Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

One night only


7/27/20236 min read

Well this stop was even shorter than what was already only going to be a speedy visit, at 2 nights.

I guess it's not bad that I'm 2.5 months into my traveling and I've only just had my first lil' drama.. but it was a good one. So I rocked up to the Singapore airport nice and early for my 1pm flight, after already checking in online (Miss Organised as always).. yet I never made it past the baggage counter. Hmm.. it seems I had put the subject of a Visa for Vietnam, to the back of my mind - thinking I would get a VOA (given NZ'ers can get them for Bali, and don't need a Visa at all for Singapore) Umm, no. I needed a Visa and needed it fast. So I got online and $277 NZD later, I was in line for a same-day Visa and now needed to wait.

Next problem.. as I had already checked in online for my flight but was not going to have my Visa in time, I needed to 'be unloaded' from the flight. Done.

Next problem.. I hadn't booked a flexi-fare so whatever happened, I needed to pay for a whole new flight! The next flight was due out at 5.15pm. Not to be. Check in time came and went for that flight and my Visa had not been granted and now the next option was 9.30am the next day. And as the last straw, I couldn't even book myself onto that flight, as the Singapore Airlines counter was about to close for the night and I needed to have my Visa first.

By now, my oversight was going to cost in the vacinity of $700 so there was no way I was going to head back to the city and pay for a room for the night. Who needs sleep anyway?. it was going to be a long one. I will say - the Singapore airport is quite lovely in the middle of the night when no one is around! I got cosy in a chair and got my laptop out to do a whole lot of content creation, and researching further destinations for my travels - which took me until right on midnight, then it was time for a stretch.

I wandered around and took a few pictures, then got talking to a random stranger while searching for a coffee and got a hot tip.. she suggested I head over to the terminal where Scoot and some of the cheaper airlines operate from, to see if they had an earlier/cheaper flight - so with only half an hour until the skytrain between the terminals closed for the night, my giant suitcase and I were off! It was all on at terminal 1! Queues everywhere! I located the Scoot desk and sure enough - there was an earlier flight out. 7am - and $120 cheaper than the Singapore Airlines flight. And my Visa had come through. Great! Just one last problem. Yep - it was full. But I could go on standby...If someone cancelled within the next couple of hours, I was in.

By this time I was starving - and also needed something to fill in the next couple of hours to make the nervous wait a little less painful. Singapore Airport BK at 2am it was. Enter 'Ryan'.. my larger-than-life new friend from Perth, who insisted on a snapchat photo with a crazy filter, and becoming Insta-buddies within about 2 minutes of meeting. He had me in fits of laughter with his stories and before I knew it - he was headed off on his flight to Bangkok, and I had received a message from the lady at the Scoot counter.. I was in!! So I zoomed back down to the counter, paid for my ticket and half an hour later was boarding for Ho Chi Minh. The day really was starting off better than the day before.. the lovely lady at the counter gave me a window seat on the exit aisle, so I had extra room. Yipee! Maybe I could stretch out for a sleep?

Beautiful Buildings of District 7...

My Neighbourhood, My Coffee Shop and My One-Night Dinner...

So with only two nights booked in Ho Chi Minh to start with, and now one night forfeited due to my flight issues, it was going to be a speedy visit. There was no sleep on the plane and as much as I really just wanted to go straight to bed to sleep when I arrived at my hotel, I needed to cram in as much as I could first. Plus, the budget flight meant no on-board meal and it had been a long time since 2am BK.

Arriving in Vietnam was crazy from the minute we got off the plane. The line at immigration zig-zagged back and forth and filled the whole room! Fortunately there was no wait for a taxi once outside, so I was off. OMG!. I thought Bali traffic was insane but this was next level. Several lanes of cars, trucks and scooters all doing as they pleased in a game of first-in-first-served on the road, with left-hand-drives on the 'wrong' side of the road, meant I made most of the 45 minute trip to 'District 7' (not The Hunger Games version) - with my eyes closed.

I was pleased to find I was staying in a beautiful little tree-lined street, in a quiet part of the city at Saki Aparthotel 3. The room was large and well-equipped for the price - only $61 NZD for 2 nights (albeit I only stayed for one). The district there is split into about 12 blocks and all the streets are lined with restaurants and various businesses, shaded from the 30-something-degree heat and operating beneath beautiful old buildings.

My next impression of Vietnam was that it may not be quite as safe for me to be wandering around at night on my own as Bali or Singapore. I noticed so many of the businesses had security guards posted outside in broad daylight, so figure night-times might be better spent close to my hotel. Not all the security guards were actively guarding (exhibit D in the pics above - busted having a nap outside the bank!)

I had a significant pile of washing and felt for sure there would be a laundry close-by, so I headed off in search of lunch with my bag of washing in tow. Here's where I noticed the first huge contrast to Bali. There you'll find almost as many stray dogs roaming the streets as scooters on the road, yet while there's barely a vet or pet shop anywhere - you can find a laundromat every couple of hundred metres! Not here. Noooo. I didn't see ONE dog in the whole 12 block area, yet I must have passed 15 vets or pet stores.. but not one laundry! So back to the room with my bag of washing, before I went to find lunch.

As I headed back down the steps of my hotel, I noticed the sign outside the coffee shop just opposite - and decided that would be my morning fix the next day - and I found a nice bakery for a sit down lunch. I managed another 5kms exploring outside the area in the afternoon, and soon became aware that of the 100 million people that live in this country, there are only about 2 (in this city at least) that can speak English. Lucky my charades is on point and I managed for the most part.

I had planned to do the 'motorbike food tour' in the main part of the city for dinner, but even though it is currently dry-season in Bali - and 'Nam is virtually right next door, it's rainy season here πŸ€” .. go figure. So before I got back to my room from my walk, the skies opened up and all of a sudden a motorbike tour was off the table. Staying close to home, and without a tour guide to show me the ropes, dinner was a lost-cause in terms of the language barrier and trying to figure out what the heck was what. In the end I went to the closest place to my hotel and just pointed at something on the menu, with absolutely no idea what I was getting. For reference on the menu pictured above - it was the 'com thit ga gao xay' - and it turned out to be a re-run of the face-numbing dinner I had in Chinatown - so I'm glad I have the menu for future reference, so as not to order it again. Face paralysis aside.. it was tasty and pretty healthy, so not all was lost!

The shiny gold jars in the other pics above were something that caught my eye as I was walking - so I stopped and took a picture, then did some Googling. They're actually jars of alcohol and the stuff inside (that I initially thought looked like those preserved creatures in a museum or science lab) - turns out to be Ginseng. It's a traditional Korean alcohol called Insam-ju. The beautiful bottles are usually purchased and given as gifts and it can be served hot or cold. I tried to ask how much it was worth but the lovely lady in the store was not one of the 2 people in this city that can speak English πŸ˜•

And that's a wrap on Ho Chi Minh! Aside from the one night in my little part of the city, and the rides to and from the airport, I didn't get to see much, so it's hard to make a proper assessment, but my gut feeling is that for me, Vietnam is not my fave place so far. I'm heading to Da Lat in the highlands next, which should be quite a different experience, so I'll hold fire on making a call until I've seen some more πŸ€”