What’s in it to see in Vietnam anyways? Do I start my Indochina trip here or make this my last? Do I really have to see this as part of my tri-city escapade? — some of the questions that popped into my mind as I plan an almost two-week trip to Indochina.
Surprisingly; this country did not disappoint me and my best friend Kim in terms of food and the sites you could go and explore. Include the fact that this country is pretty cheap and is very near in the Philippines; but still take into consideration what you see online as scam is also pretty rampant here in Vietnam.
I never imagined going to Vietnam when I was a little kid, it was never part of my dream destinations to travel at, similar with Hongkong and Paris did; but then the “Indochina Adventure” came into the picture. And the rest was all part of the beautiful memories I’ll be sharing here.
This blog is part of my 2 week long Indochina Trip from (Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand Route) for full itinerary of my trip you may check out : *full blog post to follow
Vietnam, is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities, it is a land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling according to Lonely Planet
HOW TO GO FROM MANILA TO HO CHI MINH (formerly known as Saigon)
I booked for my plane ticket via Cebu Pacific 4 months prior my scheduled trip, It was actually pretty late simply because my VL’s weren’t approved until then hahah!! I got it for P2,500 (47 USD / 1099962.17 VND ) for 1 way bound to Saigon via Cebu Pacific and it was a good deal already.
- There is a direct flight from Manila going to Saigon via Cebu Pacific
- Travel Time is roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes
- We alight at Saigon International Airport by 9:00PM *take note that there is a time difference bet Philippine Time and Vietnam of 1 hour (Philippine Time – 10:00PM)
- so it kinda feel we even had more time as soon as we arrived in Saigon! hahah!
Since it was pretty late already when we reached Saigon I made sure I booked a car service bound to our hostel area via Klook.com for a car service to make sure we get to our hostel in no time and less hassle.
It only cost P600.00 (11.38 USD / 263990.92 VND ) and it is even good up to 4 pax. I thank myself for booking this in advance as the service was just waiting for us outside the airport and it was convenient. Instead of taking a cab or grab from there. *consider that there is so many SCAM in this area — better sure than sorry 😀
CURRENCY / EXCHANGE MONEY :
- Vietnam money is called Vietnamese Dong = VND
- PHP 1 = VND 439.98
- It is pretty cheap in Vietnam, for our almost 4 days stay I only exchanged Php 5,000 worth of pocket money at NAIA Airport.
- I always feel safer to exchange my money at the airport to make sure I have enough cash as I arrive in the new place; it also protect my time from looking for money changer just to get a good deal and save at least a couple of hundreds or just a thousand.
WHERE TO STAY :
I’m a fan of hostels honestly!!! I love the idea of saving too much with bunk beds but still very comforting. I also make sure that it is situated right across the popular landmarks in town or backpackers area as how they call it.
I booked via Hostelworld.com at Vintage Hostel located at Bui Vien.
*Note : in looking for a hostel that best suit for you; I always check out booking.com; hostelworld.com and agoda.com
We stayed in an all-female dorm room for 8 pax. Each bunk bed cost P400 / night (7.59 USD / 175993.95 VND ) and it comes with a free breakfast already!! Isn’t cheap???!! It was airconditioned, common bathroom was clean and okay, with hot shower, and the bed literally have the hostel bed requirements (own switch and light inside, a mini drawer for you with lock and it has a curtain for privacy) all the factors I’m looking at an hostel.
The breakfast was great as well, they have different menu choices everyday. This is where I tasted and had my first Vietnamese Coffee!!!! And it was really good (*super OA on this, but it is!!!! Hahahahaha)
The downside of this hostel, is that it was literally at the center of the Bui Vien Street where all the parties and night life took place each night. You may want to consider looking elsewhere if noise is a big problem for you. But with its cheap price? It was actually really worth it.
If you enjoy night life and really partying, Bui Vien is the place to be.
As for us, we had our dinner around as soon as we arrived and familiarize with the common areas as well.
