2 Nights and 1 Day in Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam

I started a new segment in my blog since a lot of my followers asked for a sample travel itinerary. I called it, the Globetrotter’s Path. In this section, I’ll be making blog entries on how I spent my travels in a very brief and detailed way which includes tour destinations and timetables. Here is my travel route when I was in HCMC or Saigon, VietNam.

Night 1: Arrival in HCMC, VietNam

0100H – Arrived at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport and went directly to Passpor Control.
0200H – Arrived and checked in at N.Y. Kim Phuong Hotel

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N.Y Kim Phuong Hotel Contact Details

0300H – Settled in the room and got some rest.

Day 1: Free and Easy Tour within Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam

0700H – Call time! Took a bath, getting dressed, and ate breakfast.
0930H – Start of the free and easy day tour in Saigon. First on the itinerary was Saigon Opera House.

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Saigon Opera House

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The AO Show in Saigon Opera House

Seeing Saigon Opera House will only take minutes if  you are not planning to get inside the opera house. It was never in my schedule to take a peek on the insides of the opera house. I only spent 10 minutes just taking photos of the Saigon Opera House.

1005H – Next was the famous Dong Khoi Street which is also known as the famous shopping street in Saigon. Since Saigon Opera House is already located in Dong Khoi street, I just followed the street to my next destination.

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Dong Khoi Street

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Versace outlet in Dong Khoi street

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1010H – Following the Dong Khoi street, we got to see Ủy Ban Nhân Dân Thành Phố Building or also known as the People’s Committee Hall but unfortunately, Ho Chi Minh Square was currently under renovation when we were there.

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UBND Thanh Pho Building

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1030H – Got to Reunification Palace which was my next destination but I also didn’t include it in my itinerary to see the inside of the museum and its gallery.

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Reunification Palace

It has an entrance fee and opens from 0800H to 1200H with 1 hour lunch break and resumes from 1300H to 1600H daily. It is known also as the Independence Palace.

1100H – Few blocks from the Reunification Palace was the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. I spent 30 minutes in the basilica and took the time to pray for all the blessings I received. I also had time to snap some photos.

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Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

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Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

The basilica is in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It is located in downtown city and is also inspired in a French architecture.

1130H – Across the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica is the Central Post Office.

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Central Post Office

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1200H – Left the Central Post Office and went out to grab lunch. Whenever I travel, I always make sure to have time to take a rest. I went back to the hotel and took a nap.

1600H – Went back to the road and that time, I went out to the market. The most famous market is the Ben Thanh Market. It took about almost an hour to get there by walking even though it was just 1.3km away from the hotel due to I got easily distracted by how the Vietnamese people spend their everyday life on the streets. The very reason why I like walking and wandering around downtown cities.

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Ben Thanh Market

It is a large marketplace in central Ho Chi Minh and is popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, souvenirs, as well as local food cuisine. I spent an hour in the market just to get souvenirs.

Night 2: Possible Night Attractions

1800H – I passed by Mariamman Hindu Temple but the neighborhood where the temple was located was a little bit suspicious at that time so, I didn’t bother checking out and went out to get dinner before heading back to the hotel and sleep.

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Mariamman Hindu Temple

Tourist attractions at night:
-view of Saigon at night at Saigon Skydeck in BiTexco Financial Tower
-gamble at a casino in Saigon’s famous hotels
-getting drunk in Pham Ngu Lao which is the Backpacker’s hub
-enjoy music bars and night clubs
-cruise down the Saigon River while having dinner
-watch performances in Saigon Opera House
-shop until you drop in Ben Thanh Night Market

0600H – the next day, I checked out from the hotel and went to the bus station in Pham Ngu Lao Street to head to my next destination.

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Journey To The Border

In a big continent with lots of countries, going through other nations is fast and easy. It is just a journey to the border. I experienced that when I had my trip to Southeast Asia. I was in Saigon, Viet Nam and I planned to cross border going to Cambodia. I did a lot of research in different blogs and web and it was really helpful. I found out that there are bus companies that drive directly to Cambodia if you are from Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City. But, it wasn’t confirmed yet since it was only online until I got to the hotel and let them arrange a transportation for me. I was staying in N.Y. Kim Phuong Hotel at Hai Ba Truong Street, check out my blogpost by clicking here.

I have different choices of bus companies such as Sapaco Tourist, MaiLinh, Mekong Express, and etc. I chose Mekong Express Limousine Bus since I read good feedback about it. I made sure that I have arranged it ahead of time like a day before my scheduled trip. They have different time trips. Anyway, I paid the ticket for USD15.

