well, not quite. I should have guessed that a city that changes its somewhat romantic name to a more ‘corporate’ one. [in my opinion of course] would mean a concrete jungle with CRAZY traffic and not so friendly community except for those few pleasant faces I met.
I knew it is a city but I imagined a more laid back place, almost like KK.
So, we arrived at the Tan Son Nhat Airport Saturday morning. After a very long walk from where we disembarked, we finally reached the immigration counter only to be greeted by this grumpy immigration officer. “Visa no Visa?” he mumbles while he keeps looking at me and my passport photo.
My smile disappeared and I was convinced he’ll deny me entry. I tried to remember all the forums and blogs about getting a visa. I gave the ‘puss in boots’ sad look’ and shook my head. He continued to look at me one kind but he stamped my passport anyway. He then moved his index finger, motioning me to go.
FYI, if you don’t have a Visa, you get to stay in Vietnam on Visa on Arrival for thirty days. Of course this is only for visitors from most Asean countries, Korea, Japan & Scandinavians. For more information, click vietnamstay.
To get to the city from the airport is pretty easy. There’s the public bus, the public taxi and the private car. After getting instructions from our friendly hotel people through email, we decided to take the taxi. Unfortunately, we freaked out when we saw the throngs of people outside the arrival hall. Under the pressure, we somehow thought we got lost so we opt for the nearest transportation counter we could find.
When I finally adjusted to the new chaotic atmosphere, I realized it was not a very smart thing to do as we paid double for the private car. A taxi would only cost us around VND130,000 which is about RM25.
Another FYI, you do not need to pay for the exit fare at the airport’s exit. Even if you do, it will only cost you VND10,000.00.
The 5 millions motorcycle in the city (a fact I learned during one of the tour) and the lack of respect for the traffic law scares me. To cross the roads takes courage, and the best advice I heard is, NEVER REVERSE WHEN CROSSING THE ROADS AT HCMC.
That is so true my friend. The car stopped across the hotel. I freaked out when I saw the cars/motorcycles coming from each direction. I unconsciously took a half step backward and the motorcycles honked at me. Jatuh juga larr my jantung sekejap. My friend wasn’t as lucky as she got hit by a bicycle. Nasib baik bicycle kan?
There are plenty of places to stay in HCMC but since we were on a very tight budget, we choose to stay at Saigon Mini Hotel. Though it is a little further from the “main” backpacker area, the rooms are huge and what’s important is, the toilet is clean. We only paid USD23 a night for a room for three persons which includes daily breakfast and free internet access. A very good deal if you ask me.
The staffs are friendly and very helpful too.
Though we had those minor inconveniences which involve the electricity and water, I had the best sleep compared to my other travels.
Breakfast was good. The choices are plenty but I love their bread and omelet the most. Sedap. Strangely, I miss their very strong coffee too.
Will continue the rest of the trip later.
Btw, my great advises about HCMC is,
- Get used to the high-pitched voice, the grabbing, the stares and the unfriendliness. Just remember, this is their culture. Nothing personal.
- Most of them don’t speak English. When purchasing or asking for anything, make sure you triple check the information. The high-pitched voice will kick in, but better be yelled at than to realize you got ripped off. True story
- Those famous markets which were supposedly to be the best place to shop, is not that cheap after all. Check out those smaller souvenir shops. You can find interesting items with cheaper prices. For real.
- Buy a decent raincoat or an umbrella.
- Go out of HCMC to really enjoy Vietnam.