Saturday, 15 March 2014

Vietnam 7-Day Itinerary: Day One

7 Day Itinerary in Vietnam

Read Day 1 here - Ho Chi Minh City
Read Day 2 here - HCMC
Read Day 3 here - Mekong Delta
Read Day 4 here - Hanoi
Read Day 5 here - Hanoi to Halong
Read Day 6 and 7 here - Halong Bay/Departure

Left: Overall trip - Right: HCMC travels
Click to enlarge.
Day 1

In this Vietnam trip Brittney, Sandrine and I covered Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, Hanoi, and Halong Bay over 7 days.

Preparation to do before a trip to this country: check if you need a visa. Most countries need a visa to enter and we used this website to obtain our letter of approval. It worked and the letter was issued to us in due time but I disliked that they put 20 applicants' information onto one letter such that we could all see each other's information. I felt that it was a bit unsafe.

Our flight into HCMC arrived at 8am Vietnam time and we had to wait almost an hour before our visa was processed. We presented our approval letters and one passport photo to the officers who took our passport and application form into their office. We were told to wait until our names were called and then we paid USD$45 to the officers in exchange for our passports with the visa stamp inside. The process went smoothly but it just took time.

Be careful which taxis you take from the airport because taxi drivers know tourists are vulnerable. We waited until a trustworthy taxi company car came and then got on. We had good experiences with Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis which both use meters. The taxi ride from the airport to District one shouldn't cost more than USD$12.

We arrived at Yen's Hotel which is located on Pham Ngu Lao Street, a backpacker's central. The adjacent streets were filled with hotels, eateries and tour agencies all catered toward travelers.
[Note: I highly recommend staying at Yen's Hotel. It is not anything luxurious but it was the most comfortable hotel we were at the whole trip and the staff were very helpful. The ambiance of the hotel is cozy and clean, a place where you can relax and feel secure.]

Recommend Yen's Hotel
We left our things at Yen's and made our first trip as pedestrians to Ben Thanh Market. It sounds exaggerated but the traffic was pretty crazy with motorbikes, buses, and cars going in all directions. At the market there was even a traffic controller helping tourists cross the street.

Ben Thanh Market
Do not buy anything from the market because it is all overpriced and overwhelming. All the shopkeepers will be pestering you to buy something and you will not have time to think or look quietly at anything. If you want to shop for clothing, go to Saigon Square instead. There is air conditioning in Saigon Square and the shopkeepers are relaxed. They only talk to you when you ask for the price. For other souvenir items, you can find them in many other places.

Nonetheless you should still visit Ben Thanh Market to get a feel for the atmosphere. There is a food area in the market with many food stalls that also have owners shouting at you to eat at their stall as you walk past. They stop yelling when you sit down at a stall which is a relief. I got a beef pho which didn't taste bad but was definitely much more mediocre than the things I will eat in the following days.

Beef Pho VND 50,000
After having lunch we walked to the War Remnants Museum (VND 15,000) which is about the Vietnam War. There are many pieces that attack the USA but if seen from a more objective point of view it is educational to visit.

War Remnants Museum
We slowly made our way back to Yen's Hotel and passed by the Reunification Palace (VND 30,000). It is the location where North and South Vietnam conducted the reunification process and the basement was home to the prime minister during the bombings of the war.

Reunification Palace
We joined a very worthy food tour with Back of the Bike Tours (USD$58). Three girls came to pick us up at our hotel at 6pm and we rode on the back of their motorbikes to a park where a group of other tourists with their own motorbiker tour guides are.

This tour is unique because we rode on the back of local people's motorbikes to various good food locations and indulged in 4 main courses and 1 dessert. The tour guides were young (in their 20s) and spoke conversational English. 

This tour exposed me to some of the best food I had during this trip. My new favourite is banh xeo! It lasted till 10pm when we were dropped off at our hotel again. You can read Brittney's experience of the tour here.

Tour guides and us
End of Day 1!

Read Day 1 here - Ho Chi Minh City
Read Day 2 here - HCMC
Read Day 3 here - Mekong Delta
Read Day 4 here - Hanoi
Read Day 5 here - Hanoi to Halong
Read Day 6 and 7 here - Halong Bay/Departure

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