Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We were dropped off by the bus at 'Pham Ngu Lao' which is the main street where backpackers stay, and went in search of accommodation. We all looked for over an hour but the cheapest places we could find were $10 a night for a double room, with a backpackers being $17 a night, although that did include breakfast.
Some of the rooms we looked at were ok but then we found a hotel called 'Ngoc Diem Hotel' where a double room was still $10 a night but they were much nicer and had free wifi. Jason, Josh, Luke and Aaron also stayed here and had a large room for $20 a night.

It was quite hot and stuffy in the rooms and we all caved in and ended up buying air con. Ours cost an extra $2 a night and the others were charged an extra $5 a night, we all agreed it was most definitely worth it.
The room we had was on the 3rd floor and came with a balcony that gave us an excellent view of the street below. The hotel had a nice feel about it and the owner was friendly.

Do be warned that the rooms at the front of the hotel can get quite noisy at night as there is a karaoke bar opposite. We just used ear plugs to drown out the noise.

 Our room

The view from our room

We were all quite tired due to the lack of sleep from the night before so we slept for most of the morning. After our naps we got up and had a look around at some of the streets near our hotel and ventured into the maze of backstreet's hidden behind the main roads. This is where you will find many of the locals living and going about their daily tasks, as well as some food stalls serving local dishes.

During the evening we ate some street food on the road where we were staying on for 25,000d per dish. This included rice, pork, fried egg and a small salad garnish. Most of the restaurants were quite expensive so we tried to avoid them when possible

Be extra careful with your valuables and belongings when walking around the city. I didn't even carry my handbag, instead i hid my money in my sunglasses pouch inside Ian's day bag. 

Unfortunately, in Saigon there are a lot of tourists that end up being victims of crime after having their valuables stolen, either when out and about or from their rooms. The crime level for this type of theft is quite high, and therefore there are warning signs plastered all over hostels/hotels, informing tourists to be careful of their belongings.

Once when i went to walk out of our hotel with my camera strap around me, the owner came rushing over and said that Ian would need to carry it as i was more at risk of having it snatched. Another time i was reminded to be careful was after a massage. I put my fine gold necklace over my dress, as i always do, and the lady owner came up to me and told me to hide it underneath my dress instead, as she said that someone could easily snatch it from my neck. 

Don't let this put you off visiting Saigon, as there are many cities/places in the UK that are just as threatening, if not worse.

Balcony shots

Try 'ABC Bakery' located on Pham Ngu Lao road. Here they sell amazing breads/cakes, a cheaper option especially for breakfast if you don't fancy rice. 
Just one of the cakes i indulged in from ABC Bakery

After an early night we decided to have a look at the shopping centre. Between the six of us we paid 80,000d on the taxi meter for a cab to Diamond Plaza. I have made a list below of the 3 (yes 3!) we ended up visiting.

Diamond Plaza:
This shopping centre was quite disappointing. It was very small, the shops were expensive and the bowling and games area was closed. Having said that, the food hall was really good value for money.

Only a 5-10 minute walk away from Diamond Plaza. Parkson was larger but again had quite expensive shops. There is a cheap bowling alley and games room on the top floor.

Vincom Centre:
Located opposite Parkson. This was quite posh but did have Mango, Gap, Debenhams (Zara was currently being built) and a few more expensive shops in between. Food here was quite pricey but out of all three malls we had visited this was definitely the best, even if we did only walk away with a bottle of water from the supermarket.

Overall i wouldn't waste time visiting these shopping centres, unless you have the cash to splash. The main reason we did was because we wanted to get away from the city heat for a few hours and we knew there would be air con.

Ian and I got a taxi back to the hotel for 35,000d and decided to go and visit some of the tourist attractions in Saigon. Although we didn't actually end up making it out of the hotel for the next few hours as it poured with rain! As we were leaving early the following day we missed out on visiting any tourist sights, hence for the lack of photos in this post.

Comparing Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) with Hanoi, i would say i personally preferred Hanoi. I really enjoyed looking at all the old buildings and didn't feel as on edge as i did in Saigon.

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