Solo in Saigon – Easy Vietnam Travel
The idea of traveling alone is not new. People have been doing it for centuries and for the past three years, this writer has been touring parts of the US on his own.
Preparing for Vietnam Travel
This was what I told myself while preparing for my trip last weekend to Ho Chi Minh City, which was formerly — and is still more popularly known as — Saigon.
It was only later that I realized that on those US trips, I had friends and family who put me up for several nights.
Saigon would be different. This time, I would be on my own.
Our Cebu Pacific (www.cebupacific.com) plane arrived past midnight on Friday so there was little else to do but head straight to my hostel located in District I or the backpackers’ district.
I booked a single room at Bich Duyen (firstname.lastname@example.org), one of the top-ranking hostels according to user reviews on the travel Web sites Tripadvisor and Hostelworld.
I wanted a place that was clean, safe and not too expensive and I got exactly that: a small, high-ceilinged room on the fourth floor of a five-storey walkup. Although the climb on the very steep staircase always left me out of breath, I felt safe as soon as I locked my door.
The next three days were spent exploring the city and included a day-long Mekong River cruise booked through the hostel.
Chanh, one of the staff at the hostel, was very helpful. As soon as I had eaten the banh mi (crusty French roll) and breakfast omelet that he cooked himself, Chanh whipped out a mimeographed map of Saigon and proceeded to mark some of the city’s tourist spots.
Armed with the map, I sauntered out, determined to see everything on foot. Within minutes, however, I was drenched in sweat. The weather in Saigon is similar to Manila’s — humid in the morning, painfully hot at noon followed by strong rains in the afternoon that leave you feeling sticky.
I was only able to make it to the Ben Tranh market that sells everything from fabric and ladies’ accessories to lacquer ware and cooked food before I copped out and agreed to a city tour on board a Vietnamese cyclo. The driver offered to show me the sights for 15,000 VND (Vietnamese dong) or around P30. I agreed although I thought it was too good to be true. Turns out, I was right.
By the end of the two-hour tour, he demanded 500,000 dong or around P1,000 but I managed to bring it down to 150,000 dong or roughly P300.
When you’re a passenger on a cyclo, you can see everything in front of you as there are no obstructions to your line of sight. It’s like riding an open carriage made for one.
As we cycled our way up and down the streets, the driver pointed out Notre Dame Cathedral, the post office, Saigon Opera House, the Reunification Palace and some of the grander hotels. He even waited while I had lunch at Nha Hang Ngon (160 Pasteur, email@example.com).
Friends had told me that the food in Saigon was delicious but I did not expect all my meals to be tasty, satisfying and so inexpensive.
The vermicelli topped with grilled pork and fried spring rolls at Nha Hang Ngon, the huge bowls of Vietnamese pho (rice noodle soup) served at Pho 2000 or the small eatery near the hostel, the fresh spring rolls made to order at Kim Cafe — each of these beautifully plated dishes cost under or around P100. Even the apportioned lunch of chicken stew, steamed vegetables and rice on the Mekong River cruise was plentiful and tasty.
After traveling solo for a few days, I realized that it is an eye-opening experience but a shared meal always tastes better.
Lonely Planet Vietnam (Country Travel Guide)
by: Nick Ray
publisher: Lonely Planet, published: 2009-07-01
sales rank: 10190
price: $15.22 (new), $17.49 (used)
Experience the best of Vietnam with Lonely Planet. Our 10th edition is so full of practical information that you’ll be watching the sunset from a junk on Halong Bay, sucking back bia hoi street-side in Hanoi, or bargaining like a local in Ho Chi Minh City in no time.
In This Guide:
Detailed itineraries on beaches, food, the Ho Chi Minh Highway and more.
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