We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Boston...
Level Contributor
851 posts
17 reviews
Save Topic
Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City a day late, after having missed our connecting flight. We were coming from Boston, were supposed to fly United from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, but because of a flight delay, missed it. He got us onto a Singapore Air flight to Singapore instead, and from there it was a 3-hour layover then another hour and a half to HCM. By the time we arrived, we’d been traveling for 38 hours and I was exhausted, but…in a new place and excited to be there, I got a second wind. I had to! There was all this traffic to contend with. As we drove into the city from the airport all I could think was: oh my God. Nobody had told me about the MOTOS.

I got settled in my guest house, Kim Hotel in District 1 (my friends were staying at the Sheraton on Dong Khoi while I was in the “backpacker area”) then decided to walk around for a bit before meeting up for dinner.

I headed in the general direction of Dong Khoi, and of course the first thing I was confronted with was how to cross the street. For those who don’t know, the streets of Vietnam are choked with motorbikes: it’s the preferred mode of transportation. Streetlights are considered “a guide,” so the traffic basically never stops. I stood on the curb and waited until a local person arrived, and she must have seen my trepidation. She gave me a wink and a smile, and held out her hand. We crossed the street hand in hand and then went on her way.

My first major stop was the Ben Tranh Market I had heard so much about. What a gas! An enclosed market with narrow aisles where everything is sold from fish heads to Buddha statues to chintzy bedspreads to beautiful silk goods. In the middle are food stalls, and after walking around for a bit in the un-airconditioned market I had to stop for a mango smoothie. That set me back 10,000 dong, or about 70 cents USD.

I walked around some more, took more photos, then was back on the streets. I met the guys at the Sheraton and we decided to have a pre-dinner drink at that famous hotel, the Majestic. From their rooftop bar we watched night fall and the city and Saigon River light up. With the dark wood of the bar, the ceiling fans, and the black and white photos on the wall, I could imagine the hotel as it must have been during the time Graham Greene wrote “The Quiet American.” It was a lovely, evocative place to start the evening.

For dinner we went to a place recommended in our guidebook, one where you eat outside in a leafy courtyard and where the specialty is a sort of crepe that can be filled with anything from grilled prawns to scallions and vegetables.

It had been quite hot during the day, low 30s, but it was pleasant now, and we meandered down the leafy boulevards back to the Dong Khoi area where we had read about a café that afforded a good vista of the motorbike traffic. We stopped at Highland Coffee for a glass of good, strong Vietnamese coffee, iced. After a few minutes a young Vietnamese man sat down next to us. He had gone to college in France, and his English was also perfect. He asked us about the American presidential election. (This was a recurring theme throughout my trip.) We chatted for a while, then the 3 of us realized how tired we were and decided to call it a night and said goodbye.

As we walked into the street and I said goodnight to my friends, I realized I was about a mile from my hotel. I started down the street then noticed a guy on a moto asking if I wanted a taxi. Did I dare?

I asked him how much and it was only 15,000 or a US dollar to go to my hotel, so I took the helmet from him and hopped on. It’s hard to explain how exhilarating it was weaving through Saigon traffic at night on a motorbike. The thing that had initially caused me so much trepidation I now felt like I had embraced: I’d joined the moto culture, I really was in Vietnam. And I was loving every minute of it.

Trip Report, Day 1. More to follow...

Hanoi Transfer Service
Private Tours, Sightseeing Tours, Taxis & Shuttles, Mass Transportation Systems, City Tours
Asia Pearl Travel - Day Tours
Taxis & Shuttles, Private Tours, City Tours, Boat Tours, Food Tours
Tour From Hue - Day Tours
Sightseeing Tours, 4WD, ATV & Off-Road Tours, City Tours, Taxis & Shuttles, Private Tours
Hue Private Transfers
Taxis & Shuttles, City Tours, Historical & Heritage Tours
Miranda, Sydney
Level Contributor
3,366 posts
40 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Wow! Can't wait for the next instalment - it's like a story - so beautifully written.Do you think District 1 is the place to stay? What's your hotel like?

Looking forward to your next one,

Thanks so much,

Sandy

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
3,963 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Hi, loved your report, looking froward reading more.

Lee

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
307 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Love your report. Can you remember the name and address of the restaurant where you had the crepes.

Pam

Australia
Level Contributor
698 posts
40 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Great report Majnuni. Yes I like the feeling when getting around by motocycle taxi, and it's really cheap,much quicker than a normal taxi.

Pam: I think the crepe Majnuni mentioned is Bánh xèo (Sizzling pancake) though I am not sure where He(She?)ate.

Northern England
Level Contributor
6 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Hi,

Thanks for the info. We will be arriving in HCMC on 28th April and since reading your posting cant wait to get there.

Look forward to the next installment.

Boston...
Level Contributor
851 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Hey, thanks for reading, everyone! I've been kind of slammed at work since I got back a week+ ago, but hope to write the next installment--HCMC to the Mekong Delta--shortly.

Sandy, it was your post about the dearth of trip reports that encouraged me to write. I believe the restaurant I mentioned is Restaurant 31, located at D Chau Van Liem Street, in the Dong Khoi area. (I'm going to email my friend, who took copious notes.) It's known as a barbecue restaurant, and that's why I went with the grilled shrimp-filled pancake. Incredible. The 3 of us spent 150,000 dong there, beers included.

I got a PM noting that Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American using the Continental Hotel, not the Majestic, as his point of reference. I knew that, but was trying to get across that the Majestic bar evokes that era more than anything else.

MDNE, what can I say except that I'm jealous. You're going to love it. HCM was originally a point of entry to the Mekong Delta and onto Cambodia (Angkor Wat) for me, but I was knocked out by it. So much so that I altered the 2nd half of my trip, moving onto Hanoi rather than Bangkok so I could see more of VN.

Incidentally, I'm a she!

Boston...
Level Contributor
851 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Oh, Sandy, I would say District 1 is most definitely the place to stay.

My hotel, Kim on Bui Vien in the backpacker area, was fine but nothing special. I don't know what your style of travel or budget is, but if it's more upmarket you'll probably want to base yourselves in the Dong Khoi area. Although there are a lot of nice budget hotel around De Tham Street.

Ferntree Gully...
Level Contributor
1,271 posts
81 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

What a great find this is, your not a writer by any chanceare you? I am loving your stories and will refer them to another forum member who is thinking of going to Vietnam, we loved Saigon too.

Lindy.

Boston...
Level Contributor
851 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Thanks, Marilyn, and thanks for taking the time to dig that one up! I am a writer, but I actually wrote those reports very hastily, so I'm glad they're somewhat entertaining.

Absolutely loved Vietnam (and Cambodia).

macau
Level Contributor
63 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Vietnam Trip Report: Day 1, HCMC

Nicely described there Manjuni:) am off on the 4th june to Cam & VN.