DAY 1 : CITY TOUR IN SAIGON
After staying up pretty late on our first day in Vietnam, we know we needed the prepare early to make sure we maximize our day. After a happy breakfast at the hostel we started our DIY City Tour.
I only used Waze over my phone to check where should we heading. You may also hire a motorbike to tour you around, but trust me, it is okay to walk around to familiarize and feel the place better like what we did.
*Note : please do note, that just by asking a local you have to careful as well, some of them were persistent in taking you to tour with them and ask payment in US Dollar which is definitely way way expensive than the normal rate!
*Reco : I always keep in mind that it is sometimes better to ask a fellow tourist when you are lost and in search for direction! trust me — it felt like a scam when these people ask too much from you.
Back story of the coconut vendor; while we were walking all the way to our first destinations — crossing the street was somehow hard as mostly the locals are in motorbike and they move really fast. This coconut vendor even actually helped us, started a conversation (*and as traveller — and we wanted to be friendly; we entertain and join in the convo as well 😛 hahah!) not until he just forced us and gave this 2 coconut to me and Kim. I was really hesitant (coz “sirain po ang tyan ko mamsh and we just had coffee for breakfast — so imagine less than 1 hour interval nag buko na kame :D) when we asked how much was it — he says “VND 150.000 (150 Thousand Dong) until we ask later that day it’s original cost at 20.000 VND each.
After the encounter, we realized that we cannot trust any local anymore hahaha! he’s the second person trying to ask too much from us — so no, we were firm to ask the right person next time or better yet, move and really be independent with our trip.
BEN THAM MARKET
Entrance : FREE
Mode of transportation : Walk only from Bui Vien, used Waze or google map to locate
Heading to Notre Dame Cathedral we already came across Ben Tham Market, where they sell all sorts and form from food, delicacies and items as souvenirs. It isn’t cheap though, but you may have a short meryenda here as well.
Bến Thành Market is a large marketplace in central Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam in District 1. The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and an important symbol of Hồ Chí Minh City, popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, áo dài and souvenirs, as well as local cuisine.
We just walked around in here and check for its offering before we head to the cathedral.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
Entrance : FREE
The cathedral is one of the most finest structure in the country. It was actually undergoing a big re-development and construction during our visit, so tourists is only allowed just right outside the church.
SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE
Entrance : FREE
Opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral, you will see the Central Post Office. It is also free to enter.
Loving this interior at the Post Office!! This place was totally crowded with tourists around with post cards and souvenirs to check out.
You may also want to send a letter to your friend or loved ones for only 25000 VND and have that total post card sending experience.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
Entrance : 40.000 VND / 90 PHP
Still part of our walking tour in Vietnam, we walked thru the War Remnants Museum as well. It was pretty tiring and the map really helps a lot!!! Hahahaa!! It was initially pretty hard to ask people around as they weren’t really much knowledgeable with the directions as well and english is still not widely used by the Vietnamese — appreciate hand gestures as always hahaha!
There is an entrance fee of 40.000 VND (PHP 90 / 1.71 USD) and pay as you enter.
It was great seeing this place, a short history about the country will always be a must in visiting new places. We stayed for almost more than an hour in the museum. and thank god that it has nice CR inside hahahah!!! (*I would never forget this — as I started hating the coconut vendor even more 😀 hahhahaha)
After our Museum Tour, we decided to ride a Grab Bike instead coz. It was freaking hot already plus the fact we were really hungry as well!! Hahaha!! We just approached the Grab Bike and they searched for our destination. It cost 21.000 VND heading to TNK Travel just across and back at Bui Vien for our afternoon booked trip.
*Note : Grab app is pretty much convenient as well in Vietnam, it was my first time to ride Grab Bike as well. Traffic in Vietnam is really worse so most of the locals were all riding in motorbikes *even on heels 😀 hahaha!
CU CHI TUNNEL TOUR
Entrance : PHP 700 / 307989.41 VND / 13.28 USD
Transportation : part of the Klook package
Later part of the day, after we had our lunch we headed to our booked Cu Chu Tunnel Organizer — If you decide to take and have the Cu Chi Tunnel Tour better to book it thru Klook.com in advance.
