Guide for First Time Visitor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

12:42:00 AM

Hi guys...

I haven't been blogging as much as usual lately because i've been having problems with the internet (Aarghhhh Indonesian internet, why you so slowww >.<!!!) and the internet company only said that they're having some user overload problem and it might continue until Idul Fitri *sigh*. Anyway, in case you're wondering what's up with the title (since my loyal readers would know that my recent trip was to Bandung/Jakarta, not Vietnam!), let me tell you straight up that i am writing this post to participate in Eat and Travel with BBlog Competition.

Since i always blog about my travels right away and feel that this post should be about something more special than my annual Bandung/Jakarta trip, i decided to dug up my old pictures (it's actually from 2012 so it's not actually ancient, but i looked really different @__@. Very doughy too because it was right before i started working out regularly again zzz) of our trip to Vietnam since i didn't have a blog back then (it was in mid 2012 and we only started this blog on December 2102), i've never shared about this trip to Vietnam yet.

We went to Vietnam with no solid plan on what to do and where we're going to go (except for Chu Chi tunnel, i already knew we had to go there!) and how we're going to get there, we basically just... wing it! Thank God everything turned out right (beside the fact that we got cheated on by a trickshaw driver and almost got robbed by a taxi driver... Be careful with public transportation there!) and now i decided to do make a list of places to go and somewhat a guide for first time tourist visiting Ho Chi Minh City!

Me and my hunny at Chu Chi Tunnel, 2012. The only decent picture (where i look a bit slim) taken while we were in Vietnam :p
We joined day local tours (from one travel agent. In tourist areas you'll see stretches of travel agencies side by side, since we were very satisfied by the first tour that we blindly took, we decided not to risk it and kept on taking other destination tours from the same agent!) for three days (and roam the last one by ourselves) and here's a list of (the top) must visit places in Ho Chi Minh City :

1. Cao Dai Temple
One of the most unique things about Vietnam is one of their religions (of course i am not talking about every Vietnamese, there are Christians, Moslem etc too here-in fact i think it's just a very small population left who still practices this believe, please correct me if i'm wrong-i had to gather the information via Google mixed with what our tour leader *who was very nice and friendly but didn't exactly speak good English :p* told me) called Caodaism that is a mixed of four different religions. We were taken to Cao Dai Temple to witness the practice of Caodaism ceremony that truly is unique since we saw elements of different religions being showed in one ceremony.
The beautiful architecture of Cao Dai Temple
Even their ceremonial costumes reflects the mixture of different religions, also their mannerism and movements


The temple was stunning and the ceremony really interesting. Please show some respect and not making any unnecessary noises (i hate obnoxious tourists >.<) during the ceremony (it's not just for show, you know!) should you ever find yourself visiting the place :).

