Sunday, 15th April 2012 (Day 01)
My Jetstar plane touched down at Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat International Airport at 8.30am this morning. Having spent a couple of days in the city in late 2010, there was a sense of familiarity as I passed through the arrivals on my way to the bus-stand. My 2 nights stopover in HCM was a bonus given that my main purpose was to visit the city of Vientiane during my 1 week break from work.
While the airport bus 152 had since upped it rates from 3,000 dong to 8,000 dong (what a rip-off), this was still the most economical way for me to get to my hotel in District 1.
My bedroom wasn't ready by the time I arrived at Saigon Mini Hotel 5 @ 196 Bui Ven Street
at 9.40am. This was only possible after another 2 hours, enough time for me to complete my breakfast and do some grocery shopping at the nearby Co-Op Mart.
When I was finally given my keys to room 703, it came with its fair share of ups and downs. Some things worked well for me, while for others, it was simply a flop. Funny that my 2 hotel stays
in HCMC had never been pleasant compared to the excellent service I received in Hanoi.
In the afternoon, I took a Vinasun Taxi to the Saigon History Museum, about 15 minutes ride away. Even though Vinasun belonged to a legitimate taxi company, the bill still came closed to 70,000 dong. I took a late lunch at Quan An Ngon 138, the very welcoming restaurant opposite the Renunification Palace. Popular among tourists and locals, the restaurant had certainly lived up to its reputation for serving wholesome Vietnamese cuisine at reasonable prices. Their service was also top-notched too.
In the evening, I decided to head to Cafe 333 along De Tham Street to try out the lagsana following Ben's recommendation on his blog
. The dish was quite well done even though I was never a big fan of this Italian cuisine. What I really enjoyed that evening was simply sitting out at the cafe and feeling the pulse of this big city.
There is a certain charm in Saigon that continued to impress me time and again. Haggling with the determined shopkeepers at Ben Thanh market was never my forte. Rather, Saigon to me was a perfect place to
people-watch while sipping a nice cup of Vietnamese Coffee or the delicious Coconut Shake at one of the many quaint cafes scattered throughout the city.
This was certainly one of the many highlights of travelling in Vietnam.
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