That’s right, Ho Chi Minh (HCM) or what the Vietnamese people would rather call it by the old town name, Saigon. Located in the South and once divided by war, Ho Chi Minh is now a bustling city. It was named after the President, Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh is the prefect getaway for a short weekend: 3 Days/2 nights. Allow one more day should you wish to take this opportunity to visit Mekong River (2 hrs drive) or neighboring countries such as Cambodia (Phnom Penh) which is 280km, just 5 hours drive away from HCM.
Singapore being one of the major transit hub within ASEAN is only a short flight time of 1 hour 45 minutes from HCM. Many major airlines flies from Singapore to HCM and that includes Singapore Airline, TigerAir, Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air. With seats only at a promotional price of SGD$50 for a return trip, VietJet certainly caught my attention.
By the way, the flight was full for both sector until the extent that my 2 other travel buddies were seated away from each other. HCM is 1 hour behind Singapore time and we arrive there at 2pm (Vietnam time).
Getting from Airport to Hotel
Most tourists would stay in District 1, which is 6km away from HCM airport. The recommended way of getting to the hotel is via taxi.
In HCM, 2 taxi companies are deemed to be reliable. These taxis travel strictly by meter and they do not take the long way. Although some drivers might use the meter as well, they are likely to take the long route before arriving at your destination, thus incurring more charges. The recommended taxis in HCM are either Mailinh Taxi (green colour) or Vinasun Taxi (white colour). See picture below.
The taxi charges for Vinasun Taxi:
The trip from airport to your hotel located at District 1 costs around 200,000- 250,000 dong. Anything more than that, you know you are in for a ride. We checked into our SGD$53 per night VIP room at Hoang Dung Hotel. Our VIP room comes with a balcony and splendid room setting.
HCM is divided into many different districts for easy navigation. A quick guideline of what one can expect to see in different districts are as follow.
District 1: Recommended place to find room accommodation for budget conscious travellers and popular among tourist. Many tour agencies offering tour packages such as Cu Chi Tunnel and the famous Ben Thanh Market are found here.
District 2: Beginning to have more drinking outlets, developing for foreigners.
District 3: Quieter and where more locals can be found. Dining restaurants are beginning to spruce there with many foreign embassies and French colonial buildings could be spotted.
District 4: Avoid this area if you can as this area is well known to have more gangsters.
District 5: Chinatown area where streets are often crowded with people. However, come to think about it, which district in HCM is not crowded. . .
District 7: What the locals call it as Korean Town. Unless you are Korean and want to eat your Korean food, otherwise you can give it a miss.
After checking into the hotel, we headed straight out to Ben Thanh Market (10 minutes walk away) which is the tourist market. One can get fresh fruits, tourist souvenirs, booking of tour packages and more shopping here!
Do not take the tours offered by the hotel as they are usually charging higher such as the one in my hotel which charges at 750,000 Vietnamese Dong. Instead, head down to near Ben Thant Market where there are many Tourist Information Center as seen below.
The half day Cu Chi Tunnel tour we registered costs us 320,000 Dong per person (includes admission fee). You could see the huge savings. Should you be looking for money changer, you will be disappointed to find few or rather none with the word written “Money Changer”. The official money changer would often be at hotel reception or another way is at these Tourist Centers.
You can book the local tour packages and change money with them at the same time to enjoy better exchange rate. One point to note: as it is their own personal money, at time they do not have that much cash with them too.
The night was spent exploring the wonders and sights of the city glowing brightly in the night.
Everyone heard of the infamous Vietnam War with the Americans and certainly HCM is part of it. I am not a history lover but one should visit this city to learn more about the devastating effects war have till this day. And what more way than to visit Cu Chi Tunnel. You will be amaze by how intelligent and the fighting spirit that Vietnamese posses to gain freedom & independence.
We took the tour which pick us up from our hotel lobby at 8.30am and will finish our tour around 3pm, leaving us at the Ben Thanh Market. In HCM, the tours are usually depart in small vans such as the one below. Maximum number of travellers they can pick up is 13 adults.
Cu Chi tunnel is 70km away from HCM and it takes around 1.5 hours to get there. We will given each a wet towel (useful to wipe your hands after exploring the tunnel) and a bottle of water during the tour.
Upon entering, one will first watch the documentary films together with a model showing the different basement levels that were built. Some basic information is that the tunnel is more than 200km long!
Explore the inside tunnel passage. There is no need to bring torch lights along as it is brightly lit. With 5 exits depending on how long you would want to explore with the first exit being less than 50 meters away.
The trademark picture that one have to take at Cu Chi tunnel and our guide showing us the traps that were used during the war.
You can get to try on some shooting using the various guns that were on offer.
Our educational historical tour at Cu Chi tunnels took us exactly 2 hours. We leave the place at 1.45pm and arrive into HCM at 3.15pm. It was free & easy for us from then on! Our hunt for food begins and in HCM, the very thing you need to do is to try their coffee. Do what the locals does by sipping a black cup of coffee while watching the world goes by.
We finished off with a BBQ & grilled seafood dinner at Ben Thanh Market. The damage was less than SGD$25 per person and our stomach were full to the brim.
Beside that, the night market at Ben Thanh area were lively with many stalls selling shirts, souvenirs, hats, bags, etc. Rule of the shopping scene here is to bargain and one can bargain as much as 70% off the initial price! However, bargain only if you really want the item and not for fun. Appear uninterested if the price you want is not met, walk away and the next moment, you clinch the deal.
We woke up to a fantastic soup base (Pho Beef) breakfast at the hotel.
After which, we visited the war remnants museum. It is located about 25 minutes walk away from our hotel. It is within walk-able distance from Ben Thant market, the main tourist hotels location. This would be a must visit attraction in HCM as well.
Here you will learn more about the Vietnam War and the sufferings of the people at that time. One will be touch to tears with all the pictures and words written over the exhibit.
We rounded up our trip with more food and that includes Vietnamese Spring Roll and BBQ pork noodles which taste heavenly.
We took the later VietJet flight back to Singapore that departs HCM at 2pm local time. HCM is an hour behind Singapore. We arrive back Singapore at 5pm local time via VietJet.
This was how we spend 3 Days/2nights in Ho Chi Minh, a city just 1 hour 45 minutes away from Singapore that enable one to learn great history lessons and taste nice food together with some street shopping.
A short video summarise the whole 3 Days/2 Nights trip to Ho Chi Minh.
This article was originally published by TheGuyTravel, a travel enthusiast who seeks adventure travels and aspire to visit exotic countries.
The original post can be viewed here.