My weekend trip to Vietnam started on a Friday. I had my flight scheduled at 10:50 PM (PH time) and I would be arriving in Vietnam at 12:20 AM.
My work ends at 5:30 PM. I just had a change of clothes and I already proceeded to the airport. Since it is a payday weekend, I opted to use this newly downloaded app that I have – Grab Taxi – so I can get a ride to the airport. I’d write a separate review on the app which by the way is quite cool. J
After about half an hour, I was already at the airport. I was quite early that the check in counter is not yet open so I just whiled away the time watching Harry Potter on my phone. After a while, I paid for travel tax – Php 1,620 and I checked in to get my boarding pass and proceeded to look for dinner. By the way, I still don’t understand why would we have to pay for travel tax when I have already paid taxes for my plane ticket and paid for airport terminal fee. Is it because I would be spending money outside the country and the government makes sure I give them some before I do so? But I already paid income taxes! All 32% of it! Oh well. Anyways, I had to eat something heavy since flights usually leave me hungry. It’s only a three-hour flight but still. Plus during that time, I kinda felt a bit sick with the flu so I had to take meds just to be sure I won’t spend the weekend holed up in the hotel.
My flight departed on time and after 3 hours, I was in Vietnam . J It is only then that I realized that I wouldn’t be able to speak in Filipino for the next two days and would have to speak in English. It’s not a problem really. Just weird that I only thought of it when the plane landed in the country I’m visiting. Since I would be arriving in the wee hours of the morning, I have asked my hotel to provide me an airport transfer. When I went out of the airport, the guy from Nguyen Khang hotel was sitting with the rest of the crowd with names on paper probably waiting for other passengers like me. I said good morning and said I’m (my name) and pointed to the piece of paper with my name on it which he was holding. He didn’t smile. He basically ignored me and just made sure that I followed him to the car. I guess he doesn’t like the time that he had to fetch me. Well, wait till he needs to bring me to the airport on my flight back. Hehehehehe.
Nguyen Khang is one of those budget hotels located along the backpackers area along Pham Ngu Lao. We entered a side street and along the row of other hotels is Nguyen Khang. We went up one flight of stairs and on the top of the stairs, the driver tapped on the glass wall. Apparently, Ms. Huong, the one I have corresponded with sleeps on the lobby of the hotel. She let us in and then the driver magically disappeared. J Ms. Huong has been very accommodating asking me if I want anything prepared. I just asked for a bottle of drink which I got from the ref on the lobby. I got the key to my room which was just on the side of the lobby. Here’s what the room looks like. Was OK considering the price (23 USD per night).
After unpacking, (I can’t sleep without doing it) I slept. Woke up at around 6:00 AM and just got ready for a long day. Around 7:00 AM, I had some of my USD changed into VND. I became an instant millionaire! Lol.
After that I got breakfast downstairs. Breakfast is free and this is what I have:
I love the coffee. I take mine black with a bit of sugar, no cream. Good! Strong but good. I also like the baguette. The baguette I buy here (even in Rustans) is a bit tough. This one is different. The outer part is really crusty like the ones in croissant. It’s like a long croissant. Flaky in the outside, a bit gooey and chewy in the inside. J After breakfast, I showered and waited for someone to fetch me for my CuChi- Cao Dai trip. At around 8:30, Mr. Binh from the travel agency fetched me and a couple from another hotel. We waited along the main street for our tour bus. Was lucky to get a window seat. J Along the way, we also got a few more tourists who would be joining the tour. On one stop, a Malaysian couple boarded the bus but they had to take separate seats coz the bus is full.
Our first stop was at a Handicapped Handicrafts. Mr. Binh says that it is a place where some of those that were injured due to the war use their skills and create lacquer artworks. They also use eggshells, paints and mother of pearl (?) to create really good paintings. Here’s a few of snapshots of the shop and the items they made:
I actually enjoyed seeing all the paintings and other items they have on display. They are all a bit pricey though. I just thought, well they worked hard to create it. So I chose two ref magnets which I usually buy as a souvenir and a small box with a comb on it for Nanay. Unfortunately, I was scammed. The girl who helped me doubled the price of the box with the comb. And ‘coz of the confusion with the currency, I only realized it when I saw the receipt when I got back to the hotel. It was only supposed to cost 110.000 VND but the OR shows 220.000. Why?? Why do that? I don’t normally buy at souvenir shops ‘coz I know it costs more but at that time I thought, what the heck. I’d pay a few more but at least it’s for a good cause. Shame on you! Oh well.