Departure Time Schedules with Route

Departure Time Schedules with Route

Ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh

Ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh

Instructions to Passengers

Instructions to Passengers

The bus station is just located at 275F Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1. For a trip from HCMC, Viet Nam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, it will take about 6-8 hours but it depends on the border and immigration process.

Pham Ngu Lao Street

Pham Ngu Lao Street

Mekong Express Limousine Bus banner

Mekong Express Limousine Bus banner

So, I started the day early since I have booked an 0830H bus going to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had a taxi drove me from my hotel to the bus station and paid only 50,000VND. When I arrived there, the bus still hasn’t arrived so, I have to wait in their office. But 10 minutes before the schedule departure time, the bus arrived and with the assistance of the staff, they took our bags and placed it on the compartment area in the bus and we also showed our tickets since they needed to put the seat number on the bags so when we will claim it, there will be no loss or picking up the wrong luggage issue.

Mekong Express Limousine Bus office

Mekong Express Limousine Bus office

At exactly 0830H, we went our way to our destination. Snacks were served while en route.

The bus spacious with toilet at the back.

The bus is spacious with toilet at the back.

Snacks for the passengers

Snacks for the passengers

Snacks

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Snacks en route to the border

Snacks en route to the border

It took about 3-4 hours to get to Moc Bai, Tay Ninh Province which is the border of Viet Nam. We went inside the immigration office and have our passports taken by the bus staff. Staff will bring the passport for exit stamping in Viet Nam. We waited there for about an hour since there were a lot of travelers crossing borders and also waited for our names to be called. Once they called you, you just get your passport and go back to your bus since it will be another ride going to Cambodia border. You will see these views in the border.

Moc Bai Viet Nam International Border Gate

Moc Bai, Viet Nam International Border Gate

Moc Bai Viet Nam International Border Gate

Moc Bai, Viet Nam International Border Gate

Bavet, Cambodia International Border Gate

Bavet, Cambodia International Border Gate

Bavet, Cambodia International Border Gate

Bavet, Cambodia International Border Gate

For just 5 mins, you will get to see the Cambodian immigration building and directly proceed to the immigration officer to have your passport stamped for entry. The officer usually asked for how many days you will be staying in their country. It was fast and easy. I had mine stamped in just a minute. Then, I crossed the border with ease and stepped my first foot on the land of Cambodia. I was in Bavet, Svay Rieng in Cambodia and traveled about 3-4 hours again to get to Phnom Penh. We even passed through the Mekong river via ferry.

Neak Loung ferry crossing at Mekong river

Neak Loung ferry crossing at Mekong river

I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 1630H. I headed directly to the hotel to take a long rest. The whole experience was amazing and it was my first time to cross borders and hopefully, it won’t be the last.

Note:

Contact details of Mekong Express Limousine Busmekongmekong1

Sightseeing While Venturing Viet Nam

If you are wondering why sightseeing in Viet Nam is venturing, then you need to find the answer when you get there and you will be amazed. If you have been there, then, you definitely know it is a risk doing sightseeing by foot on the road.

Well, Ho Chi Minh City is indeed an amazing city. It has a lot to offer to a traveler like me who is seeking for fun and adventure. In Ho Chi Minh City or also known as Saigon, you will see great and magnificent piece of architectural designs inspired from Europe. To mention the places I’ve been to are:

1. Saigon Opera House
It is located in the famous shopping street of Dong Khoi. Saigon Opera House is inspired in a French colonial architecture. Every night, they have a show for an affordable fee.

Saigon Opera House

Saigon Opera House

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The AO Show in Saigon Opera House

The AO Show in Saigon Opera House

2. Dong Khoi Street
The street itself is a tourist attraction. It has wide choices of store known locally and internationally. Thus, a lot of tourists comes to this street to shop.

Dong Khoi Street

3. People’s Committee Hall
They also called it Ủy Ban Nhân Dân Thành Phố Building. Too shame that I didn’t appreciate the view due to the current construction of a subway yet I was able to get some photos of the building. The façade of the building was amazing.

UBND Thanh Pho Building

4. Reunification Palace
The Reunification Palace is also one of the attractions in Viet Nam. It has an entrance fee and opens from 0800H to 1200H with 1 hour lunch break and resumes from 1300H to 1600H daily. It is known also as the Independence Palace. I have decided not to go inside because there were a lot of tourists and maybe it was overcrowded. I saw almost 5 big buses coming inside so, I have thought to just take pictures outside the palace.

