Careful in Ho Chi Minh everyone said.
It’s so busy, hang on to your stuff. Everyone you meet has had something stolen there. So we are ready for this place that even the Vietnamese seem to be afraid of this big sprawling metropolis.
We get on the very empty Qatar flight. Steve looks like billy no mates again and off we go. We couldn’t go by land as we didn’t have a visa to cross the border.
There are so few people on the flight that when we go to collect our luggage we can’t find the carousel until we realise they didn’t bother and had just chucked the luggage on the floor. Good Morning Vietnam!!
The free hotel transfer was waiting and off we went through the empty streets. We knew that some things would be closed and some people leave the city for Vietnamese New Year or as it’s called here Tet but really weren’t expecting it to be so quite?
The hotel is in a good location in District 1 and the things we came to see are within easy reach. After a bit of a “negotiation” with the hotel we get an up grade. We had made double sure that we had a room with a window as Deb and her hotel claustrophobia would not have coped without a window out. This is where we learnt our next lesson. Don’t think just because you have double checked your room has a window, as many hotels in Asia don’t, that this “window” may just be a pane of glass that looks into the hotel air vent!
From now on it’s another special request on the booking form. Special requests followed by emailing the hotel to confirm go something like this.
- Window with view to the outside.
- Whether you want a city, beach, mountain or garden view. Quiet room, not near stairs, lifts, next to fire doors or near the hotel entrance/exit or over conference/ballrooms.
- High floor, especially if in a city.
- Something else we have found handy in Asia is to make sure that on arrival you have a screen shot of the photo of the room you booked online. This is how we got our upgrade as the room was not the room in the description. Naughty Naughty!
Our new room even has a jacuzzi bath, or as it later became known as, the washing machine!
We enjoy the evening on the roof top bar of the hotel we had booked as we were concerned about just how busy it was going to be down on the street. The hotel was better than we expected for the price we paid.
Next day after a very asian breakfast of chicken and chips? We go off to find the war museum and find it closed until 13:30, luckily for us we decided to do it today as the next day is a bank holiday and all goverment buildings are closed but the Cu Chi Tunnels will still be open. It’s an interesting place, a lot of words and some very graphic photos. Bit of an information overload on agent orange and after so many upsetting graphic pictures and some very upset locals it’s time to leave and go wander.
As it’s Tet, the streets are full of bright lights and as it’s the year of the rooster, a lot of large rooster statues. We even come across some chinese dragon performances in the streets and find a flower festival that we will visit next day. As not much was open we wander through the huge mall near our hotel to find something to eat before heading back up to the bar in the hotel to watch the city lights.
Bright and early we hop into the minibus to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with a bunch of middle aged Lithuanians, one who just can’t seem to live without a beer in his hand! We are with Kim travel on a small tour of only 8 people and our guide for the day is a war veteran who can tell you 1st hand as he was there and at 69 years old you can still see the emotion in his eyes. He was by far the best guide so far, funny, interesting, engaging and not to forget rather cheeky! And yes, Deb did want to climb in the hole but would the butt fit? Nope!
Whilst at the tunnels you realise that although we paid about 10% over the average tour price, what we got was so much better service. Our guide knew everyone, understood when to hang back and wait for the big coach tours and young tour guides to rush past. He would then give us a really personal account of the area we were in, unlike the young guides who just repeated the daily words to a group of about 30.
Worth every extra penny. He even managed to get Steve trying the local snake rice wine.
After we return it’s off to the flower festival that stays open until 23:00. It was a beautiful display of orchids, dragons made from vegetables, the most amazing bonsai trees we had ever seen and more people taking selfies than you can imagine.
Soon we have had enough of flowers and fighting off selfie sticks in our path and we head back to get ready for our next flight to Hoi An. If there’s a time to go to Ho Chi Minh City it must be Tet as we found the city completely comfortable, no crowds and no traffic and it appeared the pickpockets had gone home to the countryside to show off their new found wealth.
Debs and Steve