I booked for the Cu Chi Tunnel Tour via klook.com it cost Php 700.00 ( 307989.41 VND / 13.28 USD ) and it is consists of the following (Bus Ride going to and back to meeting area, English Speaking Guide, Cu Chi Tunnel Entrance and Tour, bottled water)
From Saigon the trip was roughly an hour or two so we managed to sleep while in the bus hahahaha! This is also so cheap and very convenient. AS we only went at the meeting place for the bus pick-up then we were brought straight to Cu Chi, with our English Speaking tour guide.
The tour lasted for about more than 2 hours and we were also able to have a Tunnel Tour experience as well, there is also some snacks after the tour. I won’t spill much of the tour here for you guys to savor the experience as well.
Just make sure to dress up properly, make it really comfortable as it is really hot in Vietnam.
After the bus trip, we head back to our hostel and check out food choices to try out.
DAY 2 | MEKONG DELTA TOUR
Entrance Fee : Php 700.00 ( 309959.91 VND / 13.36 USD)
Book Via : Klook.com
If you still have another day to spend in Vietnam don’t forget to try and check out the Mekong Delta Tour.
For this trip I also booked it thru klook.com it only cost Php 700.00 ( 309959.91 VND / 13.36 USD) and it was good for a whole day trip already, it comes with a bus ride from and to Mekong, an English Speaking Guide all throughout, Free Lunch, Mixed Fruits, Boat ride and Sampan Ride plus different places were covered as well. Check this out :
We started the day in bus and head over to this Pagoda and temples around.
We went over the Pagoda and tour around this special temple for less than an hour. I honestly didn’t expect that there are also temples around Vietnam which makes it more exciting!
And oh, we bought a Palm Hat worth 20.000 VND ( PHP 45.17, 0.86 USD ) to complete the Vietnam Experience and vibe hahahaha!!! Palm Hat is readily available almost everywhere, you’ll see it.
*Note : you’d also see Palm hat for sale from the Cu Chi Tunnel tour, but it is way expensive than the ones for sale at Pagoda area
It is said that only ladies wear this Palm Hat, used as protection and can also be used as a bag when carrying fruits over the arm.
we rode thru this boat ride for a couple of minutes, with the English Speaking Guide.
And alight at the Coconut Plantation where we get to have so many free tastes from desserts, candies, and even exotic wines such as the Snake Wine — make sure to grab a glass of it as it is a once in a lifetime experience! hahahaha!! too strong though, so make sure you can handle alcohol as well.
They’ll teach you how they do production of the coconut, which is great and informative as well.
On to our lunch, we rode back to the boat ride and went to the next stop where we would be having our lunch.
The basic lunch meal is also part of the Klook package
You may want to add or upgrade as well on your food which is totally fine. After lunch, we had a short walk then went for a Sampan Ride (*the mini boat or bangka which is much more known for.
It was just a short sampan ride going to the opposite side for around 20 minutes. Then had small walk and visited our last stop for the day.
the beauty of travelling is dealing and talking with fellow travellers from various places and countries.
While the locals were singing, we were given a honey tea plus these fruits to compliment the mood.
After less than an hour, we headed back to our bus area and head all the way back to the meeting place.
This trip was relatively cheap!! Imagine spending P700.00 only for all those inclusion. It was really a full day jam-packed with activities plus new people to share with our journey. Having a tour guide to explain each activity was also really helpful, you get to take note and understand everything better.
After the trip, we headed then back to our hostel to rest.
WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM :
I was actually surprised to love Vietnamese Dish, we all thought that maybe we had to look for fastfood chain ASAP hahahaha! but it turns out we fell in love at it as well.
BUI VIEN STREET
In Bui Vien, as mentioned it is a long street with night life of bars and small stalls and restaurants around. Don’t expect too much when I say restaurant. We had this on our first night.
We spent VND 40.000 for this good for 2 pax already — so it was relatively cheap as well.
Do take note, that they do not serve tap water or else you’ll have to pay for a bottled water as well.
