Thursday, 25 December 2008

Ho Chi Minh City trip - 25 Dec 08

Lucky the flight was 3.20pm otherwise i wldnt have enough time as i only finished packing my luggage in the morning. We took a cab to the airport and reach the airport at around 1.20pm. The check in counter was open and we check in our luggage first. Haha... YQ never took a flight from the budget terminal and was surprised that the budget terminal is so small with few shops.

I had taken my lunch at home so he took his at Han's. After clearing the immigration, i sit at the waiting lounge while he surf the net. I oso bought a bottle of mineral water at 7-11. Soon, it was time to board the plane and our seats were row 11 which is infront of the emergency seats so cant decline the seats. Dont feel comfortable seating straight throughout the flight but no choice.

Inside the plane

Immigration card

Mekong delta

Tan Son Nhat International Airport

Inside the airport

The immigration clearnace was pretty fast as there were a lot of counters open. Every visitor would also received copy of HCMC map together with your passport from the custom officer. After we cleared the custom, there is an escalator to the ground level for collection of lugguage. Be aware if there is fragile items inside your luggage as the grounding crew would remove the luggage from the luggage belt and put it on the ground. Hmm... Are their luggage belt so short???
After collecting our luggage, we proceed to the counters outside where money exchange and purchase of taxi tickets are available. As we do not have Vietman Dong on hand, we exchanged S$50 for boarding the cab as the rate at the airport would not be more favourable than the city area. We purchase the cab ticket for US$8. Well, I would encourage first timers to purchase the tickets as Vietnam taxi drivers are quite dishonest and some of their meters are rigged.
Our first unplesant experience in HCMC is with the taxi driver from the airport to the hotel. The taxi driver tried to collect dong from us while exiting the airport toll booth. Well, this is really a case of 鸡手鸭脚 as we dun understand what the taxi driver is speaking at all. The taxi driver was asking us for money but we dunno how much to give so i pull a 50,000 dong note from the wallet and give it to the taxi driver. It's only after giving to the taxi driver that we saw the toll fee should be 5,000 dong. I quickly refer to my notes and realised that it's only when we are going to the airport then we are required to pay toll fee. Then YQ was arguing with the taxi driver but we dun understand what he is saying and he don't understand what we are saying. How can i make such a mistake after all the reseach??? ><" I thought of asking the person in charge of the hotel which we booked to speak to the taxi drive upon reaching the hotel so we stop the argument.
The journey from the airport to the hotel tooks about an hour as heavy traffic in HCMC usually starts from 4pm.

These houses are typical of the "tube houses" that predominate all over Vietnam. The lots are very narrow and long, presumably because the lots used be taxed on the width of the lot at the street.
If China is known as the "Land of bicycle" then HCMC shld be known as the "Land of Motocycles".

Bustling streets - Full of motorcycle

If you find that the power cables hanging above the ground in Malaysia is not a pleasant sight, wait till you see it in HCMC.
Would the bird get electrocuted???
Finally we reach Pham Ngu Lao street. Our taxi did not stop right in front of the hotel as the cars at HCMC are drove on the right side. Haiz, YQ argue with the driver regarding the 50,000 Dong and he return a 20,000 Dong note to us and keep saying tips. I told YQ to let this matter rest and treat the remaining 30,000 Dong (~S$3) as tip to him.
Now i understand why crossing the road in HCMC is a nightmare. There are "Tourist Security" officers (guys in marked green uniforms) standing at the street who guide the tourist to cross the road. Once we alight the cab, there is a "Tourist Security" officer who guide us to cross the road. As our hotel is located at 283/25 Pham Ngu Lao street, we couldn't find the unit 283. Finally we saw an alley beside 284 and we walked into the alley and saw 283/1, 283/2 .... So we continue and found our hotel! It's good that our hotel is located in the inner alley otherwise i can't imagine that i could sleep given the non-stop horning of the motorcycles.

Our hotel is located inside this street.
There is a board above displaying all the hotels inside this street.

The alley which we are staying

The hotel lobby is simply furnished and seems to be those family run hotel. There is a common laptop at the lobby for guest to use. Normally for these type of family run hotel, there is no lift. We are lucky that we were staying on the 2nd floor otherwise i can't imagine that i had to climb 6 storey of staircase everyday if I'm staying at the top floor.

Nguyen Khang hotel
Hotel lobby


The floor which we are staying

This is the smallest hotel room which i had stayed in. You get what you pay for.
Our room
We settled our belongings and search for our dinner as we were starving. It's 7.30pm at HCMC which means 8.30pm (Singapore time). We decided to have our lunch at Pho 24 which is nearby our hotel. PHO24 is a noodle restaurant chain which is quite popular in HCMC and is famous for Pho (pronounced as fur2). I ordered Pho Ga (Chicken pho) while YQ ordered Pho Dac biet (Beef noodle soup with well-done flank, fat brisket, soft tendon and tripe). We also ordered Vietnamese spring roll. The food is so-so.

Vegetable for putting into the Pho

PhoSpring roll

After our dinner, we walk around and bought mineral water from the shop. It cost us 8,000 Dong (~ S$0.80) for 1.5 litre. Wow... that's cheap. We passed by Highland Coffee which is similar to our Starbucks and Coffee Bean. We headed in and walk up to the 2nd storey for better view of Pham Ngu Lao street.

Opposite Highland Cafe - Allez Boo Pub
Inside highland coffee
We ordered Caramel Macchiato (49k Dong ~S$4.90) & Dark Chocolate Cointreau (40k Dong ~S$4). Prices are silmilar to cafes in Singapore. The coffee is nice but i didnt drank a lot cos i do not want to have sleepless nite. The cake was quite rich and taste yummy.
Caramel Macchiato & Dark Chocolate Cointreau
Me & YQ at Highland Coffee
We went back to the hotel at around 9pm and wash up. YQ turn in shortly after as he was super tired. As i couldn't turn in, I keep pestering him not to sleep. In the end, we turn in around 11plus. ZZZzzz.....

>>Day 2: 26 Dec 08

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