Sunday, 5 May 2013

Oh, Saigon

motorists-dominated saigon
& one of the trusted taxi services
Good morning Vietnam! It was past midnight on a fair day of May, 2 years ago. Tan Son Nhat was dim and quiet and customs desk was snoozing. Our ride to the city was waiting for us outside, arranged with our hotel for $30 fit for us 9. Yes, we were 9 - my largest travelling party so far.

Our stay - Blue River Hotel 2 is a mini 6-storey hotel located inside an alley or compound within District 1 of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. We got a good deal of $25 a night for triple room and $20 for double with wifi access inside rooms and free breakfast of french baguette, eggs and coffee.

Being the solo planner, I did the liberty of having us booked on tours 'coz I was not only concerned with the number of heads I'd have to account at every corner of Saigon's streets rather the ease of having us all together in one place for easy transport.

Viet Nam means south of China
hence the strong Chinese culture
Day one had to be city tour for $16 each via Happy tours (with good English-speaking and entertaining guide) which we settled at the hotel. The rate included a mouth-watering Vietnamese buffet lunch at Ben Thanh Restaurant. We ran through the usual city  stops and spots, clicked and posed here and there and capped the day with a little sneaking off Ben Thanh market for some fine coffee beans.

Next day was Mekong river - $14 per person also with lunch inclusion. This time we were transported for an hour and half to get to a pumped boat. We cruised along and across brown waters of Mekong into a village where civilization may have just kicked in few years back. My personal highlight was the experience riding on paddled boats unto narrow river maneuvered by a boatwoman wearing their traditional non la or leaf hat, very skilled and strong gliding along the stream without worries of colliding to another boat nor unto the palm trees that dominate the river banks. It wasn't a long sail but it was memorable.

Cu-Chi tunnel & left ammo; Mekong and the cruise along narrow river
And finally, our last full day were spent in the "battlefield" of Cu-Chi. Travel time was couple of hours from city proper. We crawled unto the 2-feet high tunnels and invaded the enormous yard of what used to be their safe haven and home until the city and the whole community found peace. The whole arena was a haunted representation of a past life in deep struggle and of fears, a venue and a feeling unimaginable. 

some of the popular local cuisines
facade of the water puppet theater
Other interesting and notable features of the city include the Water Puppet Show, wonderful artistic pieces, Tai-Chi performances at public parks and "happy hours" along side walks.

handicrafts by the handicapped
Saigon may still be chaotic at this time but in a manner towards the challenge of the new era, of motorbikes, modern architectures, international language, tourism and night life. Though undoubtedly, it has the cheapest souvenirs/food/bargains/accommodations/cost of living, tasteful pho's and warm and non-assuming people. On general, I see this city more like the front line of Vietnam than Hanoi because living is more simple yet more enchanting, more options, more like what it should be, more Vietnam.

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About Dee

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I was born and raised attune with nature, grew up from the countryside and a strong believer in endless possibilities. I am drawn to adrenaline rush and was never a girly kind but I dig chick flix and plays some music. I started this site during a 6-month distressing/long sojourning away from the corporate world. I gathered all the travels I went and translated them into words. I am not fond of sharing details of my trip and thought looking at the photos I've effort-fully taken was enough. Yet to my amazement reading through it flashes back more wonderful memories like a gush of throwback Thursdays. This is also a good venue to practice writing and to connect. So, thank you for stumbling upon my corner. Sorry I can't update regularly but I hope you'd visit again as my journey continues, find some useful information here and most of all be inspired to go on adventures your own. See you on the road!