2. Chu Chi Tunnels

Hunny at Chu Chi Tunnels' video watching spot with the photo-bombing Caucasian lady *LOL*
This is the main place that attracted me to visit Vietnam in the first place. I know it's hard to believe looking at my photos and my usual blog posts about beauty/fashion/whatever, but i'm very interested in history, war, etc. I saw the pictures of Chu Chi Tunnels in various websites and especially curious about the tiny holes where Vietnamese shouldiers would hide in. It looks like this :
It truly is small and someone with my hunny's stature might get stuck in it *LOL*. No, we didn't try getting in, but a Caucasian guy did. Too bad i was not a seasoned photographer yet (i consider myself one now *LOL*, at least i am now always ready for any moment with my camera on my hands! And i avoid snapping pics with camera straps on it like this one :p)
The fascinating tiny tunnels (you literally have to crouch/crawls) that's totally long and crazy
Yes, i went in. I'm a bit claustrophobic (but not too bad), i did gave up and exited on the first exit they had. The tunnel that we went in actually still goes on very long. Most (original) tunnels were buried already and these were newly widened to accommodate tourists since the original tunnels were really tiny-Vietnamese soldiers were teeny tiny little thingy back then! And they lived there for months! Craziness! It's just that i had to crawl (coz walking while crouching is impossible for me) and my knees hurts! But i can proudly say that i've been inside a Chu Chi Tunnel and survived it!
Another entry way to a tunnel. There were lots of them (but only two were designed and open for tourists-safety reasons!)
There were also dioramas showing you the soldiers lives back then. Lots of female soldiers too
You can also get your hands on gun shooting, for a price-of course. Guns are scary and really really loud (it was the first time i've ever been to a real shooting range and i hated it-i guess Baby Boy inherited his fear of loud noises from me!) and i had to cover both my ears tightly coz i was really scared. Hunny enjoyed trying out shooting guns though
We also sampled the simple meals that the soldiers used to have. Just some boiled cassava (i had hard times explaining to a Caucasian what cassava was. I guess Westerners are not familiar with them. They kept on asking if it was sweet potatoes, i told them it was cassava and they asked me what the English name was. Cassava is in English, you know!) that's also an Indonesian kampung (village, traditional) delicacy so there's nothing new, the crushed peanut dip however-was.
Chu Chi Tunnels were beyond fascinating, be prepared to be dusty and dirty of course (you'd be crawling on dirt!) but it's so worth the experience. It's crazy imagining people who actually had to live in that kind of place at one point! I already knew we'd be going to these kind of places so i came prepared with leggings, loose pants and loose clothing for this trip (i had no interests in being fashionable for the first time in a trip *LOL*). Vietnam has a similar weather to Indonesia and it was boiling HOT when we were there (you can see how dark my hunny turned when we were there. He went back to his fair complexion within a few weeks, but he was really tanned for a while!) so be prepared if you're thinking of visiting!

3. Mekong River

I'm sure you've heard of Mekong river before? It's really famous and all. I didn't know much about Vietnam before, but i certainly heard of Mekong River. Had to take a boat to go to Mekong Delta , there were a few islands there (if i remember correctly) and we were taken to the bigger ones. The little cruise reminded me so much of Thai's Chao Praya river cruise!
We get to sample various tropical fruits there (btw i just saw the woman in red jacket, she totally look like #Undecided from this angle! Skinniness and the hair!) but since Indonesia is also in South East Asia, we have a lot of similar fruits (again, we turned into our natural role as tour leaders explaining to our fellow tourists about the tropical fruits because we know more about them *LOL*. We do have degrees in tourism as you should already know by now!) so we were just enjoying them without too much interests
Except for this one. LOL. It's called Vu Sua or breast milk fruit (REALLY!!!) and we've never seen them before. Tastes a lot like Srikaya (custard-apple) but smoother and yummier. I'm not sure real breast milk tastes as good though...
We were also serenaded by slender Vietnamese ladies...
Then took these boats (driven by females!) along the river that goes into the sea! (Total madness! We had to transfer from the little boat to a bigger one in the middle of the sea, scared the hell out of me!) Now, i am all for nature and stuffs, but i am terrified of uneven surfaces and i almost cried when i had to go down from the platform into the very wobbly boat. Kong (our tour leader for two straight days) told me to jump and i did, almost making the whole boat toppled over -___- how embarrassing!!

We had pre-booked meal (which was a bit... sad... LOL) from the tour but hunny couldn't resist ordering the weirder menus. The "dinosaur egg" was actually empty inside and a bit tough and chewy (can't explain well, sorry! Hunny thinks it was made from sticky rice fried to a crisp, i have no idea if he's just making it up :p) and the silkworm attracted other tourists to take pictures of hunny chowing it down *LOL*
Hunny also tried feeding the crocodiles (who seemed to be very full and disinterested. At one point hunny even put the meat on top of one of the crocodiles and it just stayed still, not minding the insult *LOL!*)
4. Independence Palace

