamese soldier during the war – clever, ruthless, lethal.
Here, you can actually use a local gun to fire and shoot like there’s a war zone, and fit in a two-feet tunnel to deliver food for the military in action. Haha. The sweat is real inside the war tunnels where we experienced first hand, with our local tour guide, the typical days during the Vietnam war.Cu Chi Tunnel is a huge network of connecting tunnels with different traps. Check this blog for a detailed tour of this destination Cu Chi Tunnel.The Mekong Delta tour is a jam-packed one. It involves visiting the crocodile island, local candy-making shop, horse ride series, and topped with a full lunch with authentic Vietnamese food.The green carpet of the water world afloat the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam and the river arteries making the trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia – sights to behold.Whatever it is, Mekong Delta brings in people of different colors, races, and that cannot be captured in snaps but of actual experience and cultural understanding.On the third day, we decided to finish the other half of the city tour we missed.Surprisingly and actually, the Vietnamese civilization is as sophisticated as that of the sleeping dragon up there.I am still in awe of how the locals have pursued their freedom and lives – from China to the son of Buddha, Tang and Ming Dynasty to Nguyen Anh uniting the entire country, from the north and south division down to changing ‘Saigon’ to ‘Ho Chi Minh City’.The iconic Saigon Cental Post Office.These snippets of their architecture show their historical chrono-timeline. The Independence Palace.And I am glad I have revisited their stories in real touches with hopes that in the light of our current social state and body politic, what happened in Vietnam must never happen in the Philippines.Of course, leaving Vietnam without visiting the Saigon Square and eating Pho will not be complete. So, let me bless you. Dito ka magtapon nga pera.We also tried the famous Huc Long Coffee and Tea. And oh, Highlands Coffee actually originated in Vietnam. Mahilig sila sa pakape. Siguro tulog sa pagmamahal kailangang magising sa masakit na katotohanan.And when you fear of anything bad about Vietnam as other people say, fret not because they have tourist police almost everywhere!So kung di ka bet ng crush mo, I am sure bet mo ang Vietnam kasi #BetNaVIETNAMin. lol corny waley.
Hit me up if you want some tips going around this beautiful country with beautiful people. Vietnam is a definitely a timeless piece of blessing. Go ahead and spend time with her. Malay mo ma-inlove ka ulit.