Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ho Chi Minh City

We flew from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City in around an hour on Vietnam Airlines for £65. Our hotel of choice was the InterContinental Asiana Saigon. We caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel, which took around 40 mins in the rush hour traffic.

This hotel was lovely. There were no balconies in the rooms but there were floor to ceiling windows offering good views over the city. As an InterContinental member we were put into a draw and won some free laundry but lots of exciting things were up for grab! Our room was large for a city, we had a big bathroom with rain forest shower and bathtub, a large bed, big flat screen TV and seating / desk area. Everything was spotlessly clean and all of the staff were very friendly.

The hotel is well located and is a 5 mins walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral and central post office. You are also walking distance to the main market, lots of shops and restaurants and the war remnants museum. Taxi's here are very reasonable just make sure you use Vinasun. The hotel also offers a wonderful breakfast selection. There are cold meats, cheeses and smoked salmon with a variety of breads including delicious french baguettes. There are pastries, juices including whole coconuts, cereals, fruits and yogurts. There are some hot breakfast choices as well as Asian cuisine. The best part though were the made to order pancakes and waffles with maple syrup or dark chocolate sauce.

Whilst in HCMC I would recommend a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. We chose a half day tour with Les Rives. The tour was just over £100 for both of us. We were collected by mini bus and driven to the port where we were given water and a bathroom break. We then took a 90 mins speed boat tour up the river, which was picturesque. We were given lots of fruit including lychee, mango and the queen fruit mangosteen as well as water, iced tea and diet coke. On arrival we had our lunch, which was rice, sweet and sour pork, some vegetable soup, spring rolls and a spicy chicken dish and also another bathroom break.

Next up were the tunnels! Be prepared to get bitten as you are in the jungle and no amount of insect repellent can protect you! Exploring this area with an English speaking guide brought everything to life. The story of the Viet Cong is quite incredible and I really don't think anyone should miss this trip. You will have a chance to squeeze into an original tunnel and also shuffle through a Western size one to get a feel for how these people lived and fought. You will be told countless stories and will really see the area properly. We thoroughly enjoyed learning and experiencing everything on this day tour. Of course then it's back on the boat for another 90 mins journey with refreshments before being dropped back at your accommodation.

We also chose to take a walking and cyclo tour with Urban Adventures. We met at 8am at the Post Office to marvel at this and Notre Dame. We then walked onto the Reunification Palace before stopping for 90 mins at the war remnants museum. The museum was horrifying and harrowing to say the least but I am glad we went as I learnt a lot about the Vietnam War. Next we jumped onto the cyclo's for a ride through the city, which was amazing fun. We stopped at a market designed for locals with very cheap prices and grabbed some Banh Mi for lunch with the help of our guide. Next it was back on the cyclos for another ride before reaching the Ben Thanh market. Our guide gave us a brief tour before we were left on our own to explore. The trip was really fun but also a great way to see and experience the city so I would recommend visitors to give this one a go!

We had a very short stay in Saigon and hope to go back one day to spend more time in this wonderful city! It really is an incredible and overwhelming place that must be explored. Keep an eye on your bags as pick pocketing can be an issue and cross the road confidently and calmly and other than that just relax and enjoy this amazing place.