THE SOUND PUB
Just across Bui Vien, situated right next with our tour meet-up, we tried this at the Sound Pub.
Rice Noodles and Bahn Mi is what we tried for. It cost Rice Noodles – 40.000 VND, Bahn Mi Bread – 20.000 VND plus we were charge of 1.000 VND each for the wet wipes.
Eating rice noodles was like a Samgyup Korean feels style :p you use the lettuce and leafy vegetables to cover the noodles and meat balls and dip it into the vinegar sauce.
*Take note, that there are not generous with free water so even if you ask for it, it has charges for it. Even for the wet wipes! they charge 1.000 per each sheet also.
BEN THAN STREET MARKET
Talk about eating, and food choices, there is food park here in Saigon! Situated just right across Ben Than Market, we saw this while we were in the bus heading back to our hostel, we just rode a grab car going here coz it was pretty tiring to walk all the way back.
We get those stares from people around, imagine 2 slim ladies eating too much hahaha! We have Pho (also a Vietnamese Delicacy a soup / noodles) we have pork and rice, plus drinks all for ourselves.
I was really happy having so many food choices here in Ben Than, and tourists really flocks this place as well so make sure to check this out when you’re here as well.
Never leave Vietnam without trying its Vietnamese Coffee, it was really good!!! Usually served and I enjoyed it better in cold coffee.
A cup of cold Vietnamese Coffee cost around 30.000 VND
You’ll see so many coffee shops around everywhere, and the interiors and designs of it were all so beautiful as well. Save yourself from the usual Starbucks please! hahaha!! you have tons of choices here.
*With my love for Coffee — I also bought a lot of Coffee pasalubong which I could bring home as well!!
If you crave for fastfood and burger and fries (*sinful food 😀 hahaha) there is Lotteria everywhere in Vietnam. I initially thought it was a candy store or something but turns out a Fastfood chain in Vietnam, it offers burgers, chickens, fries and ice cream similar with Mcdonald’s or KFC.
- As a whole, Vietnam really surprises us in so many ways, loving the adventure and trip we had plus the fact that it is cheap
- We bought some coffee pasalubong in Bui Vien also the soft pants you’ll see in Manila for sale at P450.00 each, they sell it all here super cheap!!! It almost cost P150.00 per piece in Vietnam
- If you’ll have your Indochina Trip as well, make sure to do your pasalubong shopping here in Vietnam (*I regretted this when we were in Cambodia and Thailand)
- Take note that everything in Vietnam have payment
- They don’t give free water, better you buy thru 711 around for a liter sized bottled water
- They give you Wet Wipes and charge you 1.000 VND for it after
- SCAM is really rampant here in Vietnam, we were deceived by a coconut vendor while walking around the street and sell you food and drinks x3 the usual price.
- After encountering 2 of them who only offers service or food for an expensive amount, we then realized that talking to fellow tourists is better or never talk to random people around (for safety)
- Traffic is really worse also in Vietnam (*similar with Manila) that is why Motorbikes is widely used here as a means of transportation
- You’ll get to enjoy Vietnam on the other hand, just take a look at what best interests you.
- I’ll be sharing my full excel guide on this with my full blog Indochina Trip as well.
If you’ll ask my favorite part of my Vietam Experience – that would be the Coffee and Food I’ve tasted and had!!! The entire trip was my favorite minus the SCAM around hahahaha!!
If you’d ask me on my full Vietnam Budget — following this itinerary I did spend less than Php 10,000 for this almost 4 days trip in Vietnam, plus the splurge in food and the trips we had.
The next morning — we are now bound to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Sharing our detailed excel itinerary and actual expense during the trip. Please be advised that you may use it as as reference if you find it fitting for you.
Should you need an excel file of my full itinerary during my trip, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @nathaliecsalcedo send me a DM! I’ll be happy to share it too.
If you are into your Indochina Trip as well check on my “Cross Border Details to Cambodia from Vietnam” —– Also Read :Crossing border from Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) to Cambodia (Siem Reap) via bus
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TO MORE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS. – XOXO
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