With a shiny new visa for Vietnam pasted into my passport, I was ready and raring to explore a new country!
From Phnom Penh it’s actually fairly easy to cross the border and get to Ho Chi Minh by bus. However, I had other ideas…
One of the perks I’ve acquired from my travels is my frequent flier status with the airline alliances of both Oneworld (Sapphire) and Skyteam (Elite Plus), allowing me business class perks regardless of travel class.
I’d also racked up a large number of air miles (avios) with British Airways and saw that Qatar Airways actually fly between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh as a ‘fifth freedom flight’. So I did what any self respecting plane geek would do and used my BA avios to buy a ticket on the Qatar Airways flight and save myself a 7 hour bus journey!
The airport itself is fairly small, and yet I tried and failed miserably at finding where the airport lounge was located. Turns out I was actually doomed to start with as the lounge listed as that for Qatar Airways passengers no longer existed and had not been updated to reflect they now use the Plaza Premium Lounge.
In short, I walked around the airport like an idiot trying to find a lounge that didn’t exist, whilst walking past the new airport lounge continuously thinking I couldn’t use it.
I boarded the plane for this uneventful, short 30 minute journey. As the plane continues from Ho Chi Minh to Doha, I was given a blanket, and amenity kit with toothbrush, eye mask etc – somewhat overkill for my portion of the flight!
Upon landing, getting my passport stamped and collecting my luggage, I had the usual pleasure of catching a taxi. I’d done my research beforehand and the general price to get from the airport to my hostel was 130,000 dong, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear fixed quotes given to me of over 200,000 dong which I flatly declined.
Eventually I found myself a taxi that would accept using the meter, though with the terrible traffic, it took a while to get to Lily’s Hostel where I was staying. Oh and not to my surprise the taxi tried to turn the meter off just before arriving and claimed the price was much more, so I just sat in the taxi until he gave in.
Much like the Hunger Games series, Ho Chi Minh is seperated into a number of ‘districts’
that fight children against each other in an elaborate televised death match. I was staying in District 1 near all the central street bars, trying to avoid getting run over by the gazillion motorbikes at each turn.
Crossing the road became a game, a prayer and an art form.
Upon arrival at the very friendly hostel I was staying at, I met an American girl who was eagerly wanting to get wasted which suited me perfectly fine. We bumped into a Welsh girl she’d met before who also joined us drinking at numerous bars around District 1 and 2.
The rest is a series of the usual blurred drunken pictures on my phone, of which a few are below. We started off by going to a Mexican Restaurant for some drinks, and then just made our way around some bars, tequilla after tequilla, getting to try my first Vietnamese beers, (Saigon Red is quite good) and still praying we wouldn’t die or lose a shoe crossing the road.
At some ungodly hour, after the American had bought a ‘Banh Mi’ which is a Vietnamese style baguette, we ended up back at the hostel.
The next day represented the WORST hangover I have EVER had. So bad that the friendly receptionist guy at the hostel seemed a little worried when I didn’t actually get out of bed until 7pm.
And what did I do when I got out bed? I went straight back to the Mexican restaurant we’d started drinking in before, but this time had some delicious Mexican food. If anyone reading this ends up in Ho Chi Minh, i’d highly advise going to ‘La Fiesta’ , it was an incredibly good Mexican.
The next day I decided to test the theory that some of Ho Chi Minh actually exists outside of the bars.
The day didn’t really get off to a blinder. I went to go and see the War Remnants Museum which is dedicated to the Vietnamese War. I turned up at around 12pm and was told it closed between 12:00-13:30, so I hit up Google Maps on my phone and saw there was the (pause for breathe before saying this…) Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon nearby. Turns out upon arriving that this also closed and reopened around the same time.
Question: So what did I do?
Okay so I scoffed 4 doughtnuts. Originally I only wanted 3 but was told they had an offer that meant it was more expensive to buy 3 than 4 so what the heck.
I got some pictures of the (hold your breathe again) Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon (exhale), but never went in because I didn’t want to wait.
By the time I got back to the War Remnants Museum it had reopened and I went and explored.
It has lots of military vehicles around the outside of a central area where you can see lots of pictures and exhibits from the war. All in all it’s actually quite a big museum, though of course it seems to have a ‘Vietnam are the best’ slant on history.
And that was my short time in Ho Chi Minh. The one thing lots of people do that I didn’t was go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a series of tunnels dug during the war. Maybe I should have done but i’m about 6ft tall so it didn’t really appeal to me. Maybe next time I suppose?