The third day was our last day taking a day tour and it was a city tour. While the previous two days' tours were worth every penny (the prices were actually really low, like USD 12 per person!), the city tour was not. BUT! It's safer to take tours rather than venturing on your own in Ho Chi Minh City because there are a lot of scammers lurking there! Make sure you have small changes ready (so you can pay trickshaw driver/whatever the exact amount they asked for) and only take credible taxis.
The Independence Palace was pretty fascinating (because i love museums and historical landmarks in general) but i'd rather roam these kind of places by myself because we'd get to spend as much time as we want and not being pressed for time. These kind of places also poked envy in me, i was like... Vietnam, which is less forward (by a mile) than Indonesia in every way can preserve their historical places so well and turn them into wonderful tourist attractions. Why can't we? The state of OUR historical places (like President Soekarno's jail site, or even Museum Fatahillah!) are super sad! Comparing our crazy glamorous malls with Vietnamese scarce and very blah malls is like the total opposite of the tourist attraction places' conditions. I wonder how we get our priorities so wrong like that....

5. Handicapped Hadicrafts
I know zero thing about Vietnamese history prior to this trip, but i learnt so much (not always about pleasant things as well) about them by the time we get back to Indonesia. One of the most remarkable thing i learnt was about how around 3 million Vietnamese were affected (and still are) by agent orange. So many people are left with handicapped, and many carried them in their DNA until today. That's why we saw so many handicapped people in Vietnam! At least their government (and mostly Red Cross, i think) aided them with many work opportunities such as working at these handicrafts places.

Fascinating painting made entirely from crushed egg shells
6. War Remnants Museum

Other than Chu Chi tunnels, this museum is the other place that left the deepest impression in my heart. The exhibition was raw, honest and totally open your eyes to the ugliness of wars. It was a totally different atmosphere and i actually started crying reading the descriptions and seeing the pictures.
As we watch so much Hollywood movies, we're used to hear about Vietnamese soldiers being the bad ones and how US veterans suffers because of that war bla bla bla, it's nice to see from the other side of the table and learn to be more neutral. 

Even though the place made me so so sad (even writing this, 2 years later, i feel a heaviness in my heart when think back of the place) it's also a very good place. It humbles me, humanize me, and for a second stops me from being superficial and shallow-and remember, no matter how troubled i feel over stupid matters (someone telling me i gain weight, or my style is weird, all those stupid things) i am an incredibly lucky human being and i should care more about other people in need rather than getting trapped in my own superficial world. 

For that reasons and the fact that we were given very limited time there, we decided to go back the next day to really explore (and got tricked by trickshaw drivers. LOL).
The outdoor area (complete with actual "tiger cages" for prisoner, etc) we didn't get to explore the previous day
I personally highly recommending this place for all human beings. If you are a person with a heart, you'd wish for no war ever again, especially after visiting this place.

7. Water Puppet Theatre

After feeling very sad in the war museum, some light hearted entertainment couldn't be more welcome. We were (again) scammed *LOL* by a taxi driver this time, it was really scary because he started to shout violently at us. NEVER follow a seemingly nice taxi driver asking you where you want to go and always check the argo, they scam people by adding another 0 to the meter. Like Indonesian rupiah, Vietnamese Dong has a lot of zeros (worse because their money is actually worth less than half of ours) but in Indonesian (credible) taxis they'd separate the zeros by coma, while the Vietnamese taxi scammers' meter has no coma or dot so tourists would be confused to see so many zeros and assumed that it's the right start. 

In our case, we should've paid DO 30.000 because the place was very very close, but the driver demanded 300.000! We handed him 100.000, he hid it and insisted that we hadn't paid him! It was super scary because he kept on shouting and threatening us, thankfully i already opened my door (we googled later and apparently a lot of tourists got the same experience and the taxi driver would lock them from the inside and bring metal bars to hit tourists who resist!!!) and there's a police car nearby, the scam-driver then drove off with the door still opened when we asked him to settle the problem with the policeman.
I was literally shaking, but soon calmed down and able to laugh off the whole thing. Being scammed twice in one day :D LOL. Anyway, this was another thing we've seen on TV prior to the trip and i thought a water puppet show should be interesting!
It really was nice, and affordable. One thing i really love about Vietnam (and Taiwan) is how cheap everything was >.<. Sometimes i got confused by their currency that i tried bargaining stuffs that were already dirt cheap (like an IDR 12.500 tee shirt). If only the airplane ticket to these two countries are as cheap as say, tickets to Malaysia or Singapore i'd be going there at least twice a year. Each. *LOL*.