When we were getting back to the bus, the Malaysian woman I was sitting with asked me if it is OK for me to exchange seats with his boyfriend so they can sit together. I of course said yes. No worries. Well, I was at least expecting a thank you but none was given. What is wrong with people? Saying thank you is free. Use it freely! I got to sit beside a male Caucasian. Solo traveler too. Didn’t’ talk to him ‘cause… I just don’t. Hehehehe. The thing is, he is big and he occupies some of my space. L In fairness to him, he does try to keep within his space but he is too tall that it is just not possible. So for the rest of the trip, I had to put up with sitting at the edge of my seat that my back hurts a bit.
Our second stop was at Cao Dai temple. It is a very colorful temple wherein they pray for all religions. Cool! Here’s some pics.
The monks(?) wearing blue prays for the Catholics and Christians.
After around 20 minutes of watching them pray, we went back to the bus so we can have lunch and be on our way to CuChi tunnel. When I boarded the bus, I got a bit disoriented. My seat was missing. Well, it was still there but someone else is sitting on it. And my big guy seatmate was at the front row of our seat. So I took my things (water bottle and souvenir item I bought) from my already occupied seat and settled on the front row. This ala Trip to Jerusalem of ‘stealing’ seats continued all thru out the trip. Again, why people? Why? Whether you sit at the back or at the front, we would all be going to the same place. It’s the same bus! Oh well.
We stopped at a restaurant and I opted for this meal. Rice and some fried shrimp.
After the meal, we started our travel to CuChi tunnel which seems like almost two hours. During the first hour, Mr. Binh told us a bit about Vietnam , the tunnels, the war and about himself. I think he’s a bit on the angry side. Lol. But he does love Vietnam . I guess that qualifies him to do the tour.
At the CuChi tunnels, we paid 90,000 VND for entrance fee. This wasn’t included in the trip. We were shown a battle tank, some of the opening of the tunnels and the traps that the Vietnamese soldiers used. We also got to know how they survived by being innovative and using their familiarity with their surroundings. You can also fire a gun if you want to but I didn’t go for it. Highlight of this trip was us trying to get on the tunnel. I think it is around 100 meters. That was cool! J The only downside is it was too hot on the tunnels that when we got back in the bus, there was a definite ahhhmm ripe smell. J
That was the end of that day tour and we travelled for another 2 hours to go back to the city. At around 7:30 PM, we stopped in a street where most of the travel agencies are. Only, I was not told that we won’t be brought back to our hotel. I had to find my way back! There is a reason why I need GPS. I am very bad with directions and the only direction I got from Mr. Binh is that I go straight ahead and turn left. Duh. Oh well, so I walked. And walked. And walked. When I was almost ready to spend on a mobile phone call to the hotel to get directions, Ms. Huong greeted me on the streets. She was just buying her dinner and I was actually near the hotel. On the back side of the street, but still near. So I got back to the hotel and rested for just a bit (like 20 minutes) and went out again to look for a grocery store. Why? Cause I’m gonna buy some coffee and noodles. Lol. Ms. Huong gave me a map and even accompanied me out on the streets to show me which way to go. But of course, I got lost. As expected. And not just once but three times. Once going to the Coop Mart and twice trying to go back to the hotel while carrying two large bags of coffee, tea, dried fruits and noodles. I spent 357,600 VND (around Php 715) for groceries. J
Back at the hotel, I just deposited the groceries at my room and went out again to find dinner. It was already past 9:00 PM so I just ate at the first resto I found. Their beef pho was good and the serving was big. Didn’t realize it would be that big that I also ordered fried spring rolls which I didn’t touch and just asked for take out. For this meal, I paid 123,000 VND. Food was good and cheap and they have a strong wifi that I was also able to video chat with my cousin in UAE while having my dinner. J
I actually wanted to have a beer when I finished my meal but decided against it. First, I really don’t drink and I don’t know how much the alcohol volume of a Vietnamese beer is. Second, I have another whole day tour the following day which starts at around 8:00 AM and lastly, my body craves rest.
Beer and water, same cost. 🙂 Beer drinkers heaven. Lol.
So that’s the end of my Vietnam trip Day 1. Expenses are within the budget. J