Reunification Palace

5. Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
The cathedral is in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It is located in downtown city and is also inspired in a French architecture. Upon seeing the cathedral, I was astonished with its magnificent design. I have the opportunity to look on the interior design and it was stunning. Since I am a Catholic, I sat down and spent almost an hour of prayers there. I made also a wish because it was my first time to get inside the church. My family does that whenever we entered a new church.

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

View Inside the Basilica

6. Central Post Office
It is just across the street from Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Currently, they are doing restoration on the right wing of the building. But it still looked great.

Central Post Office

7. Bến Thành Market
This market is so famous in the country. It is a large marketplace in central Ho Chi Minh and is popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, souvenirs, as well as local food cuisine. Most vendors here were wearing the national costume called áo dài. When you want to buy something, you can haggle the price until you can buy it at its lowest cost. I bought my souvenir here.

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market

Souvenir

Souvenir

Here is the tour map I followed during my free and easy tour and I did that by foot without any help of anything that has wheels.

Tour Map

Tour Map

OK, too much has been featured about this city yet you might still wonder why sightseeing in the country is risky. Well, in Viet Nam, most of the locals travel by motorcycle. They can take the motorbikes wherever they want to go, they even use footpaths as roads just to get away from traffic. So, if you are not careful enough, you might get hit by motorbike while walking in the sidewalk.

To sum it up, wandering in Ho Chi Minh City felt like I was somewhere in France. As you all know, Viet Nam has been under the French for quite some time during the years of 1862 to 1945. That might be the reason that most structures and buildings in the city are influenced by French.

Staying at N.Y. Kim Phuong Hotel

It was my first out of the country trip and I made sure that I will not miss any fun, thus, I always picked a hotel closest to a lot of tourist attractions. I was searching the entire web as well as the application I installed in my electronic device which is Booking.com. Then, I found N.Y. Kim Phuong Hotel.IMG_1100

I flew from Manila, Philippines to Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam and arrived there at 0020H. I was kinda nervous that the taxi cab drivers don’t know the place. Yet, I was proven wrong. I just told them the address and the taxi driver knew it at the back of his hand. It only took about 30-45 mins drive from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the city centre which is near the hotel. I paid around 150,000VND (Vietnamese Dong) to get there.

When I arrived there, the receptionist welcomed me and took my passport. No need to fill out any form for personal information, she just told me to head to my room to take some good sleep since it was dawn already. In the morning, I checked the room and it was ok. There is a cable TV, a free wi-fi connection, toiletries, towels and a fridge full with different kind of sodas and water.

Queen Size Bed

Queen Size Bed

Flat Screen Cable TV

Flat Screen Cable TV

The Toilet

The Toilet

My room was in the 10th floor. Good thing there was a lift. It has also free breakfast in their own restaurant downstairs and that made the hotel the best since it served the most delicious pho noodle soup. I also tried chao trung or a rice gruel with eggs. It made me feel really good after sipping those soup from the days I didn’t eat well.

The Menu

The Menu

Chao trung or rice gruel with egg

Chao trung or rice gruel with egg

The hotel's restaurant

The hotel’s restaurant

Pho Bo Soup

Pho Bo Soup

Additional points for the hotel is the superb services of the receptionist. He assisted me on booking my next trip to another country. He even offered a tour by bike within the city but I refused. Instead, he gave me a map and pointed out what directions to take so I won’t end up exhausted.ny2ny3

The star of the hotel may not be the facilities they have but the people working there. They are the ones making your stay memorable. I would definitely recommend this hotel to my friends who are going to Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.

Decorations in the Receiving Area

Decorations in the Receiving Area

Receiving Area and the Lift

Receiving Area and the Lift

The Best Staff of N.Y Kim Phuong Hotel

The Best Staff of N.Y Kim Phuong Hotel

Receiving Area

Receiving Area

Just outside the hotel

Just outside the hotel

Here is their contact card if you want to get with them and a map.nyny1

Start the Year in the Land of the Ascending Dragon

Previously, I’ve been inactive in my blog. Well, it was due to a busy schedule that I never got the chance to sit down and write blog entries. Now, I have the time and I will tell you what I’ve been doing these past few weeks.

I have traveled to one of the countries in Southeast Asia and that was in Viet Nam. Viet Nam or officially called as Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is one of the countries that I considered I would love to visit and it’s been written here in my blog for almost 5 years. It’s number 7 on my list.