8. Ho Chi Minh Museum 

Our flight back to Indonesia was at night (this was the 6th day. I like to explore a city to the max that's why we stayed so long in HCM City!) so we had a lot of free time still. I really wanted to visit the Mausoleum but the location's kinda far and it's really hard to get a taxi driver who could understand us (Vietnamese really cannot speak English mostly. Like, REALLY!)  so we settled for easier to access museum. There are apparently a few museums calling themselves Ho Chi Minh museums dedicated to the charismatic and well loved late Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh-and we ended up in this one.
Honestly i didn't find this museum to be as good as the other museums we went to in this trip. But the beautiful scenery and building itself was worth a visit.

9. Hard Rock Cafe
I don't know, i think for people from our generation Hard Rock Cafe is like a must visit place no matter where we are *LOL*.
What surprised us was again the prices, like everything else (well, almost everything. Branded stuffs are crazy expensive there *LOL*) in Vietnam, it was cheaper than any other Hard Rock Cafe we've ever been to! Almost couldn't believe our eyes when the bill came out *LOL*.

And of course, when you're in a new country : try their local food. 

This was taken the first night, just after we arrived from the airport at a little Spanish influenced little cafe nearby our hotel (we completed our semi backpacking experienced by staying at a cheap little hotel. It was really cheap but i'm easily disgusted so now i've increased our hotel rate's allowance whenever we travel so we can stay at nice hotels *LOL*)

Arguably the most famous Vietnamese food, pho. I am not a fan, too much lemon grass and i HATE lemon grass. I can't taste anything but lemon grass and blandness >.<
My hunny is a foodie (i am not. I love food and eating, but i'm very picky and stick to what i know while he likes to try new, weird things) so he tried a lot of local street snacks. Unfortunately since i was not a blogger yet back then (about 4 or 5 months too early!) i didn't take a lot of food pictures unlike now where nobody around me gets to eat before i snap a picture!

This one i approve, kinda like a pork sandwich (Vietnamese eats a LOT of pork so Moslem tourists gotta be more careful when dining there :)...) with ciabatta bread
And this weird poppiah, look at the papery thin wrap!
It was see through and tastes quite like real paper *LOL*. It's made from rice flour though, don't worry. I'm again, not a fan *LOL*, a bit too tough and weird for my tastebud
That wraps up my little guide for first time visitors of Ho Chi Minh City! While i write these summaries of each places, i went through all the pictures and memories took me back there! I have so many pictures and stories to tell, i'm thinking of writing a more detailed posts about each place. Would you be interested in reading them?

Anyway, this post is especially written to join BBlog 's competition

And the sponsors for this awesome competition :
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Hope you enjoyed reading it!
 
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10 comments

  1. I also want to visit the chu chi tunnels someday ci >_< heard it from the history class and the story behind is so interesting~

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    1. Really??? Last time we chat i thought you're only interested in places where you can shop hahaha... And yes, very interesting place, i don't think we learned about this place back in the day though! Different generation haha

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  2. I miss Vietnam! I am now craving for their pho. :9

    xx
    http://felishmichelle.blogspot.com

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    1. Hahaha that's great, sadly pho doesn't agree with my tastebud :p!

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  3. Very usely post.. a lot of fantastic advice!!

    www.agoprime.it

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  4. Dear Mindy,
    Thank you for sharing so nice trip tips with us! I really loved to see Vietnam through your photos! many kisses

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    1. Thank you Babi, your comment brightened up my day :)

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  5. hahaha, bule gak ngerti singkong ya ci ? kalau dikasih keripik singkong balado pasti ketagihan tuh, hehehe....

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    1. Iya nih, sampe pusing jelasinnya... Potato2 mulu, di bilangin buka juga!!! LOL

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