List of Countries that I Would Love to Visit

List of Countries that I Would Love to Visit

So, let’s start the year in the land of the ascending dragon. After all, I did write a post with regard to Viet Nam’s airport hub, Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport. When I sat foot on this great land, it was a dream come true. It was a very extraordinary feeling upon getting off the plane and leaving the airport. I arrived in Saigon or so-called Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh at 0020H. I’ve stayed in a hotel near to almost all tourist attractions in the city. It was surreal and I still can’t believe that I’ve been able to explore the country that I’ve been wanting to see with my two eyes.

After I caught some sleep, I headed out to the city and explore. There are too many things to see. These are the photos I got.

Plaza near Saigon Opera House

Random Building in Dong Khoi Street

Random Building in Dong Khoi Street

Random Building in Dong Khoi Street

The AO Show in Saigon Opera House

The AO Show in Saigon Opera House

BiTexCo Financial Tower

Shopping at Dong Khoi Street

Saigon Opera House

UBND Thanh Pho Building

Bao Tang Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh or Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Saigon Notre Dame

Buildings near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

Buildings near Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

Photoshoot in Central Post Office

Central Post Office

Central Post Office

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market

Undeniably, Viet Nam is the land of the ascending dragon.  They called it ‘ascending dragon’ because when you look at the map, it appears like the dragon standing up. The culture and the history also are so rich that you will love to check up on. Not to mention, I have shown only the second city and I haven’t gone yet to Hanoi which is the capital of the country. For sure, Hanoi offers a lot more also to travelers like me.

So, be a traveler. It is time for you to get on your feet and experience Viet Nam first-handedly.

IATA Code: SGN – Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport

International Air Transport Association (IATALocation Identifier uses a 3-letter code to identify locations of airports throughout the world.vn

SGN or also called as Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport is located in Viet Nam. If you don’t know where Viet Nam is then just look at it on the map. It is located in Southeast part of Asia.

photo credit to google maps

photo credit to google maps

Through this airport, Viet Nam opens to the world. It may not be the busiest airport hub compared to other airports in other countries but there are also a lot of activities going on here. Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport is specifically placed in the city of Saigon or now known as Ho Chi Minh City which is the second famous city of the country right after the capital city of Hanoi yet it accounted two-thirds of Viet Nam’s international arrivals and departures. But still, they are planning for a newer airport due to the increasing demand.

Since I arrived in SGN at midnight, I was welcomed with this signage.

Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport

Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport

The ground area and TARMAC were big and per wiki, it has been Viet Nam’s largest international airport.

When getting out of the plane, the arrival section was neat, spacious and everything was in perfect shape.

Arrival Section

Arrival Section

IMG_1071I was on my way to the Immigration Counter for my passport to get an entry stamp. In the immigration counter, it has been divided to different counters for tourists and the like for faster transactions. These counters are separated to cater holders of Foreign Passports, Viet Nam Passports, and ASEAN citizens. I rushed in to the queue but Foreign Passport’s queue was a bit long. I went to ASEAN citizen counter since the Philippines is part of that agreement yet the immigration officer told me to go to the Viet  Nam/ Local Passports so, I did. It was just within a minute that I got my passport stamped and I was able to head down for me to get my check-in luggage.IMG_1072 IMG_1073IMG_1097Upon getting down to claim my luggage, I’ve got to see some few facts about the country such as the ForEx/ Foreign Exchange rate.IMG_1074Then, I got my bag through SGN’s baggage carousel which was big and really modern.

Baggage Carousel Area

Baggage Claim Area

Time to have my bags checked through their machine detectors and if there are items that you need to report to Customs, you just need to fill out the Custom declaration form. Once you passed all through this process, you can have your money converted to VND/ VietNamese Dong. Even Philippine Pesos, they also accept. Then after that, you can proceed to the Exit Gate for you to hire a taxi. A quick reminder, always to hire legal taxis which have meters on it coz taxi drivers just flocked at tourists trying to lure you to let you get inside their cab. You can also arrange with an airport pick-up service companies online such as SATSCo, click here for their site. Or you can go to their desk infront of exit gate. But you always have other options like hiring a taxi outside but make sure it is under MaiLinh or Vinasun taxi companies. These two are the most accredited and big transport companies in Viet Nam.

So far, the whole airport experience was great and amazing. All in all, it’s really good to travel and see the gateway of other countries.